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Comedy in the Time of Covid

Comedy Posted on Sat, March 21, 2020 12:27:04

A week before Christmas, my position where I worked was erased, and I agreed with my manager that I should leave. Which is like describing a breakup as “mutual.” Everyone says that losing a full-time job in Sweden is next to impossible, but not only is it very possible, I am really good at it, apparently.

At least I saw it coming, for good and for ill. Heading into the Christmas season I can’t say that I was in the best of moods. Grumpy, anxious, taking anger out on friends, generally wondering how I let myself get to that point in my life. All of that came to a head in early January, just when I was enjoying my annual, post-holiday depression, which hopefully isn’t fueled by also being sober every January.

I had to get away, to get my shit together. I quit my club, canceled all my gigs, knew I needed a break but not how long it would be. I didn’t want to make a production of it, just wanted to go away quietly.

It was the longest break I’ve taken in nine years. I’ve heard comics talk about the benefits of taking a break, but I can’t say I experienced any. Didn’t miss performing, didn’t think of any jokes, had absolutely zero motivation. What I did do was spend a lot of time on my couch, not going out, barely communicating with anyone. I tried therapy for the first time, so now the only thing separating me from all the other comics out there is that I’m not on Tinder. Watched a lot of TV, played a lot of video games. Which was fine, for quite a while, but, not surprisingly, it got boring after a few months.

By the start of March I was thinking about performing again, but still didn’t have a real drive to do so. I had a standup event to run for a visiting US comic in the middle of the month, one I’d have to do, and wasn’t excited about. When Trump announced the US-Europe travel ban, the comic had to cancel, and though I feel bad for that person, the news came as a relief. I just wasn’t ready for it.

However, when the middle of the month actually arrived, I was asked to host another show and I said yes. I was ready to go out and see the world again! … just in time for everyone to stay in. I’m such a hipster, I self-isolated before it was cool.


I was booked to host Friday and Saturday night. Friday was…. brutal. Not many tickets sold in advance, and not everyone who’d bought a ticket showed up. The headliner didn’t show up, either; I told the audience that him not being there was proof that cocaine doesn’t help against covid. Covid was the elephant in the room but I was far from my best myself. It was my first time on stage in over two months; I feel rusty after a week. I’d assumed it wouldn’t be too hard, since I host so often, but I barely remembered my own name up there. On the bright side, we didn’t take a break, so after doing five awful minutes to start the show my time on stage was reduced to just introducing the next comic.

A few of us went for a beer after, though none of us felt like celebrating. Being in a half-empty bar just magnified the gloomy atmosphere.

But I needed that night to get me ready for Saturday. The crowd was half the size it normally would be on a Saturday, but it felt full enough that no one noticed the difference. I was loose, not nearly as nervous, and asked the club owner to have a break in the middle like the show normally does. That way, I got to do ten minutes at the start and another ten after the break and I, quite frankly, was fantastic. I’d got my mojo back!

A few of us went for a beer after, because we wanted to celebrate… and left the half-empty bar after one beer. It’s not easy to maintain a party mood when you’re in a ghost town.


In the past week, I’ve been in four clubs, performing twice. Not many people in each room, of course, and I would describe their attitude overall as “fuck corona.” Which is exactly what I told them from stage:
“Fuck corona, yeah! Fuck old people! We’ll show that virus! I think we should take it a step further and spit in each other’s mouths- it might help build our immune systems and will give me an erection, so win-win.”

I know that just being outside the apartment at all is controversial and I don’t share that “fuck corona” attitude, but my bottom-line feeling is, if some people are choosing to go out anyway, the show might as well go on. I’ve heard comics compare themselves to musicians on the Titanic, which is apt, since, like the Titanic, our venues are slowly slipping under the ice. I’m glad I don’t have to make the choice to keep a club open or not; most have closed, some choose to remain open despite cries for them to shut down. That choice may be taken from them soon, especially if an official ban on bars and restaurants comes down.

I hope that doesn’t happen. I’m still spending most of my waking hours on my couch, even if I’ve gone out a few times. I’ve watched too much TV, played too many video games, done waaaay too much soul-searching. My brain is terrible company.


Every once in a while, something comes along and scares the shit out of the human race. SARS, Ebola, Avian Flu… My all-time favorite was Super AIDS, which didn’t capture our attention for very long.

