Al Pitcher's carved a niche for himself as the biggest English-language stand-up star in Sweden and his latest stage show, 'How Swede am I?' promises to pull together his best jokes about life in the frozen north. It's also set to be filmed by Swedish television for the first time. The Local caught up with the Kiwi ahead of his final rehearsals in Stockholm.
What's the focus of the show?
Well a) I am funny, which is important. Some comedians pretend like they are not but I like people laughing, as obvious as that sounds.
And b) I have got that outsider's approach. I have seen stuff that completely baffles me but is normal for Swedes and I kind of put a big cracked mirror up against the Swedes.
This is the 'best of” show. I have done three tours in Sweden in four years and now it looks like SVT (Sweden's public broadcaster) wants to show it, so that's why we're putting it all together and filming it. It will be kind of a dream to know that someone in Sweden will be sat at home watching me in my underpants.
The programme is called 'How Swede am I'? What Swedish habits have you picked up since you moved here?
When was living in London before Sweden I got really angry with people pushing me out of the way. Now I just put my head down and I walk away and I think that's a Swedish trait. Internally I still moan to myself and I think I'm still gonna be a really good moaning old man who stares out the window at people, but at the moment I am quite chilled.
Also: my coffee intake. I don't know what it is but I think it must have gone up like 87 percent or something! It just seems to be the only thing to do here you know?
Al Pitcher pulling his best grumpy old man face. Photo: Lifeline
What's the absolute strangest thing about living in Sweden?
The one that I mention in the show is the whole thing of blue bags on shoes. I find it incredible when you go to a kindergarten or a gym and you have to put blue bags over your shoes and no one really knows why! It can't be that hygenic to put them on – you know there's no dirt on my shoes!
But the thing is that if you leave with the blue bags still on your shoes, no one stops you, no one says anything, no confrontation. They just let you walk out with these Smurf things stuck to you. I have got like five or six minutes away and then I have looked down and been like 'ha!'
For me it's like having my fly undone. I think you could walk around Sweden with your fly undone and no one would say anything. Because people don't like confrontation, they just live in their own worlds.
Blue bags: Al Pitcher hates them. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT
So apart from being able to have your fly open, what is your favourite thing about Sweden?
The kids here have got such a good life and I am constantly telling my kids that I appreciate it here. My standard of life here is superb and I think that Swedes are very, very nice people. They have got a really warm way.
But it takes a while. It almost feels like they collect their friends up until about 25 years of age and that is it. It's very hard to break into that. It's like a Facebook group which is private and you can't get in. You almost need someone to recommend you, to go “hey, he's all right, you should talk to him you know!”.
How likely is it you'll return to New Zealand?
I won't now. I love Europe and for me it's kind of the capital, it feels the place to be. Growing up in New Zealand you feel so, so far away. It feels too far away for me now. So unless my mum and dad find a Hobbit underneath the house and we get to see a real live Hobbit, I won't be returning.
A lot of The Local's readers are also foreigners living abroad. How do you personally deal with knowing you're in Sweden for good?
I would love to have my sister and my mum and dad here and I think that part of it is quite sad. But my son is five now and he has seen New Zealand three times and soon we are going back for the fourth time. So we do go back a lot.
Al Pitcher goes home to see his family and to check they haven't discovered any Hobbits like these ones in Lord of the Rings. Photo: AP/Pierre Vinet/TT
What's your best tip for foreigners in Sweden?
Get used to people not letting others off the train before you get on! When a train turns up, you are probably used to letting people off. That is probably a common thing where you come from. Here, that will not happen! Do not get frustrated. Do not lose your shit. Let them just push on and push you out of the way. That is the Swedish way.
The English-language comedy scene is growing in Sweden. Who are the other names to watch that are following in your footsteps?
There's a British guy called James Mckie and there's a guy from New York called Yemi Afilobi.
I get a lot of people coming up to me saying how much they enjoy being able to laugh at their experiences. People that have moved here going “god that's so true!” and they've got their own stories, their own almost-comedy routines and they say “it's so good to watch some comedy like this”. Some of them even tell me I should be a bit harder on the Swedes, a bit meaner. But I try and do it in a nice way … Let's have fun in the room and just make a night of it!
Al Pitcher's new TV show is being filmed at Hotel Rival in Stockholm on April 15th and 16th. Click here for Tickets