So, what was it that brought you to Sweden in 2006?
Well, me and my Swedish girlfriend were living in a flat in London. But after we had a kid we realized it wasn’t the ideal living situation. To live in a house with a garden in Sweden seemed like a more appealing alternative to us. So we decided to move.
Now that you’ve been here for over two years are you starting to get homesick?
Not really, since England is not that far away. And also, now when friends come to visit they’ll stay for longer whereas in London they’d only pop in for a half hour or so. In that way it’s almost as if I see them more now.
Is there a difference between performing for a Swedish audience compared to a British one?
I think the British audiences are more aggressive and people will react more to jokes that are offensive. I was actually surprised by how tolerant the Swedish audience is when it comes to jokes which come across as racist or otherwise offensive. Overall I’d say the Swedish audiences are less critical and less concerned about political correctness.
Is it challenging to perform in Swedish, since it is your secondary language?
Well, in England I used to do a lot of characters and sketch comedy, but in Sweden I can perform in a more natural state because I don’t have to put on an act: I already have the advantage of being a stupid foreigner.
I think Swedes have a strange relationship with the British. We are foreigners but acceptable. I think Swedes look up to England when it comes to things like music, art and culture.
I read some statistics about integration. And apparently in America they’ve calculated that it takes three years to ”fit in” as a foreigner whereas in Sweden it takes three generations. So, even though you’ve lived in Sweden your entire life you’ll still be viewed as a foreigner.
Apart from your own stand–up performance and journalistic writing, you also dedicate yourself to training Swedes in performance techniques. What’s your impression, are we easily trained?
I think Sweden is similar to other western countries when it comes to performance. Although one difference is that Swedes are more afraid of conflicts and more nervous about speaking English. Which is strange since Swedes generally are very good at English. It’s about the opposite of a French person who of course will perform with great confidence, speaking terrible English.
What do think is the most prominent cultural difference between Sweden and England?
In England we pride ourselves on being different or eccentric. Swedes on the other hand will do anything not to stand out. So, when it comes to Swedish stand-up there are a lot of people with foreign backgrounds.
Finally, do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring comedians out there?
There is this quote that I like. It was Bob Monkhouse, a famous British comedian who said it. It goes: ”When I was young and said that I wanted to be a comedian, people laughed at me. Well, they’re not laughing anymore.”
See Ben Kersley in action:
Price: 150 kronor (100 kronor for students and groups)
Time: Friday, February 20th & Saturday, February 21st – 8pm
Location: Playhouse Teater, Sibyllegatan 29 (Östermalm)
More Information: www.speakup.se