When Swine Flu arrived to scare the shit out of all of us, experts advised using hand sanitizer regularly. Naturally, we trampled over each other to get that, as well as the vaccine that came out not long after. A year later, we found out that neither worked; the vaccine didn’t even give people narcolepsy, even though many still believe that.

I’m not an anti-vaccer. But I am against being reactionary and living in fear. I’m also against not caring at all, saying, “meh, it’s no worse than the flu.” I think we should take it seriously and take precautions. Many of us are in risk groups, or close to people who are, and we should be extra cautious. But no one should be passionately “OMG WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!” or passionately “the media is just making a big deal out of nothing” because we simply don’t know enough yet.

I know what medical experts say today and I take that seriously, but what makes science science and not religion is that experts change their minds as more data is made available. “THOU SHALT BATHE IN ALCOHOL SANITIZER” wasn’t written on a stone tablet when Swine Flu came out. After time and observation those same experts could say, “Whoops, we were wrong about that.” Maybe it really does help against covid, or would if we used even more of it, or maybe not at all. We’ll find out.

Maybe self-isolating works, or would work if everyone did it. Maybe comics telling dick jokes to 10 drunk strangers in a small bar is worse than licking a toilet seat, or maybe it doesn’t matter at all. Maybe posting 18 times a day on social media about covid and screaming out the window at people outside to get indoors for the love of God will save us all, or maybe not at all. We’ll find out.

Well, most of us will find out. Most of us will get through this. Some of us will not live to see covid-free streets and chemtrails back in the sky above us. Some of us will die from covid. Or car crashes. Or domestic violence, on the rise thanks to self-isolation. Or from God knows what. Death is coming for us all, sooner or later.

I often say to rookie comics, “You’ve got 5 minutes on stage. You can be whatever you want, talk about whatever you want, so how do you want to spend that time?” Not many of us know how many minutes we have left to live, but we all know it’s limited. So how do you want to spend that time? I’ll try not to judge you for it, but I probably will. Hey, I’m not Jesus. But who is?

If we’re very lucky, the worst of this will blow over by summer, in time for covid to be replaced in the headlines by shark attacks, and then that can scare the shit out of us instead. Life returning to normal.

Take Advantage of this Opportunity and Get Hubris for Free!

Uncategorised Posted on Fri, January 10, 2020 07:29:29

When I ran Crossfire Comedy Club, for the first two seasons it was a comedy competition. From Season Three I just made it a regular, weekly club, and the first night each month was all-English. Those nights were a lot of fun! The Swedish nights were… not as much fun, due to low turnout. A turnout that got progressively lower as time went on.

On one such night, Yvonne Skattberg was headlining. She’d warned me in advance that she wouldn’t arrive until after the show started, which was just as well since I was going out of my mind. Three people were in the audience. Also, since the venue was a restaurant with only one room, there were a lot of dinner guests who weren’t aware there’d be standup and were annoyed by it, frankly.

I hosted and did my best, which wasn’t nearly good enough. The three in the crowd weren’t much happier than all the dinner guests. Brought up the first comic who promptly and predictably bombed, I went back up and attempted to get things going, without success. But while I was up there I noticed Yvonne arrive.

Brought up the next comic and while they were bombing, went to talk to Yvonne. Apologized for the low turnout and said I completely understood if she just wanted to leave. ”It’s no problem, but instead of headlining, could I go on next?”

I introduced her to the stage and she didn’t treat the room like there were three people in the crowd, sort of listening. She treated the room as if 100 people were there for the show. Not only did she get those three people excited, she got many of the dinner guests to start paying attention, and we had them for the rest of the show.

I thanked Yvonne afterward for her energy and dedication. ”It doesn’t matter if there’s three or three hundred here,” she said, ”it’s a show and they’re here to have a good time.”


One thing that all rookies find out early, much to their chagrin, is that standup isn’t a meritocracy. Talent alone doesn’t lead to stage time and new opportunities. On the one hand, this is a good thing- it shouldn’t be easy. Comics should push club owners for stage time and show up when we’re not booked and promote ourselves on social media as much as possible.

On the other hand, it can be frustrating to see someone get stage time again and again and again, seemingly for the sole reason that the comic has great social skills. Since the vast majority of comics are social retards, a little charm goes a long way; in the land of the blind, he with one eye is king.

