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Don't Shit Where You Eat! ™

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.

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.

Hosting- A Thin Line Between Love and Hate

Comedy Posted on Tue, October 23, 2018 08:24:35

I have a complicated relationship with hosting shows. On the one hand, I really enjoy doing
it. I’m good at it. In fact, I’m the best host in Stockholm,
according to myself and no one else, despite the sheer amount of times I tell
people I’m the best host in town. Some
people just won’t learn.

On the other hand, the best you can do as host is your job. ”It’s not your job to be funny,” I’ve said,
ad naseum, of hosting. A host needs to
be funny, obviously, but no one is ever there to see the host. The host isn’t the star of the show. Which isn’t to say that the host is
invisible; I’ve received plenty of compliments from comics and people from the
crowd after hosting a show. But the best
host will always be overshadowed by the best comic on the lineup.

A few friends of mine spoke recently on a comedy pod about
hosting vs. doing a set. ”It sucks to
bomb but it sucks almost as bad to have just an ok gig, and the best you’ll
ever have as host is an ok gig.” Very,
very true.

Again, not to say I’ve walked away from every hosting gig
feeling, meh. If the show goes well, I
feel good about it, especially when I feel like my hosting had a lot to do with
how well it went. But my strength as
host is also my weakness- I found a way to do it that works well and I stick to
the script each time, with very little variation. The best thing that can happen is that it
works, flawlessly, but that’s what is supposed to happen.

It’s like, when I’m thirsty I’ll drink a glass of water,
then I’m not thirsty anymore. The water
did its job. I’ve said, ”Damn, that was
good water!” now and then but it’s pretty rare.
To paraphrase Derek Smalls *, I’m the water that holds a show together.

This has been on my mind since last weekend. I hosted a show on Friday, it was a lot of
fun, hosted again on Saturday, it was amazing.
Got a lot of laughs and claps on the back and free drinks, job well

But one of the comics on the lineup got two corporate gigs
from people in the crowd. Good thing I
don’t get jealous of others! Wondering
what that sound is? Just my teeth

* If you don’t know who Derek Smalls is, you need to get on
that shit.

“When ambition ends, happiness begins.” *

Comedy Posted on Tue, October 16, 2018 07:40:54

* Thomas Merton

A few nights ago, I went to see Jon Stewart and Dave
Chappelle perform in Stockholm, at Globen.
Amazing show, sold out or damn near.
Even their opening act was fantastic, despite half the crowd not bothering
to be there, preferring to stay in the bar.
Hell, not everyone was there for Jon Stewart, either.

Being there, having a great time, it struck me how much I
would’ve loved to be even just the opening act that no one cares about and few
remember afterwards. Naturally, feeling
the love bestowed on Stewart and especially on Chappelle, I thought about how
amazing it must feel to be on that stage, to reach that level, to earn that
much adoration. What if that’s me

It won’t be and that’s ok. I have zero ambition.


A friend asked me yesterday what I want to be when I grow
up. We were talking about my job and her
University studies. I said, ”I want a
high paying job with no responsibilities,” which I don’t think is too much to
ask. I’m easy to please! All I really want to do is whatever I want to
do, whenever I want to do it. Sleep
late, play video games, tell jokes, stay out late, lather, rinse, repeat. As of this post I’m 43 ½ and this is the
extent of my ambition.

It’s just very difficult, at this point in my life, to
believe I’ll ever have a job that I really care about. Don’t get me wrong, I take work seriously and
put in my best effort, but I’m not invested on a personal level. If I do well I keep my job, keep making
money, hopefully get a raise, but paying bills is what it’s all about. I’m a husband and a father, I can’t lead a
life with zero responsibilities, as appealing as that may sound.

Other than my family, of course, what I care about is
comedy. As I’ve said on stage, ”I think
about comedy more than I think about sex… and I think about sex A LOT,” which
is accurate. Having a job affords me the
chance to put as much into standup as I can, since that’s where my passion
lies. I make a bit of cash telling
jokes, which is nice, and I would love to make more, though it’s hard to
imagine it being my full-time job. The
only thing keeping me from calling it a hobby is how all-encompassing it is.

As passionate as I am about comedy, about standup in
particular, I have no ambition there, either. Keep performing, keep running clubs. Maybe someday do an hour-long show on my own,
which at this point I absolutely could do if I put my mind to it. But I haven’t yet because, well, see above.


I’ve been performing for nearly seven years now, which isn’t
long at all anywhere else, but in Stockholm makes me an old man on stage more
than being 43 ½. Over the years I’ve
seen many of my peers surpass me, moving upwards in and sometimes onwards from
standup- touring, high-profile clubs, radio, TV, etc. Some were already veterans- at least by
Swedish standards- when I started, some started around the same time as me,
still more started after I did, sometimes long after.

It goes without saying that, in each and every case, I am
funnier and more talented than them.
Kidding. I’m competitive and I
could grumble that luck and/or better social skills had more to do with their
success than talent for a few of them, but I can’t claim to match their
drive. If you’ve got goals in mind, you’re
more likely to do what it takes to reach them.
Ask me where I see myself in five years and I say, ”Here.”


I’ve known comics who, after three to five years in standup,
felt they’d reached a plateau, a level they just wouldn’t get past. Felt they’d never get into radio or TV or
movies no matter how much more effort they put into standup, so quit. Why bother?

I’ve come to realize that I am firmly on that plateau and I’ve
likely been here longer than I know, and that’s ok. I never understood before how anyone could
quit, especially talented people, but I get it now. It has to be frustrating to know you’ll never
get what you want while watching your peers move on to bigger and better
things. It’s fertile ground for jealousy
and bitterness, not a fun place to be. I
know a few comics who did become jealous and bitter and stuck with it anyway; I
honestly understand the ones who quit better than the angry, spiteful ones still doing

Myself, I’ll keep doing it out of love. I may have reached the highest level I’ll
ever reach and I don’t put that all on my lack of ambition. This may be all my talent is worth. Maybe it’s because entertaining the audience
isn’t as important to me as entertaining myself, or because I’m not very
social, or I’m unlucky, or all those reasons or none of them. Doesn’t matter to me.

It may be a plateau but the view is amazing.

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