I recently took a trip to Stockholm, Sweden to perform with my comedian family there (www.bokastandup.se). My dear friend Zinat Pirzadeh had been trying for years to convince me that Stockholm was the perfect place to make my European debut. Reflecting on an amazing trip, I have to say Zinat was right!
Prior to my trip, I knew very little about Sweden apart from Ikea, H&M, and The Chef. I expected beautiful blonde people who had no idea who I was and wouldn’t understand American humor. I was right about the beautiful part. I expected funky glasses, European attitude, and a general distaste for anyone hailing from the U.S.A. I was right about the glasses. But still I was really worried about them not getting my jokes.
Sweden is a country rich in culture and education. These people all speak multiple languages and they know all about America. A quick view of Swedish television reveals David Letterman, Jerry Seinfeld, and Sarah Palin. They know what’s so funny about us!
The shows were incredible! Large venues packed with people who wanted to hear my jokes. They are smart and polite; applause breaks are common and heckling is rare. People even bought my CD, even though they haven’t had a CD player for ten years! I felt so much love from the audience and I just wanted to give it back to them. There is an energy when you perform in a place where comedy is still relatively new, and I found myself feeding off that energy and giving it back to the crowd. What a rush! We did shows all over, in places from Stockholm to Uppsala, and even Tierp. I had a blast.
Performing in Sweden is exactly like performing in America, except the audience is way hotter than you are.
My trip was made even better with help from everyone at bokastandup.se, especially Janne, Sara, and particularly Zerina (my navigator/friend/mama). Without the kindness and generosity of these three, I would be homeless in Karlaplan (which wouldn’t be the worst fate either, by the way).
If you want to visit a clean, healthy, beautiful, high-tech city where people think as well as they drink, I recommend Stockholm. I can’t wait to go back in the spring!
I admit it. I am extremely caught up in the Christmas Spirit right now. Look, don’t be offended if you are not a Christian. This post will have very little to do with Jesus anyway. Keep reading!
When I was a boy, they taught us in Catholic school that the true spirit of Christmas is giving. Of course like all the other kids I was like “blah blah blah giving schmiving, where’s my presents!?!?”
Now that I am all grown up, I’m still like that. My first response to almost any request is “what’s in it for me?” and if the answer is “nothing” you can usually count me out. This is the reality of the life of a performing artist: it is the most selfish way to serve others. Today’s actor/model/comedian/dancer/ventriloquist/sword swallower/whatever must immerse himself so deeply into the task of competing for one inch of room at the top there is frankly little time for other people. It’s harsh but it’s true.
But I don’t know what’s come over me lately. I hardly recognize myself anymore! I’m doing all kinds of nice stuff for people and I am starting to wonder whether a gaggle of diabolically charitable aliens brainwashed me in my sleep and turned me into someone who gives a damn. In fact people are sarcastically giving each other quarters today and instructing each other to call me!
Now, I don’t like when anyone makes fun of retarded people. So many comedians go for the hacky, easy impression of a person without all his faculties and whenever I see that I don’t laugh, not even that awkward forced laugh we comics sometimes do for each other out of obligation. I was always taught not to make fun of something a person can not control, such as his height, skin color, or really bad taste in music. My neighbor’s obsession with The Black Eyed Peas is not his fault so it’s not fair game!
I dont know anyone who is autistic. I am not sure I have ever even seen Rain Man. But when the charitable organization Autism Speaks asked me to headline a benefit performance, I somehow overheard myself agreeing to do it for free without knowing what was in it for me. Damn those aliens!
It turns out that organizing and perfoming in that show last weekend was one of the most selfish things I have ever done. My heart has never felt fuller than when I met the audience afterwards. The look on one man’s face when he told me how much he loves his autistic son is one I will never forget. The fulfillment from doing something good for other people around Christmastime is so strong that for about half a second I forgot that my stand-up has never been televised.
It was the greatest half-second of 2009.
Merry Christmas, everyone.