I wrote in the last post that talent isn’t enough and not even the most important key to success. We need luck, but the only way to increase the chances of being in the right place at the right time is to be out in the clubs as much as possible. We need to be social, although, speaking as an introvert myself, it’s a tough proposition. ”Hey, you know that way you’ve been your entire life? Have you tried not being that way?”

We need something that makes us special, which is actually something we can affect. If there’s nothing special about the real you, just invent a character. Standup is a very honest art form except when it’s not.

For the very lucky, having a hard-to-define ”it-factor” is powerful currency. Club owners may not even be able to say the exact reason they throw opportunities to those people. Whatever it is, take advantage of it!

I am well aware that being an English-speaking comic in Sweden makes me something more than just yet another middle-aged white guy. All it took for me to make my debut at Maffia Comedy Club was writing an email to the owner saying I’m an English-speaking comic; I’ve seen Swedish comics struggle to get stage time there harder than a rabbit biting its own foot off to get out of a trap. I’ve headlined shows in multiple clubs because I speak English. Hell, I’ve headlined shows just because I have a car and was willing to drive a bunch of comics to the gig.

None of these things matters without some level of talent. Beyond that, whatever edge you may have, exploit the fuck out of it and without guilt. But don’t confuse that edge with actual talent.

Unfortunately, that’s a trap I’ve seen too many comics fall into. I can’t say I blame them. When you’ve just started and everyone is telling you that you’re hot shit, it’s pretty easy to believe it. I’m not sure if they’re so self-unaware that they think they’re far better comics than they are, or if they’re very aware that their talent alone doesn’t justify the opportunities they’re handed and overcompensate as a result. In either case, it leads to dickish, diva behavior.

Van Halen is infamous for demanding M & Ms be available backstage for a show with all the brown ones taken out. Hey, what Van Halen wants, Van Halen gets. Would I get away with making a demand like that? Should I get away with making a demand like that? Obviously not, I can’t play guitar, nor have I ever worn leather ass-less chaps, not even once.

(I’m sure there’s a rumor about me saying the opposite but, as usual, false.)

I wouldn’t say I’ve experienced that level of hubris in one of my clubs, but I do encounter these people on a semi-regular basis. Everything from, ”Oh, there’s only 10 people here and I wanted to try new material, I mean, what’s the point?” to showing up three minutes before their spot and leaving immediately afterwards, or not bothering to show up at all. One can hope that karma catches up to people eventually, but in the short-term it doesn’t seem to matter. The opportunities keep coming.

Probably sounds like sour grapes, I know, or the natural ”why do they get all the gigs I don’t, I’m waaaaay better” attitude most comics live with. Outside my own club I just shrug my shoulders. It’s the nature of the business and some people get all the breaks and some don’t. While I shamelessly press every advantage I have, I’d rather look back on whatever success I obtain and know I built it on talent and drive.

Speaking of shoulders, though, in my club that’s where I’d like to grab a few comics now and then and give them a little shake. ”Do you not understand that you’re not good enough to be this difficult?!”

If you’ve got any comments to make about this post, I only want to hear the positive ones. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be backstage eating green Non Stop only.

My First Not Really Decade of Standup

Uncategorised Posted on Thu, January 02, 2020 14:17:39

A caveat- in March 2020 I will celebrate nine years of standup. So no, technically I haven’t wrapped up my first decade of comedy, nor literally my first decade of standup. Hey, my blog, my rules.

But now that the 2010s have come to an end, I’ve thought a lot about where I was as the decade began and where I am now. About the progress I’ve made, about all the things I’ve learned about myself and standup in general. Some things that were confirmed, others that were surprises, good things and bad things but above all the sheer amount of them, and I thought this would be a good time to recap some of them.

– I was right, I am a nice guy.
Nothing makes me feel better than helping others, probably due to my Hero Complex and pathological need to save people even when they don’t want to be saved. The consequences have been more positive than negative, however. I honestly can’t count the number of people I’ve helped over the years, helping them write or straight out writing for them, giving them their standup debut at one of my clubs, introducing them to other club owners, vouching for them to get them bigger and better gigs, just to name a few things I’ve done. I hope that’s my legacy and how most people think of me, because…..

