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.