• Sweden edition
 

110% LAGOM

Trying to see the funny side of Sweden

A moment on the lips….

April 26th, 2012 by Ben

Back in November I had a moustache for a month. My weak excuse was that I was appearing in a production of The Nutcracker, and I thought a bit of facial furniture would add to the authenticity of the role of Drosselmeyer. It was also Movember, so it made me look like a really nice guy who cared. I also like to think that my work for Movember meant that every time anyone looked at my furry upper lip, they immediately thought of their prostate.

A moustache wasn’t for me. I didn’t get kissed by my girlfriend or kids for a whole month and the closest I got to a compliment was that I looked like a shit porn star. They didn’t go into detail as to whether I was a porn star who specialised in faecal matter or just one who wasn’t very good at his job; either way, it’s not something you want on your job description.

One of the biggest novelties of having a moustache was the way meals would stay with you for hours after. I know the phrase “A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips” when it comes to food, but with a moustache it’s more like “A moment on the lips, an hour or two on the lips”. The marmite and toast, I’d had for breakfast would come back to haunt me in the middle of the day.  In the pub, people didn’t need to ask what I was drinking as the just pointed to the white froth on my third eyebrow and said “Another Guinness?”

Frankly, it was a relief to be clean shaven again.

But then, yesterday, I stood behind a guy in the coffee queue with a handlebar moustache that would have made make Colonel Blimp jealous. In the first place, I have nothing but respect and admiration for people who grow moustaches, but my respect grew even more when I saw that he had a special coffee mug for the moustachioed. This was the equivalent of the white stick for the blind or a hearing aid for the deaf. This was a mug with an in built moustache protector.

We got chatting and apparently, there’s a whole range of spoons, pipes, mugs, tea cups, all designed to keep food off the ‘tache. Most, needless to say, were designed in the 19th century when men weren’t afraid to be men and women must have suffered terribly from beard rash.

So, by Jove, let’s raise (a specially designed) glass to the moustached minority!

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Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @BenKersley

And you can see me pretty much everywhere next week:

1st May – The Tuesday Chinwag Stockholm, 2nd May Anglo-Comedy Festival, Copenhagen, 3rd May – LKPG HA HA!, Linköping, 4th May – RAW Comedy Club, Stockholm

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Cold Baked Beans

April 16th, 2012 by Ben

The day after tomorrow I’m heading to Estonia and Finland to do a couple of gigs in English. As I write this, the guy I’m supporting, Magnus Betnér, is hosting his own show on Kanal 5 called ‘Betnér Direct’. Like everything he does, it’s groundbreaking (for Swedish TV), it’s controversial (for Sweden) and it pulls no punches. Betnér is a smart bloke.

I’m really looking forward to the gigs in Estonia and Finland, but right now, there’s one thing that worries me. I’m feeling a certain amount of pressure. Magnus’ material puts the world to rights and is usually impressively topical, often covering the events of the last 24 hours.

I should write something mildly astute and relevant to Estonian politics to impress him. Unfortunately, I have got stuck in a writing rut. Everytime I think about what I’m going to do on stage on Wednesday night in Tallinn, all I can think about was the cold baked beans that I was served in a cafe with my English breakfast last time I was in Estonia.

It was disgusting, outrageous and left me traumatised for weeks. And I’m unable to move on. As I play through in my mind what I’ll do on stage, I visualise myself doing various routines about cold baked beans. I’m not saying these imaginary routines aren’t funny, but they are very much stuck within the parameters of the baked bean.

My only hope is that there is some huge international baked bean related incident in the next 48 hours. Fingers crossed readers. If that happens, I’ll be seen as having the sharpest satirical mind in modern comedy. If not, Estonia will remember me as a baked has bean.

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Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @BenKersley

And if you do find yourself in Tallinn, Helsinki or Turku this week and you are a fan of baked beans and/or Magnus Betnér please come along to one of the shows.

http://www.comedyestonia.com/

http://www.comedyfinland.com/

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All is forgiven, Sweden! (Apart from the Marmite)

April 3rd, 2012 by Ben

I’ve just got back from a week on Gozo (Malta) and I hate to say this, but it made me miss Sweden.

Granted, the weather is nicer than in Sweden. That’s a given, but weather isn’t everything. In Malta, nothing seemed to work. As we drove around past building site after building site, I felt like I wanted to take the whole country to task and speak to them like an irate parent: “Do one job at a time. Finish what you’ve started, THEN move on to the next one.” In Sweden, building work usually gets completed and building sites tend to have builders on them. In Malta I saw very few actual ‘builders’, and those I saw were sitting down eating a Tuna sandwich. There was rubble all over the island. Swedish doesn’t even have a word for rubble!