– Turns out, I can be a real asshole.
There are dozens of people I really like and enjoy hanging out with that I couldn’t tell you anything about other than their jokes, which I’ve heard a hundred times, because I make zero effort to learn anything about them. I’ve met people five or six times for the first time, because it took that long to remember meeting them at all. If I see someone new in a club, chances are high I’m not going to have an urge to say hello until I’ve seen them on stage and found them funny.
I’ve trash-talked other comics, though I’ve toned that down significantly in recent years. Gossiped- if there’s one thing comics love to talk about more than themselves, it’s other comics- and though I should know better I’ve certainly spread stories that weren’t my own. I’ve toned that down, too, but I’m still guilty of it from time to time.
“I have so many beefs in standup it makes me want to become a vegan,” is one of my standard remarks because I know plenty of people who don’t like me (and don’t claim to know all the people who don’t like me). Sometimes I didn’t do anything to deserve it, I swear! Most of the time, though, it’s earned. Comics are sensitive by nature, and I’m no exception. As tough as we talk, feelings are easily hurt.

– All it takes is a real apology to make everything ok again.
At one point, a comic really pissed me off and I didn’t talk to him for nearly a year. Lots of people got to hear why I was angry, except him; we weren’t close and didn’t see each other often, so he had no idea he’d done anything wrong. Eventually I confronted him, to his surprise, and he gave a genuine apology, not the more common non-apology of, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” He also bought a round of shots and all was forgiven.
This came as a surprise to me, that I could be that angry for a long period of time but have it go away in an instant. But this revealed another surprise…

– I can hold a grudge a long, long time.
Not too proud of this one, but if someone makes me very angry and never apologizes for it, they are dead to me. I have quite a number of these instances that, remembering them now, piss me off nearly as much as they did at the time. As much as I would prefer to forgive and forget, I’m just not wired that way.

– Talent isn’t the biggest key to success.
When I think about all the comics I’ve met over the years, there are far, far more people I never see today than familiar faces. Of them, the overwhelming majority quit. A small handful achieved greater success and have no need of grinding in open mic clubs anymore. They’re talented, of course, but they have more in common than that: ambition, social skills, an it-factor that is hard to define, discipline and a fair amount of luck.
I probably have a lower opinion of my own talent than I should, but I also have no ambition, poor social skills, cool is the last word one would use to describe me and, like most comics, I am very lazy (notice that this is the first blog post in a year). I’m lucky enough to be an English-speaking comic in Sweden, which makes me something more than just another middle-aged white guy talking about his dick, but this combination will almost certainly not lead to my Big Break.
Like I said, no one with zero talent will make it far, but I could name several successful comics who have pretty limited talent (I’m not actually going to name them because see the name of my blog). They’re strong enough in those other areas to make up for it. I could name several comics who are extremely talented but lacking in those other areas, and the biggest level of success they might enjoy is being known as a comic’s comic, never growing out of the clubs.

– Corporate gigs are awesome.
Wait, you WANT to pay me to talk about my penis, which I usually do for free? Sounds fantastic!

– Just kidding, corporate gigs are awful.
The money is nice, don’t get me wrong. But chances are high that you’ve been booked as a surprise by the one person at the company who has a sense of humor and your introduction to the party is, “Ok everyone, stop talking to each other and enjoying yourselves, it’s time to give your complete attention to someone you’ve never heard of who will try and make you laugh.”

– Counting gigs was silly.

I used to obsessively count and track all my gigs.  When I hit 500 gigs in less than three years I realized how goofy it was and a complete waste of time, so I stopped counting.

– Apparently, I wasn’t supposed to stop counting gigs.

Recently I saw someone make a very big deal about doing their 1000th gig.  Now you tell me I was supposed to keep counting?!


Performing in Swedish (or close enough)

Comedy Posted on Thu, January 10, 2019 09:34:46

The first time I performed in Swedish, back in 2013, I was
very proud of myself. Not only that I’d
performed in another language, but that it worked almost as well as when I’d
performed in English. Kept smiling all
night and at the bar after the show, a woman from the crowd spoke to me, except
in English.

”I thought you were funny, but next time, please perform in

”Gee, thanks.”

”No disrespect meant!
But you lost me when you tried to say ’sju’.”

”Sju” is the Swedish word for seven. It was also the first thing I’d said. ”Hi my name is Ryan Bussell, I’ve lived in
Sweden for seven years,” except in Swedish.
So I lost her then.

