At one point during my tenure at Nintendo of America, I led a conference call with district managers based throughout the US. I was interrupted several times by colleagues in the Midwest who couldn’t understand me, despite the fact that we spoke the same language. This due to folks on the East Coast, like me, speak twice as fast.

As you might imagine, if I need to slow down so my fellow Americans can understand me, I have to crawl so Swedes can understand me. That’s been a process for sure. In regular conversation I’m mostly successful, but the East Coast speed tends to reassert itself when I’m nervous, or drinking, or just very comfortable with the people I’m speaking to.

Another problem I have is mumbling. Speed kills there as well, like my mouth can’t open fast enough for all the words to spill out. This is bad enough when I speak English but it’s catastrophic when I speak Swedish. I never feel like myself when I speak Swedish and how can I, when I have to find the right words AND think about how to say them AND actually pronounce them correctly AND speak at a human pace.

Naturally, this is an issue in standup. Combine nerves and booze and a limited set length and I can get into a bad state of mind. “I have to hurry to say everything I want to say!” instead of, “I should focus on the quality of my words instead of quantity.” Kind of unfair, when you think about it, that I need to slow down instead of other people focusing more to keep up with me. Selfish of them, really.

Standup isn’t as bad as speaking Swedish, since I perform in my native tongue. When it goes well I still feel like myself, but a better version of myself where I find the right words AND think about how to say them AND actually pronounce them correctly AND speak at a human pace. Rehearsing helps in that regard and while I don’t rehearse entire sets as often as I used to, it’s not unusual to find me wandering around my apartment or even walking down a street saying a new bit aloud.

Except that has disadvantages as well. I want to perform standup, not theater. I know comics that have one delivery, whether there are five or five hundred in the crowd. The crowd matters to me and I want to be in the moment. Also, a woman once told me that she preferred my wife as a comic than me, because while my wife seemed very natural on stage, I felt too rehearsed. To be fair, this was several years ago and also she wanted to sleep with my wife, so I took that with a huge grain of salt, but the criticism stuck with me. Because of course it did.