OK. You could swim in the sea, eat fresh fish and vegetables and buy cheap alcohol without having to queue up in a state run monopoly. But there’s more to life than that! In Sweden, there’s a sense of equality. We’ve got political incompetence, but not outright corruption. In a pizzeria, I shook hands with the Maltese Prime Minister and the Minister for Gozo. The next day, I read the weighty newspaper Gozo Today and there were mentions of backhanders, ongoing court cases, a traffic warden being beaten up by the mayor as well as Gozo being described as the Minister for Gozo’s own personal fiefdom.

They drive on the left in Malta, which is a sign of higher civilisation, but, unlike Swedes, they ignore the rest of the Highway Code. I missed the sedate experience of sitting comatose on the E4 doing 110km/h – It’s a mind numbing drive, but at least you get to your destination alive.

Marmite was available in the shops…. but at least Sweden is a secular state, which is not dominated by the Catholic Church. Sunday Mass has an 85% attendance in Gozo! That’s the highest rate in Europe. This means that 85% of the population are directly influenced by whatever The Vatican decides is good or evil. Divorce, contraception, abortion, speaking Latin, supporting Celtic FC.

So Malta can keep its weather, warm sea, fresh food and cheap beer. Life is lagom in Sweden and I like it. If only Marmite was available in the shops.

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Don’t forget you can follow me on Twitter @BenKersley

And catch me this week in Stockholm at The Tuesday Chinwag on April 3 and in Linköping on April 5th at LKPG HA HA!

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Parent’s evening

March 18th, 2012 by Ben

My oldest kid has started school. If we still lived in England, he’d have been bitterly putting on his school uniform for the last two years and painfully learning the rules of the playground (“Don’t tattle. Always make fun of those different from you. Never say anything, unless you’re sure everyone feels exactly the same way you do” – Homer Simpson). Instead, we live in Sweden, where school not only starts as the kids are on the verge of reaching puberty, but also seems to be like an extended birthday party with weekly visits to the woods.

Everyday, he comes home and tells me how much fun he’s had, how he’s looking forward to the next day and even when he had flu, his biggest worry was how soon he could get back in to his schoolwork. I’m beginning to think something is wrong with him.

Last week was parent’s evening. I upheld my old school tradition of turning up 10 minutes late and once there I only half paid attention to what the teachers were saying. There was a hairy moment when the teacher looked me straight in the eye and said something along the lines of “Your son does that, don’t you agree?”. With years of training in the English school system, I bluffed it, nodded enthusiastically and said “Yes… yes, of course!” while praying internally that there would be no further questions.

I drifted off again, and started looking at something interesting on the ceiling, when suddenly all the other parents were  standing up and encouraging me to do the same. Everyone was loosening up and stretching. I was beginning to wish I’d listened a bit more carefully to the last 5 minutes as all I could remember were the words, Dutch music therapist, volcano and expressive dance.

The next thing I knew, ‘Play’ had been pressed on a CD and everyone was waving their arms around – I followed suit and together 20 parents recreated the eruption of a massive volcano, earthquakes, the subsequent Tsunami, hurricane force winds, followed by gentle rains, the dousing of the flames and a return to a more peaceful earth where flowers began to bloom and lions walked hand in hand with wildebeest – all through the medium of dance.

I felt extremely self-conscious, embarrassed almost, but as I looked around I was the only one who wasn’t letting myself become lost in the music. What had happened? Here I was alone in a crowd of Swedes who were living in the moment, letting their feelings run wild and their bodies just go with the flow.

Then the music stopped and it was time for a coffee and a bulle. I tried making small talk with the other parents, but an awkward yet comfortably familiar silence had descended upon the group. It was as if there was an unwritten first rule of parent’s evening – We don’t talk about what happens at parent’s evening.

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Don’t forget you can follow me on Twitter – @BenKersley

And you can see me perform in Stockholm at The Tuesday Chinwag on April 3rd or in Linköping at LKPG HA HA! on April 5th

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Reefer Madness

February 10th, 2012 by Ben

The war on drugs has come to Linköping.

Cannabis use is on the increase which means that local tutting and hand-wringing has gone into overdrive. The chief of police has taken action. Serious action. Serious action in the form of a big article in the local paper to inform us about cannabis. Östgötacorrespondenten, a newspaper, generally not read by teenagers, but pawed over by their over anxious parents and teachers, has joined the top cop at the forefront of this war on drugs.