The comment annoyed me and I started telling that story on
stage. After one such time, a female
comic gave me unsolicited feedback – see? that happens sometimes – saying, ”The
problem with that bit is that you say ’sju’ perfectly!”


I’ve performed in Swedish several times since then, but it’s
rare. I want to be perfect, which will
never happen, and not being perfect keeps me from practicing, which keeps me
from improving. That’s my problem in
general when it comes to Swedish, not just on stage.

Also, I want them laughing for the right reason. A comic offered me a gig at a Youth Club in a
Stockholm suburb. Said comic apparently
likes to invite me to that town to bomb; previous gigs with him there were
abyssmal. Anyway, although I can usually
rely on the solid English skills Swedes have, I knew that I would be dealing
with a group of 12 – 16 year olds, so I decided to perform in Swedish. Took about 30 seconds before they were openly
– and loudly – mocking my accent.

Then there was the time I was booked through an agent to
perform at a birthday party outside Mälmo.
The birthday boy knew I performed in English, but still wanted me to do
30 minutes at his party in Swedish. Hey,
it’s his money, and despite having months to prepare I waited for the train
trip south to write and rehearse the whole thing.

Got to the party and found, despite my strong advice, that I
was a surprise to the guests. Sigh. It was already awkward as I began, but in
Swedish, ”Hi, I’m Ryan, I rarely perform in Swedish but it’s a special night,
so why not?” The birthday boy shouted,
”Well, do it English then!” Nope, I’d worked
too hard on that set to give up. (Yes,
waiting until the last minute is working hard in my world.). He was happy, his
guests were confused.

Writing that first Swedish set had two unexpected
benefits. First of all, it isn’t enough
to Google Translate my English material into Swedish. It needs to have the right flow and, more
importantly, I need to be careful which words I choose. I’m not skilled enough to say any and all
Swedish words. Writing so carefully and
deliberately in Swedish helped my English writing as well.

The second thing is that, to me, Swedish is a much more
emotional language than English. It has a
sing-song quality and I’ve often said to non-Swedes that, if they would observe
two Swedes in conversation, they might not understand what was being said but
they would know how the Swedes felt.
(It’s interesting, then, that when many Swedes speak English, all
emotion vanishes. It can be like talking
to a robot that has perfect chinbones.)

Because of that, I found emotion in my material that I
didn’t know was there. Saying the same
line, but in Swedish, I was much more expressive in my delivery than I’d been
when I’d performed in English, so I brought that energy into my English sets as

However, I’ve noticed that my tougher material gets a much
better response in English than in Swedish.
It’s like I get a pass saying dark, offensive things as a foreigner, but
when I say the same thing in Swedish, the reaction from the crowd is, ”nooo, we
don’t say such things here.” For that
reason, and the fact that I don’t recognize the sound of my own voice in
Swedish, performing in Swedish will remain a rare event.

I was contacted by a Big Name who asked me if I had any videos on YouTube where I perform in Swedish. “Yes!” I replied, excited for the opportunity he was about to hand me.
“Great! I’m planning to perform as an American speaking Swedish and I need to learn that accent.”

Give ‘Em What They Want

Comedy Posted on Tue, November 27, 2018 07:16:05

Had a conversation recently with a comic who felt like he
had to say on stage what the audience expected him to say. ”They see me, they hear my accent, they have
a good idea of who I am and where I’m from and I feel like that’s all I should
talk about.” He feels like he’s forced
to give the crowd what they want.

I get that. One of
the many rules of standup is that, if there’s something about you that’s
obvious, you have to address it from the start.
Otherwise, the crowd gets distracted, thinking, ”Why isn’t the comic
addressing that?” instead of listening to the material. I learned early on to always open with, ”Hi,
I’m Ryan, I’m from the US but I live here now.”
There were times I didn’t do that and heard people in the crowd asking
each other, ”Is he English? Is he Irish?”

Yes, I’m Irish! …in America.
Here in Sweden, I’m American.

I know a comic that used to have a huge afro. He’d start with 30 seconds on his hair – ”Yes,
I know, I have crazy hair…” – and then move on, not addressing it again.

That was the advice I gave to the guy I was talking to-
address the obvious but don’t feel that the entire set has to revolve around
it. You don’t have to give the crowd what
you think they want. I even used my
classic line, ”You’re not there for them, they’re there for you.”

