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Stephen Lynch - laughing in the face of the inferno

Geoff Mortimore · 8 Jun 2011, 11:43

Published: 08 Jun 2011 11:43 GMT+02:00

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Swedish comedy fans have been spoiled over the past year.

First there was the triumphant visit of the Flight of The Conchords pair, and then John Cleese brought his one-man show earlier this year.

And just last weekend, Jerry Seinfeld took the stage at Stockholm's Ericsson Globe Arena.

Soon to be added to the procession of notable comical acts making an appearance in Sweden is American Stephen Lynch, who touts a unique combination of comedy and music.

To those unfamiliar with his name and reputation, in short, Lynch writes and sings humorous songs, designed to make one laugh and wince at the same time.

Like many in his profession, the 39-year-old from Pennsylvania in the eastern United States has a less than conventional family background.

With a former priest as a father and former nun as a mother, so it is tempting to think that Lynch's parents' religious inclinations may have played a role in both Stephen and his brother choosing careers in comedy.

But as Lynch explains, his father's musical talents and encouragement played a more decisive role.

“I don’t really use religious imagery in my act, so from that perspective it wasn’t really a factor," he tells The Local.

"However, our parents always encouraged us to express ourselves creatively and it was always a very musical household.”

Although acting was Lynch's first ambition, (he starred in a Broadway adaptation of hit movie The Wedding singer”), encouragement from friends to develop his songwriting took his career on another path.

"From college I moved to New York with dreams of becoming an actor. Or a rock star. Or a temp worker. I managed to accomplish the latter in about 2 days. Dreams really DO come true!"

The first song he ever wrote, at the age of 15 was a country music song about a cowboy who breaks up with his girlfriend, then goes to a diner. There, his entrée reminds him of his lost love.

The name of the song? "Beefy Burrito."

To the uninitiated, Lynch's is the kind of show that would appeal to fans of Flight of The Conchords - music based comedy, though the difference in Lynch’s case, being "closer to the knuckle” content.

There is very little in his act that doesn’t push boundaries, he explains.

“My wife is a soundboard for all my ideas. I don’t go out to offend anyone, I just try to find an angle that is amusing in things that perhaps on the surface are not immediately funny," he says.

"In the same way that Mel Brooks can poke fun at Hitler and The Holocaust for example, I can make comedy from things like AIDS tests or Anne Frank. It all depends on your approach.”

One of Lynch’s most popular sketches is about the Special Olympics. He admits to feeling sensitive about the song but gauges it in the same way as his other material.

“You just develop a feeling for what is okay and what isn’t, but I don’t have any qualms about my material," he explains.

"If I feel that I am picking on someone or being cruel, the chances are I wouldn’t find it funny, so I wouldn’t use it anyway.”

Highlights in his set include very funny ditties on ugly babies, homosexuality, and waiting for the result of an HIV test - not for the sensitive at heart.

The latter features a great line about Denzel Washington defending him if he loses his job, which will strike a chord with all those who have seen the movie "Philadelphia".

Story continues below…

Lynch has warm memories of his first gigs in Sweden three years ago.

“I was worried because I thought we wouldn’t sell any tickets, but the promoter convinced me it would be okay, and in the end we sold out the shows," he recalls.

"The Swedes 'got it' and I had as good a reaction as any I had ever received in the US, so each time I have come back we have added more shows and towns.”

No doubt Lynch will be using the show to plug his material which includes four CDs, the latest of which "3 Balloons” came out in 2009, as well as an upcoming DVD project.

Lynch is playing four shows in Sweden, kicking off at China Theatern on Thursday, June 9th.

He then heads north to Luleå for a show on Saturday, June 11th, before heading south and west to Gothenburg and Malmö for shows on June 13th and June 16th, respectively.

By his own admission, Stephen Lynch may well be on his way to Hell, but one still get the feeling that at least he’ll be laughing all the way there.

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Geoff Mortimore (mortimore.geoff@gmail.com)

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