There’s a photo of this hardened law enforcer, looking concerned as he surveys a cupboard full of drug paraphernalia. He stares into the abyss of the cupboard, ready to slam the doors shut again and lock away this hell – but it’s all there, the evils of cannabis, for us to see – I know that while many of the good burghers of Linköping will find the sight terrifying, anyone who been even close to a university halls of residence will immediately recognise the contents of a first year engineering student’s room. It’s all there: The bongs in Rasta colours, a T-shirt with a big marijauna leaf on it and of course,  the ubiquitous picture of an alien with a spliff saying ‘Take me to your dealer’

Corren have helpfully give the reader a guide to the warning signs as to whether you own child is using cannabis and I am going to share these tips for the readers of The Local and particularly the readers of The Local who were not around 85 years ago, in 1936, to get swept up in the hysteria of Reefer Madness.

Here’s what to look out for if you are worried about your kids:

Has their taste in music changed?
Remember how they used to dance around the room to The Gummy Bears and Astid Lindgren? And now, since they started gymnasium, they listen to guitar or electronic music, or reggae, or hip hop, or Sean Banan?? That’s not proper music! They are clearly junkies!

Are they tired or moody? This symptom is also know as ‘being a teenager’

Do they like skateboarding?
This is the telltale signs of drug abuse. If your child enjoys a sport that gets them out of the house, keeps them fit and creates a social circle of like minded people, stop them now! As my friend James pointed out, skateboarding is a gateway sport.

What worries me most is that I have felt very tired recently, and not only that, I have started listening to totally new genres of music – I was rather moved by a baroque piece I heard on the car radio last week. Luckily, I can’t skateboard, but I did buy a woolly hat from the local skate shop.Will people start seeing me as ‘one of them’?

I haven’t been exposed to any drugs here in Linköping, but I’m worried that suspicious fingers will start to point. … so I’m tempted to start smoking hash, just to deal with the stress of all this suspicion.

Meanwhile, the other main news in the paper was that Linköping plans to build an enormous greenhouse. What will be grown there is being kept a tight secret, but it doesn’t take much to add two and two together and see that the kommun is planing to cash in on the latest teenage cash cow.

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Back in my drug free reality, The Tuesday Chinwag had it’s premiere on Tuesday in Stockholm. You can read more about me and it here in this article on The Local. Come along next time! The last one was a hoot!

You can also follow me on Twitter @BenKersley

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Sun, sea and the Stockholm Riviera

January 25th, 2012 by Ben

Last week I went on holiday to Stockholm by mistake.

We had a week off and after spending a few hours trawling Ving, Apollo and Fritidsresor we decided to do something reckless, something unconventional and in terms of finding a break in the sun at least, something slightly crazy. We dismissed Tenerife, Abu Dhabi and Cape Verde and opted to spend some time in Stockholm instead.

The kids didn’t get to have a splash in a pool and we came home just as pale as when we left, but in terms of a holiday it was fun. Or as school newsletters used to say: “A good time was had by all”.

We visited the Natural History Museum, The Vasa and the Rum för Barn at Kulturhuset. We went to see Winnie The Pooh at the cinema, took the Djurgården Ferry and treated ourselves to frequent fika.

So listen up people! Abroad is overrated! Stockholm has the lot!
(This is what we told the kids, anyway…. we will definitely go somewhere warm next year, with a pool)

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Back in Stockholm soon with a regular night at Kafé Klavér … and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @BenKersley

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A question of identity

December 28th, 2011 by Ben

I’m having an identity crisis.

I’ve lived in Sweden for five and a half years now and I have a problem with my identity. It’s not that I don’t know who I am, I don’t struggle with the duality of nationalities, languages and cultures. Let me make this clear: My lack of identity is not metaphorical, it’s literal: I still don’t have a Swedish ID card.

OK, I’ve possibly just made an admission of doing something illegal (let’s keep that between you, me and The Local), but it’s never been a problem before. Without a Swedish ID card, I have started my own business, been employed, paid taxes, been in hospital, got a mortgage, been stopped by the police and voted in two elections.   The point is, I’ve never needed a Swedish ID card. I’ve always just got away with reeling off my personnummer to whoever needs to know it. The worst I’ve had is a shrug of the shoulders and the words ‘utländska legitimation’ (foreign ID) written on my credit card receipt. I’ve survived without it, until, that is, the last few weeks.

Firstly, I got a cheque from Skatteverket paying back about 7000:- in tax. Lucky me, I hear you cry, how nice of them to pay back my own money that I’d paid in advance and they held on to for 12 months (but that’s another issue). I duly went to my bank to pay it in to my own account and was told that I couldn’t pay it in without a Swedish ID card and “No!”, a UK driving licence was not acceptable.

Now, I understand and appreciate the need to prevent crime, and I am grateful that it’s difficult for a stranger to access my account… but let’s just imagine for a moment that I wasn’t who I said I was; that I was a dastardly imposter who had got hold of this cheque by devious means. I’ve tried to imagine what the worst possible thing that could happen was and all I can think of is that the cheque be paid into the account of the person whose name was on it. Hardly crime of the century – and I’d have to be a pretty crap crim to go round stealing cheques and paying them into the account of the person they were intended for. Nobody has yet explained to me why there is such caution against non heists.

