Comedian Al Pitcher in the Local Lockdown

With Sweden’s comedian of the year Al Pitcher releasing his first book this week, The Local catches up with him to find out more, and we preview our first ever “Local Lockdown” video segment.

Comedian Al Pitcher in the Local Lockdown

Al Pitcher is a funny man. Constantly.

As we were walking through Stockholm to film the segment (below), we came across a TV production where a young girl was dragging heavy bags up a hill.

“You can blame Reinfeldt for this, what’s happening to this country!?” he shouts to the crew, with a sly wink.

Luckily, New Zealander Al Pitcher, 40, has used this razor sharp wit and his observational humour to its full advantage and can now lay claim to the title of Sweden’s 2011 comedian of the year.

He has taken his current “Fika tour” across the country and released a new book “Begravda Elefanter” (‘Buried Elephants’) this week.

“It blows my mind, I can’t believe I’ve got a book published in Sweden – in Swedish!” he tells The Local.

However, it’s little wonder that all of Sweden want a piece of Pitcher.

With the current tour selling out nationwide and another tour in the offing for 2013 – as well as the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August – it’s fair to say he’s hit the big-time.

But it’s the publication of the book that has Pitcher beaming.

“It’s a bit of a cliché, but if you’d mentioned this to me five years ago, I wouldn’t have believed it,” he says.

Click here to browse through some of The Local’s favourite images from the Al Pitcher collection.

“I’m really proud of this book – I like to call it an on-the-toilet book, perfect for light reading. In fact, it was just a side project to begin with, but it’s really taken off.”

Pitcher says that his view of Sweden from an outsider’s perspective is like being “a kid in a toy shop”, something Swedish people love to hear.

However, the self-proclaimed “word-of-mouth comedian” claims that despite having no TV-show like some other comedians, Swedes and foreigners are flocking to his shows and keeping a close eye on his online activity.

One of his stand-up YouTube clips has even attracted over 100,000 views.

The book was inspired by Pitcher’s award-winning Picture Show.

The book’s title, which translates to “Buried Elephants”, comes from a particularly well-received picture of the Swedish ventilation shafts which bear an eerie resemblance to elephant trunks.

However, despite the book, the tour, and the new Local Lockdown, Pitcher claims that he’s not performing comedy for the fame.

“Being a comedian is like jumping on a bull. It’s a crazy ride, you’ve got to wear the occasional silly hat sometimes, but when people come up to me on the street and tell me they’ve enjoyed my work, it’s the greatest reward.”

Pitcher’s Fika tour runs until November, and he will appear in Edinburgh with his show “Tiny Triumphs” from August 1-26.

Oliver Gee

Follow Oliver on Twitter here

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

A resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Europe, this time driven by new, fast-spreading Omicron subvariants, is once again threatening to disrupt people's summer plans.

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

Several Western European nations have recently recorded their highest daily case numbers in months, due in part to Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

The increase in cases has spurred calls for increased vigilance across a continent that has relaxed most if not all coronavirus restrictions.

The first resurgence came in May in Portugal, where BA.5 propelled a wave that hit almost 30,000 cases a day at the beginning of June. That wave has since started to subside, however.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

Italy recorded more than 62,700 cases on Tuesday, nearly doubling the number from the previous week, the health ministry said. 

Germany meanwhile reported more than 122,000 cases on Tuesday. 

France recorded over 95,000 cases on Tuesday, its highest daily number since late April, representing a 45-percent increase in just a week.

Austria this Wednesday recorded more than 10,000 for the first time since April.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Cases have also surged in Britain, where there has been a seven-fold increase in Omicron reinfection, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS blamed the rise on the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, but also said Covid fell to the sixth most common cause of death in May, accounting for 3.3 percent of all deaths in England and Wales.

BA.5 ‘taking over’

Mircea Sofonea, an epidemiologist at the University of Montpellier, said Covid’s European summer wave could be explained by two factors.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

One is declining immunity, because “the protection conferred by an infection or a vaccine dose decreases in time,” he told AFP.

The other came down to the new subvariants BA.4 and particularly BA.5, which are spreading more quickly because they appear to be both more contagious and better able to escape immunity.

Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity unit at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said BA.5 was “taking over” because it is 10 percent more contagious than BA.2.

“We are faced with a continuous evolution of the virus, which encounters people who already have antibodies — because they have been previously infected or vaccinated — and then must find a selective advantage to be able to sneak in,” he said.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in France

But are the new subvariants more severe?

“Based on limited data, there is no evidence of BA.4 and BA.5 being associated with increased infection severity compared to the circulating variants BA.1 and BA.2,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said last week.

But rising cases can result in increasing hospitalisations and deaths, the ECDC warned.

Could masks be making a comeback over summer? (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Alain Fischer, who coordinates France’s pandemic vaccine strategy, warned that the country’s hospitalisations had begun to rise, which would likely lead to more intensive care admissions and eventually more deaths.

However, in Germany, virologist Klaus Stohr told the ZDF channel that “nothing dramatic will happen in the intensive care units in hospitals”.

Return of the mask? 

The ECDC called on European countries to “remain vigilant” by maintaining testing and surveillance systems.

“It is expected that additional booster doses will be needed for those groups most at risk of severe disease, in anticipation of future waves,” it added.

Faced with rising cases, last week Italy’s government chose to extend a requirement to wear medical grade FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30.

“I want to continue to recommend protecting yourself by getting a second booster shot,” said Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who recently tested positive for Covid.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to ‘entire population’

Fischer said France had “clearly insufficient vaccination rates” and that a second booster shot was needed.

Germany’s government is waiting on expert advice on June 30 to decide whether to reimpose mandatory mask-wearing rules indoors.

The chairman of the World Medical Association, German doctor Frank Ulrich Montgomery, has recommended a “toolbox” against the Covid wave that includes mask-wearing, vaccination and limiting the number of contacts.