Well, it certainly has been an interesting year.

Looking back at 2022, I have mixed feelings. It was a return to form and not at all, a year of improvement and yet not at all. Rejoining the comedy community and standing on the sidelines.

Maybe I’m starting this year in review with a negative connotation but it’s not my intention. I mean it when I say it’s been an interesting year. To paraphrase Bill Hicks, I’m looking back at the year’s events like a dog being shown a card trick.

For context, let’s look back at 2020. I started the year in self-imposed exile and, just when I was ready to dare step foot in the clubs again, covid came around and shut almost everything down. My few appearances on stage were plagued by anxiety, mostly for personal reasons, but also by me wondering why I was bothering to tell dick jokes in the middle of a pandemic. On top of that, I was unemployed and surprisingly all too happy to be stuck at home doing absolutely nothing.

2021 was off to a slow start as the covid and personal pandemic continued, but things began to improve slowly. I got a full-time job that sadly didn’t last long, but it paid my bills and reset my unemployment benefits, so that was great. Just as important, though, was that it shook me out of my routine of doing nothing. As the restrictions eased I was back doing standup, albeit with a frequency that paled in comparison to its former self. What was most important to me, though, was that the knot in my stomach I’d get by the thought of appearing in a club had loosened.

Another event at the end of 2021 was the beginning of my part-time employment as a game show host at On Air. I’d host private parties in English, mostly for companies but the occasional birthday or bachelor/bachelorette party, giving the illusion of being on a TV game show. Critically, it would mean actually talking to people. Crowd work, my old nemesis. Never one of my strong suits, I’d also just spent nearly two years in my apartment talking to no one but my wife and little at that.

2022 began with some covid restrictions still in place – again, “restrictions” is a strong word in Sweden when compared to other countries – but all at once they went away and covid became a distant memory, despite the fact that people still get it. Hell, I got the damn thing twice so far myself. Standup clubs began to reopen and many new ones were created, although a massive change had occurred. Pre-pandemic, most of the entirely too many clubs (see an earlier blog post) were free to audiences with large lineups. Now, nearly all charge at the door with small, select lineups. Some comics find many opportunities while most – including Yours Truly – find many closed doors.

I’ve noted many times in previous entries that I’ve really had only one ambition when it comes to standup- to perform as often as possible in as many rooms as possible. In 2022, I performed in eight rooms. That’s seven more rooms than many other comics, especially the rookies who had the misfortune of starting in the middle of the pandemic. Naturally, though, I can’t help but compare myself to my peers who easily tripled or quadrupled that figure, not to mention my number of gigs.

Which is not to come across as, “Woe is me, no one will book me.” The simple fact is that I don’t have the same drive as before, I don’t enjoy being in the clubs as I once did, and that’s mostly on me. As an example- the one club that really is open to just about anyone is Big Ben. When I started it was open two nights a week and I went to every show, trying to get on, and the more I tried the more I succeeded. It helped that, not only was I just as unemployed as I am now, I lived much closer to Stockholm. I also had that rookie drive then, though.

Now Big Ben is open every day of the week. Ten years ago, I would’ve been there at least five if not every damned night and thrilled about it. Not to say that I could get on every night these days, but certainly I could be there a lot, and yet I believe I went four times. Four gigs there in all of 2022. I’m willing to bet there are comics who chalked up fifty appearances and wouldn’t be surprised at all if someone claimed a hundred. That’s entirely on me.

I believe that’s contributed to me becoming almost militant against other comics complaining (see earlier post re: whinging) that one, two, or even three clubs won’t book them while appearing in thirty other rooms. Complaining is a common trait amongst comics and all too natural for Swedes, but goddamn, people could use a dose of perspective. Not that I was ever a shining star in the community, but I became totally invisible a few years ago and I’m barely visible today.

Which, again, is on me. I’ve been very active as a host for a club that most comics don’t get booked for, that nearly as many ever even go to check out. I can’t complain that many of the comics who even know who I am anymore only know me as a host, even though I did. Hey, I’m not perfect.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Dunning-Kruger effect, where people of low ability overestimate their own worth while people of high ability tend to underestimate their own worth. My Ego says I’m towards the end of the scale while my insecurity says I’m still at the beginning but, to be fair, that insecurity kind of proves I’m at the end, right? I damn well should be, anyway. I’m coming up on twelve years as a comic, I’ve performed in every major Swedish city (all three!) and too many towns to count. Although I can worry I’ve become stagnant, a comic recently told me, “I’ve always thought you were underrated and should get booked more often!” and that’s been a soothing balm. I thanked him and said I’ll be appreciated when I’m dead.

I’ve also been thinking more and more about opening a new club, as I’ve written about. I think that would do more for my visibility than grinding at Big Ben. On the other hand, I’d run it alone and I know how I am as a club owner, too focused on the show to enjoy myself and appear cold as a result to the booked comics, the last people I want to think I’m unfriendly. That, of course, is just yet another reason for not doing it, but we’ll see what happens in 2023.

I’m happy with 2022 and see some definite wins, even if it wasn’t year of massive growth and success. I’m happy with my hosting gigs and while I wonder if I’ve improved as a host, I was already pretty good at it, thank you very much. I’m happy that, while my anxiety over just being out in a club hasn’t gone away entirely, it’s eased considerably. I’m happy with this blog, that I finally got into a rhythm and write on a regular basis. You faithful readers are few but proud and I appreciate you taking the time to look into my head now and then.

I should also mention my continued employment at On Air as game show host. While it hasn’t made me more open to doing crowd work as a comic, I have noticed definite improvement in my conversations with guests at On Air. A few months ago I began to host shows in Swedish and while it certainly feels more like work to me – and probably for the guests as well – it’s been a fun challenge.