• Sweden edition
 
The Local Interview
'Britain is medieval compared to Sweden'
Bill Bailey on stage. File photo: Nic Redhead/Flickr

'Britain is medieval compared to Sweden'

Published: 14 May 2014 16:29 GMT+02:00
Updated: 14 May 2014 16:29 GMT+02:00

Bill Bailey knows Sweden so well that he could pass as a Swedophile. The British comedian has read every Wallander book, has strong opinions on Saga Norén from The Bridge, and managed to guess the country's population to within 100,000. And that's just the start.
 
Not bad for a British comedian. 
 
And as it happens, Bailey is set to hit Gothenburg and Stockholm this week as part of his Qualmpeddler tour. So, before we probe the comedian about his interest in all things Sweden, what exactly is a "Qualmpeddler"? 
 
"It's a word I made up. If you Google it, you'll always come to me. Quite handy, really," he says.
 
"To have a qualm is to have a worry - you don't often see qualm in the singular though, there are always several qualms. And a peddler is a door-to-door salesman. A qualmpeddler is really what a comedian is, it's a euphemism for stand-up comedy."
 
The tour has already begun and offers 17 live shows this month across Europe, two of which will be in Sweden. The comedian, who stars in QI, Black Books, and Never Mind the Buzzcocks, has a soft spot for Sweden.
 
"Of all the Nordic countries, Sweden has made the biggest impression particularly on British and western culture, certainly as I grew up," he explains.
 
"Whenever people tried to do Scandinavian accent it was always Swedish and very sing-songy... oooeeoooeeoo," he adds, sounding suspiciously like the Swedish chef from The Muppets. 
 
But the Brit's knowledge of Sweden isn't limited to a children's TV show. He's visited several times, and was even in Stockholm last week. He also mentions a visit to Lund in southern Sweden that earned nothing but praise from him and his family, who loved "the cobblestones, the cafes, and the little streets" - a far cry from life in London.   
 
But it's not just the under-crowded and quaint towns of Sweden that Bailey enjoys. He's a big fan of Sweden's approach to life in general.
 
"I applaud any kind of modernity, any attempt to try and live together in a better way," he says. 
 
"When you look at the attitude towards women in Britain, we seem almost medieval by comparison," he continues. "It bothers me. I always get so wearisome of the rather slow progress we have here."
 
Does that make Bill Bailey a feminist?
 
"Well not being a woman...  it seems odd for a man to be a feminist. But to me it seems entirely natural. I get very cross, from time to time, when I find casual, everyday sexism. Women belittled and treated in a way that makes you think 'God!'
 
"It's like 'Really? Come on, it's the 21st century now. We got over this surely by now, lets move on'," he says.
 
And the comedian's admiration for Sweden doesn't stop at gender equality. He also finds himself a fan of the cultural scene. 
 
In fact, he admits that he's obsessed with Nordic Noir. Among his favourites are The Bridge ('superb, beautifully filmed, and a brilliant character in Saga Norén'), The Killing, Henning Mankell ('I've gone through his entire oeuvre'), and Stieg Larsson ('extraordinary and preposterous').
 
But perhaps it's no surprise that Bailey - a classically trained musician - is most impressed by the music scene. 
 
"I'm a big fan of some of the metal bands and I've always been a big fan of The Cardigans. She [Nina Persson] has a unique vocal style and lyrics, and they have such wonderfully bitter-sweet tunes," he says.
 
"That's where Sweden excels," he says. "In making shiny pop that dominates the charts."
 
Bailey dislikes when people try to separate popular culture from high culture. A person who only reads Dan Brown and listens to the charts misses out just as much as the person who reads only Paul Auster and listens to Shostakovich, he argues.
 
"I like to mix it up a bit, I'm intrigued by mass culture. I like to listen to the music like Avicii. This is the music my son and his friends are dancing to at the disco. Why is it capturing public attention? Is this a legacy of Abba's success? You can't deny it, it's a phenomenon and it's following the line of incredibly catchy pure pop."
 
But popular culture aside, for Bailey it all comes back to a system that seems to work.
 
"Sweden is seen to be a kind of utopia, a society, a country to aspire to be, and I think there's a great amount of truth to that. Other countries could learn from its egalitarian nature -  equality, the welfare, the story of general contentment and how the government has organized itself in sensible grown-up coalitions with cross-governmental cooperation," he says.
 
But surely Denmark and Norway, despite being smaller, can boast all this too?
 
"Well I suppose Abba has a lot to answer for here," he says. "I suppose there was a kind of very effective PR from Sweden that projected this country of beautiful outdoorsiness," he says.  "And of course, the excellent furniture."
 
