Several years ago, back when I was performing three to five times a week, I went to the US for a month during the summer. A week away from the stage and I started itching to perform again; by the end of the month I was nearly jumping out of my skin with all the new ideas I wanted to try out. When I’m visiting family, NYC isn’t so far away as to be completely out of the question, and Philly is a quick subway ride away, but I didn’t have any contacts in the US and it felt weird to bail on my family to chase a gig.

As the years passed, I gained a few contacts in both cities and I’ve performed in NYC once, Philly several times, but my urge to perform has diminished significantly. When I visit the US I don’t mind the break. Would be more accurate to say that my desire to gig doesn’t beat my desire to not bother with the rigmarole of finding a spot and getting to it.

I’ve written before how that itch became nearly extinguished over time, especially just prior to and during the pandemic, but I’m happy (?) to say it’s coming back. I put a question mark on that because my opportunities are severely limited. Many clubs that closed during the pandemic have yet to reopen, if ever, and although several clubs have sprung up since, the dynamic has changed in Stockholm. Before, most clubs didn’t charge the audience and getting spots was easy. Now, most clubs have a cover charge and the lineups are much more limited. Most of these clubs are run by comics who aren’t falling over themselves to offer me gigs, even when I ask, which is humbling. But that’s alright- a healthy ego never leads to good material.

Also, I do get more and longer gigs a month than many others, so I appreciate that and don’t take it for granted. By far, though, the biggest limit on opportunities comes from me. There’s an open-mic level club in Stockholm that’s open every night of the week and although I wouldn’t get a spot every time I ask- in fact, I asked for a spot tonight and was refused- I’m sure most of my requests would be granted. But I rarely ask, as the thought of taking the train an hour to get there for a seven-minute spot, just to turn around for the hour home, kills my motivation far more often than not.

Last night I found myself wondering what comics here would be like if Stockholm was more like NYC, where comics have to work harder to get spots but, with the right work ethic, it’s possible to perform several times a night. As it stands here, there aren’t many spots available but they take very little effort to get, and I can’t help but think that’s the reason there are so many comics who perform a few times a week, for years, without the slightest amount of growth. I try not to judge, but I’m only human, and despite my curiosity I’m not going to walk up to someone and ask if the odd chuckle here and there really satisfies them.

The most frustrating part of all this is that most of the time I’m hosting and most of my new ideas can’t be done while I’m hosting. Well, “can’t” is a strong word- I could do it if I wanted. But as I’ve stated many times here I’m not one of those hosts that do, let’s just say challenging material, and when the audience has paid a steep ticket price I don’t feel comfortable trying out new bits that are several minutes long. Hell, I get nervous trying a new joke, let alone a new chunk. When I do get a regular spot I take advantage of the chance to test new material, but those spots are so few and far between it’s difficult to really work out new ideas.

Besides the itch to perform, I have to admit the itch to start a new club is increasing as well, and I can’t help wondering why. Traditionally, comics start clubs to get guaranteed stage time for themselves, but I’d be happy to open a club, have someone else host it, and I’d maybe do a spot now and then. I wouldn’t open a club to hang with comics, as I can’t say I have much of a social circle at the moment and I’m not what you would call a mingler, especially when a show is in progress. I certainly wouldn’t open a club to make money.

I think I want to open one so, as in the past, I can offer more opportunities to others who otherwise don’t get many chances to grow. I’d love to see more return on my investment, though, and see them improve over time. I just need to figure out a way to motivate them. Maybe a trap door on stage triggered by thirty seconds of silence…. I’ll keep thinking about it and get back to you.