I have to wonder, though, if this is good advice. My niche is American Comic in Sweden and of
course I talk about that; I talk about my life and my life is here. But I avoid it as much as I can and I openly
shit on the standard jokes to the point of absurdity. But it doesn’t matter, Swedes won’t stop
laughing at those jokes. Just me saying
a word in Swedish is enough to get a laugh and since I don’t want to become a
cliché – the comic who hates the audience – I avoid doing that, too.

So while I’m actively avoiding that material, my peers are
not, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that several of my peers get a lot
more heat than me. (I mean, there’s a
chance they’re actually funnier than me, but how likely is that?) They’re giving the audience what they want to

I just… can’t. Or won’t. Despite the fact that I rarely perform
outside Sweden, I am still trying to write material that will work no matter
where I am. I talked about this with an
established comic who told me he used to feel the same way, but it didn’t take
long before everything was about Sweden, and now every new idea is about
Sweden. You can’t get more successful
than him, so there might be a point to giving the crowd what they want.

Maybe, deep down, I do hate the audience, or at least think
I’m better than them. I always liked
this advice from Bill Hicks: ”Don’t ever ask the audience, ’How are you all
feeling tonight?’ It’s your job to tell them how to feel.”

I’ve said before that I have no ambition and that’s true,
but despite my best intentions I’m still human and enjoy success. I just want success on my terms. I’m not there for them, they’re there for me.

Pet Peeves

Comedy Posted on Tue, November 20, 2018 09:11:21

You will have a hard time finding a bigger snob about comedy
than me. As much as I love standup, as
much as I say that standup is a huge umbrella encompassing many styles, as open
as I’d like to be to everything, I’ve still got firm opinions about what is and
what isn’t funny. I’m outspoken about it
as well, to the detriment of my career.

For example, telling a comic, ”I think you’re very talented
but your humor just isn’t for me,” when that comic could’ve got me a guest spot
at Stockholm’s most known club, probably wasn’t a great idea.

Still, even if I knew a way to keep my opinions to myself, I
wouldn’t want to. I’d like to be as open
offstage as I am onstage, but maybe I should pick my battles better.

Everyone has their own tastes and I’m certainly not unique
in that regard, but there times I react so violently to something I literally
groan out loud.

”I’d like to try some new stuff tonight, is that okay?” Fun Fact: no crowd in history has ever said, ”No,
it’s not okay! Do old stuff, even though
we haven’t heard that either and have no idea who you are!” That’s just a lazy way of telling a crowd, ”I
don’t know if any of this is going to work so please give me a break if it
sucks.” If you have to say that, then
just say that.

”This word in Swedish means one thing but in English it means something soooooo different!” This one kills me, even inspired my first blog entry. Swedish words like kock and fart are dirty words in English. That’s the punchline. Not only does that make my skin crawl, watching Swedish crowds double-over in laughter adds insult to injury. SEE ALSO: Being not Swedish and saying any Swedish word as a punchline.

”What do you do? …Oh,
I don’t have a joke for that.” Good
Lord, I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard a comic say that during
crowd work. If having a joke ready for
any possible job is that important to you, then write 100000000 possible responses. Or do what I do- don’t ask that question.

(I should mention here that I avoid crowd work like the
Plague, despite it being my 2018 New Year’s resolution. I want to get better at it, but the standard,
”What’s your name, what do you do?” is not inspiring. Also, nine times out of ten in Stockholm, the
answer is ”Student” or ”IT”.)

”How many of you are audience and how many of you are
comics?” This one comes up at Power on a
regular basis and drives me nuts. I get
it, though. There are times we have ten
civilians and twenty comics in the room, and that breakdown isn’t ideal when
you’re performing. I just don’t see the
point of the question, other than broadcasting to the civilians, ”Hey, I suspect
that you’re vastly outnumbered by comics and that sucks. Maybe you didn’t know how much it sucks but I
hope you get it now.”

Generally, any comment regarding the small size of a crowd
is shitty, no matter where you are. ”I
know you’re here to have fun but I don’t think this is fun so let me ruin your
good time as well.”

“Damn, that spotlight is so bright! I’ll stand over here instead.” Yes, in the dark. Being visible is somewhat important in standup.

”OMG you guys, I hate using public bathrooms and you won’t
believe what happened to me in one!” So
do we and yes, we will. Speaking of
relatable humor….