Then, a couple of days later, I decided to sign up to give blood. There’s a new blood bank in the centre of town and I had a couple of hours to kill before a show later that evening. I used to give blood when I lived in London, and I thought that with the added convenience of having a place in town I could happily give the sick of Sweden a pint or two of my red stuff. Nice bloke, aren’t I? Yes, I am, but I also like to have a nice lie down followed by tea and biscuits.

But NO! The altruistic act of giving blood is not possible in Sweden without a Swedish ID card. It was all very good natured and the ladies at the blood bank couldn’t see the logic of it either as I sat there, fit as a fiddle, brimming with oxygen rich and iron heavy AB+ circulating round my veins and arteries. Who would I be trying to cheat by giving blood without ID? Where is the possibility for fraud? Where’s the potential crime? What am I missing?

So what have I learnt? That for blood nor money, you are nothing without ID in Sweden.

I have now applied for a Swedish driving licence, so maybe in 2012 I’ll finally ‘be’ someone.

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I’ll be back blogging more regularly next year and will be putting on monthly nights in Stockholm and Linköping – more info soon – But meanwhile, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter – @BenKersley


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Weird Shit at STOFF

August 25th, 2011 by Ben

I’ve just got back from watching some weird shit at the VIP opening of STOFF, The Stockholm Fringe Festival. Just to clarify, by ‘weird shit’ I mean a naked Mexican opera singer with a beard but no penis. Incidentally, I feel I am qualified to describe this as weird shit as I have  a degree in drama – I know how to academically analyse theatre, from Grotowski to Boal… and, trust me, the opera performance definitely comes under the category ‘weird shit’.

But how cool it was to be in the thick of it. Surrounded by theatre types doing weird and wonderful performances that the audience may or may not have understood. Having spent so long in small town Linköping recently, where mainstream is the order of the day, it was such a pleasure to hang out with performers for whom profound and pretentious were words that could be found tattooed on their inner lip.

The festival goes on at Kulturhuset for the next few days and there are performers from all over the world. Go along and maybe you can check out some equally weird shit. I spoke to a group from the UK called ‘Fools Play‘ who had just graduated from E15 drama school. I don’t think their shit is the weirdest at the festival, but it sounded like a pretty good option to go and watch. Their show is called ‘Go Solo’ and they are playing at Kulturhuset’s Hörsalen at 12.30 on 26/8 and Dramalabbet at 4pm on 27/8.

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Miss me?

June 20th, 2011 by Ben

So, I haven’t been around The Local for a couple of months… but like an absentee father who disappears for long spells, then turns up again for Xmas and birthdays, I return full of enthusiasm and good cheer, whether you care or not!

Miss me? Probably not. But I’m here witha few gaps to fill in about what I’ve been up to for the last few months. Basically… I’ve been busy! So, sue me!

The tour with Danny finished in style with a couple of great gigs in Lund and Malmö. We had lots of fun and although we maybe didn’t revolutionise the stand up scene in Sweden, we had a few laughs along the way. It would be disengenious not to post this review that we got for the gig in Linköping:

Otherwise, I’ve started working part time for a voiceover company called Online Voices. So, if you need any voice, in any language, I can probably help you find it. They do radio commercials too and I wrote this bum example (For this I studied drama at university?). The comedy is rolling on – a few business gigs here and there over the summer (read Jönköping and Östergötland) and I’m getting my homepage re-jigged at the moment with a view to getting myself out there a little more. Which reminds me – don’t forget to follow me on Twitter!

What else? Oh yes… I’ve been popping up in your homes on a Friday night, making you hungry.

So, I’ll be back again soon, with tales from the road…

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Tour blog#10: A home win

April 1st, 2011 by Ben

Last night’s gig was on the home turf of Linköping. Great turnout and a great response. I realise again that the venue, Bastiljen, is possibly one of the best live spaces in the country and it feels great to be involved with it. After last night one almost has the impression that word is spreading and the people of Linköping are starting to realise what a good venue it is too!

We had a full and varied show, with a good range of acts and a mixed audience. The mix was everything from students to doctors, to people from the bad side of town… I wrote some jokes I was very happy about on Linköping’s recent gang war. I mean come on! Gang warfare in Linköping!? Do me a favour!!

Apart from Danny, who had a great show, Kurt Lightner was also great. He strummed his guitar and improvised a hilarious song about Gaddaffi and a fish. very funny.

Very shortly heading off to Lund for the last gig of the tour. And then…. sleep!

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