Bailey's Qualmpeddler will be in Gothenburg on Friday and Stockholm on Saturday. More information here
 
 

 

Oliver Gee (oliver.gee@thelocal.se)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Swedish expert slams Norway terror alert
Terrorism expert Ranstorp and a policeman in Norway. Photos: TT

Swedish expert slams Norway terror alert

A Swedish terrorism expert has come forward criticizing the way Norway has handled its recent terror threat, saying the day the threat began was a "total problem in intelligence". READ  

Swedish nurse reported for patient 'death wave'

Swedish nurse reported for patient 'death wave'

A nurse in southern Sweden has been reported for abuse at a senior care centre after she allegedly waved to a colleague with the hand of a recently-dead resident. READ  

Pandas Plopp and Polly born in Swedish zoo
Plopp and Polly, the offspring of Pandora the panda. Photo: Kolmården

Pandas Plopp and Polly born in Swedish zoo

A pair of red panda cubs have been born in central Sweden, a wildlife park announced on Monday. READ  

Green Party ranked 'most gay friendly' in Sweden

Green Party ranked 'most gay friendly' in Sweden

The Green Party's views are 88.6 percent "LGBT-friendly", a Swedish LGBT rights group claimed on Monday, making the Greens the most gay-friendly of all Sweden's parliamentary parties. READ  

Man held on suspicion of murdering wife
Police on the scene. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Man held on suspicion of murdering wife

Updated: Police arrested a man in Copenhagen on the suspicion of killing his wife, whose body was found at the couple's home in southern Sweden during the weekend. READ  

Arlanda, Stockholm
Lightning bolt grounds flight to New York

Lightning bolt grounds flight to New York

Swedes bound for New York learned on Monday morning that their plane had been cancelled after it was hit by lightning during Sunday's thunderstorm. READ  

Elderly Swedish man stripped of his 35 cats

Elderly Swedish man stripped of his 35 cats

The County Administrative Board of Skåne has decided to confiscate the 35 cats of an 81-year-old man who was forbidden from having more than nine of the furry felines. READ  

Wild weather set to strike Sweden anew
Photo: TT

Wild weather set to strike Sweden anew

With Sunday's thunderstorm reported as the worst of the year so far, Sweden is bracing for round two on Monday as meteorologists predict more of the same. READ  

Swedish youth suicides hit 25-year high

Swedish youth suicides hit 25-year high

Last year 1,600 people in Sweden took their own lives - and for Swedes aged 15 to 24, the numbers haven't been so high since 1989. READ  

Floods replace Swedish heatwave
The Viking Lines ferry pictured was ripped away from the dock as a result of the storm. Per Gustavsson / TT

Floods replace Swedish heatwave

The Swedish summer was washed away on Sunday as thunderstorms caused chaos in Stockholm, including torrents of water flooding down stairways at metro stations. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
People-watching, June 26th - 28th. Get inside Stockholm's hottest nightclubs
Gallery
Top ten Swedish taboos
Society
Seven-year-old Swede cycles to Berlin
Politics
'Gaza conflict needs help, not empty rhetoric'
Society
Swedes voted 'most beautiful' in the Nordics
Blog updates

27 July

Approaching Stockholm (Around Sweden in a kayak) »

"I woke up in the comfort of my own little cabin on Eva and Rolf’s boat, it was 7:30am and I was feeling a bit groggy after a couple of beers with all the lovely locals the night before. The previous day had really taken its toll on my body and I was very stiff and..." READ »

 

24 July

Sharing our Pride: Celebrating Love & the LGBT Community! (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"It’s mid- July in Stockholm, and with much of the city on vacation, things can seem a little quiet – the streets, the bus, and the grocery store. One thing that has not paused for a summer break, though, is preparation for Stockholm’s Pride Festival, which will take place from July 28 to August 2...." READ »

 
 
 
Business & Money
Sweden demands EU clarity on Bitcoin tax
National
Swedish organic sales enjoy 'amazing' growth
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
Society
What's On in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching July 23
National
Swedish cops elect not to shoot 'angry elks'
Business & Money
New alcohol retail rules threaten micro-breweries
Gallery
People-watching Båstad
Business & Money
Sweden falls to third in global innovation index
Society
Swedish ornithologists keep webcam watch
Photo: Andreas Nordström/Image Bank Sweden
Gallery
Top ten Swedish beach hot spots
Tech
Swedish Wiki vet sets new content record
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån
Lifestyle
In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching July 15-16
Photo: Ola Ericson/Image Bank Sweden
Society
What's On in Sweden
Photo: Lisa Mikulski
National
Hope springs eternal for expat pet shop owner
Gallery
Princess Estelle steals limelight at mum's birthday
National
Swedes risk infants' lives by covering up prams
National
Swede runs for office just using Bitcoin funds
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Housing in Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

739
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se