”Round of applause, how many of you use Facebook?” Here’s a better one: ”Round of applause, how
many of you breathe oxygen?”

Taking a sip of water after a punchline to provoke an
applause break. That’s not water in your
glass, that’s desperation. SEE ALSO: ”I
think that joke was worth a round of applause, amirite?”

”Hmmm, that joke usually gets a better reaction.” Either that, or you were better somewhere
else. Be funnier, jeez. SEE ALSO: ”Hmm, that joke was funnier in my

”Here’s five minutes about my penis.” No one’s penis is worth five minutes. And yes, I am a hypocrite.

”I did this thing and you thought I was doing it in private
but now I tell you I did it in public and that’s the punchline!” I’ve had a harder time hearing a train pull
into a station than hearing those punchlines coming.

”Boy, that last comic sure sucked, huh?” There’s nothing worse than bashing another
comic on stage. Could we at least
pretend there’s honor amongst thieves?
We all suck from time to time, so ask not for whom the bell tolls. Save the bashing for when you’re securely
behind that comic’s back.

Feedback Whine

Comedy Posted on Tue, November 06, 2018 08:20:34

”Could you give me some feedback on my set?”

”Sorry, wasn’t paying attention.”

I like when comics ask me for feedback. Part of it is an ego kick, part of it is that
I really like talking comedy, but mostly it’s because I like to see comics
trying to develop. Asking for feedback
is very important, but is all too rare.

Unfortunately, most of the time I’m asked for feedback, it’s
after the comic was on. If I haven’t
been on stage myself yet, I’m thinking about my set and not paying close attention to the comics before
me. If I’ve already been on, I’m usually
too busy licking my wounds or patting myself on the back to pay attention. And if it’s at my club, I’m focused on a
dozen things other than paying close attention to every set.

Long story short, chances are slim I ever pay close
attention to anyone. Ask me before you
go on.

I have mixed feelings about giving feedback, though. On the one hand, I’ve been in love with
standup since long before many Stockholm comics were born, I’ve been around, I
have informed opinions. On the other
hand, who am I? A rookie with seven years’
experience, hardly a mentor. It also sucks
to give people advice that they don’t take.

One thing I learned, early on, was to never give unsolicited
feedback. It never goes well, especially
if you’re a man giving advice to a woman.
So many men have given unsolicited feedback to women it’s become a
cliché. I’d like to think it’s a
symptom of wanting to encourage female comics but I think the real reason is
carnal in nature.

I also believe that however one wants to spend
their time on stage is up to them. It’s
not for me to tell someone what to do, what to improve, what to cut. At Power Comedy Club we have a stable of
regulars- God bless them- and I’m happy we give them a place to do whatever
they want. Still, I get the urge now and
then to say to someone, ”Hey, you know that joke you’ve tried the past ten
weeks with the same reaction, that is to say, none? Are you married to it?”

I don’t ask for feedback nearly often enough. Fortunately, I have close friends who know to
criticize me right before I go on stage so my confidence is shaken, or to criticize me right after I finish what I thought was a good set. It’s important to surround yourself with
friends that keep you humble.

Lineups: Creating Order From Chaos

Comedy Posted on Tue, October 30, 2018 10:04:59

[NOTE: In today’s blog I’ll be referring to rookies
often. I am a rookie with seven years
experience, which by Swedish standards makes me a veteran. I am writing rookie here to indicate rookie

I once had an argument with a newbie about setting the
lineup at shows. I’m very much a
traditionalist- put the least-experienced first. She was opposed to that- passionately, in
fact- believing this to be unfair, not just to the rookies but also the audience. At the time, I’d been running clubs for two
years and she was just starting out, so I figured I knew better, but she’s kind
of a big deal now and I’m not, so maybe I should’ve listened to her.

Nah, I’m sure I’m right.

I saw her point. Her
view was that, if an experienced comic goes first, the vibe in the room goes
higher than it would if a rookie went first.
The crowd would have more fun and the room would be warmer when the
rookie went on, which would make it more likely for the rookie to succeed. Everyone wins.

Here’s my take. First
of all, no one likes to go first. Okay,
there are times when someone just wants to get home or to another gig and is
more than happy to go first, but that’s not very common. Any comic that’s been in the game for a long
time has already gone through a period of going up first. It’s rarely a lot of fun.

