Patrick Hansson wants to help make learning Swedish simple. And funny. If you haven’t seen his clip or clicked on the link your friends have posted on Facebook, you just might want to check it out. No previous knowledge of Swedish required.
Hansson got the idea for the ‘Simple Swedish’ project one morning just after he awoke, when his first thought of the day was, “The [Swedish] word ‘val’ has three different meanings. That must be confusing to all of those who are trying to learn Swedish.”
And so began his comedic approach to learning bits and bobs of the Swedish language. ‘Simple Swedish’, the skit, was written, filmed, edited and published by Hansson, a TV cameraman by day, funny language film maker by night.
The video first hit the self-broadcasting site YouTube in late September. Initially, Hansson only sent the 6½-minute film to discussion sites and forums where people have an interest in learning Swedish, as well as to his own group of friends on social networking sites like Facebook.
“From that point it’s taken on its own life,” Hansson tells The Local, explaining how the video has spread around Sweden and into the rest of the English-speaking world. To date, there have been over 50,000 views of the YouTube film and the number is increasing all the time.
The message and content of the humour in ‘Simple Swedish’ plays a lot on American culture and its usage of the English language. Poking fun at the American need to censor profanity (the f-word in particular) on TV and radio is a clear message, with the Swedish king summoned for demonstration purposes.
“For example, if the King wants to go on national TV and say ‘Fuck you’, he can. But he won’t. I mean, which king would do that? Not ours.”
Hansson drew some of his inspiration from the comedy routine called “Hipp Hipp: Svenska för nybörjare” and the character Itzhak Skenstrom. But while Hipp Hipp and other Swedish language comedy sketches aim their humour at the Swedish audience, Hansson also wants to reach non-Swedes.
With a script in hand and the drive and inspiration to see it through, Hansson roped in Ola Lustig, the face of ‘Simple Swedish’, while working with him last summer on a TV4 game show.
Lustig is best known as a presenter on commercial radio station Rix FM where he is commonly referred to as Väder-Ola [Weather-Ola], an epithet he first received while presenting the weather forecast for Aftonbladet.
Lustig tells The Local that he got involved with Simple Swedish (for which he didn’t get paid), “Because I love making people laugh.” He adds, “I also have a minor passion for languages.”
Lustig also has a self-professed passion for farts. Fart means speed in Swedish, and the section of the skit devoted to Swedish speed was Ola’s contribution.
“I love farts. A while ago I did an experiment where I taped my farts on my iPhone and played them live on [my radio programme].” And so Lustig introduces the English-speaking audience to Swedish/English word-play: “It’s not the fart that kills, it’s the smäll” (meaning ‘impact’, but pronounced ‘smell’).
‘Simple Swedish’ was made on a wing and a prayer with no budget. It was filmed with Hansson’s own camera, a borrowed microphone and construction lamps in his flat in Hägersten, a neighborhood of Stockholm just south of the inner city.
“I filmed against an empty wall to give the impression of space. It’s my living room wall, we had to move stuff around.”
But it has yet to be determined whether non-Swedes with no ties to the country will be sufficiently amused by ‘Simple Swedish’.
Ben Kersley, the British comic living in Linköping, performs his routines in Swedish. According to Kersley, “Comedy relies on language and misunderstandings of language – from the pun, double entendre, malapropism and the oxymoron… not to mention good old Spoonerisms… This kind of sketch is all the funnier for an audience who have a knowledge of both languages i.e. Swedes and non-Swedes who live in Sweden.”
“In part of my act I look at the question of Swedish/English from the other perspective… on how Swedes misuse English, which possibly has more mileage as Swedes are obliged to use English and therefore make mistakes more commonly.”
Kersley is bullish on the skit nonetheless, “This sketch is great as it hits on all the things we see when we first get here – fart, sex, slut.” Speed, six, the end.
Hansson has ideas for another script and Ola confirms he’s on board. “Anything that’s good for Sweden is good for everyone here…I’m fascinated by the fascination with Sweden.”
But whether the humour really can cross to Americans with no knowledge of Sweden is questionable. Ben Kersley points out elements that likely go over most people’s head, including Hansson himself.
“How strange it is to see a Swede in a suit and tie. Also, that he is using British English to teach the Americans how to speak Swedish.”
On that note, we’ll take our leave, borrowing from the skit’s own ending, “Good bye. Slut.”