Second of all, if a rookie is going up first to a cold room,
then the host did a shit job. Which,
admittedly, is all too common, but the last thing a host should do is throw a
rookie to the wolves without at least getting the crowd focused and ready. Even an amazing host like myself can bomb
sometimes, so, again, going up first stinks.

Third, and most importantly, you have to work harder when
the crowd isn’t so hot they laugh at your every word and gesture. This is where I say, putting rookies first is
the best thing for them and also the audience.
It’s a trial by fire: rookies have to get better or die, and this
process goes faster when they have to work themselves off the frontlines. They develop, and the more developed comics
in the community, the better experience we offer to audiences.

In any case, I have empathy, but not sympathy, for anyone
unhappy going first. I’ve gone first more
times than I can count and still do, from time to time. Sometimes by choice, especially at a club I
run, sometimes not by choice. It is what
it is, you just need to work with it.


At Power Comedy Club, managing the lineup is especially
tricky. Each show is two ”halves” followed
immediately by the Marathon of walk-in comics who get five minutes each and
introduce each other. We try to book no
more than five comics in advance, two of whom get ten minutes and the other
three getting seven minutes each. The
booked comics are on before the Marathon and they aren’t enough to fill out the
lineup, so we need to mix in a few of the twenty- on a slow night- comics who
come in off the street.

In theory, the order is determined on a first-come, first-serve
basis. Signing up for these walk-in, open
spots starts at 7 PM, but we’re there to set things up much earlier than
that. Didn’t take long for comics to
figure that out, so they began coming into the room ten minutes early. Then twenty.
Then forty. The night I walked
into the room at 5:30 PM and found comics waiting for me, I put my foot down
with my two partners and now we’re enforcing the stay-out-of-the-room-until-7-PM rule. I appreciate the enthusiam but
damn, give a brother a chance to eat dinner.

Our regulars accepted that without issue, however, and now
they wait patiently upstairs until we take the rope off the stairway at 7 PM and they move like a flash flood to the signup sheet. I keep saying I’ll just make a checklist of
all our regulars instead of a blank form, but I haven’t made good on that
threat yet. Anyway, I’m grateful for
their patience.

In practice, however, when they arrive is a factor, but not
the main factor that determines their places in the lineup. My partners and I decide who deserves spots
before the Marathon and how to balance the order so it’s not too many rookies
in a row. We haven’t always been so
particular and just did put comics on in the order they signed up, and this led
to a few brutal evenings with the crowd fleeing the room like rats deserting a
sinking ship.

Signup stays open the whole show, so when experienced comics
walk in at 10 PM and there’s twenty comics left to go, we usually stick them
somewhere into the lineup instead of at the bottom of the list. The danger here is pissing comics off, but people
seem to be pretty understanding. The
better the lineup, the more likely the audience is to stay longer. When we have a show that lasts more than
three, sometimes more than four hours- the record so far is 36 comics- no one
can expect a lot of people to stay to the end.
But, to date, we’ve always had at least one civilian, and usually more,
in the room, along with comics, by the end of the night.

So far, we’ve only pissed off one guy, at least openly. He’d been at Power three or four times
before, signed up one night at 7 PM, brought some people to watch him. We like it when comics bring support, so we
put him on early in the Marathon and his people sat right in front of the
stage. Great! Except it didn’t take long to see his people
were terrible, seemed completely uninterested in the show and just sucked all
the energy out of the room.

Meanwhile, more experienced comics were arriving, texting in advance,
looking for spots. We started plugging
them into the lineup to turn the night around, because no one was having
fun. This led to the aforementioned guy
throwing a shit fit- but not on us, on one of the freshly arrived comics-
because he was getting bumped later and later and that’s not fair, he was there
at 7 PM! Said shit fit was happening in the
room while the show was going on. We
took him aside, tried to explain, he mocked us for having the show on a
Thursday. ”You should have it on Friday
or Saturday! If you did, I have eighty people who would come, just to see me!” Well, if those eighty suck as bad as the four
he had that night, I’m glad they can’t make it.

He never did make it on that night. After pacing angrily around the room and
getting roasted by a comic we put on before him, he and his crew gave up and
left without a word. But that’s Power
Comedy Club- all are welcome! He’s
welcome back anytime, I look forward to giving him the last spot of the night.

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