Cast your mind back a few months and you may remember a YouTube video that went viral around the international community in Norway. Shit Expats in Norway Say is a tongue-in-cheek look at life in Norway as a foreigner.
Canadian stand-up comic Daniel-Ryan Spaulding was the brains behind the video. I caught up with him after his recent Norwegian tour to ask about the video, his love of Norway, and combining a life of travel and stand-up comedy.
But first of all, refresh your memory by watching the video!
What's more important to you, travel or comedy?
Travel & Comedy are so combined in my life, its hard to think of them separately. I suppose comedy is more important, because I wouldn't be able to travel as much as I do if I didn't have any work! I learn a lot by doing comedy in foreign countries. To do it well, you have to be a constant observer with good intentions. Its easy to get caught up in the “obvious” jokes or stereotypes about different countries, so I try to dig deeper in my act by comparing and contrasting social behavior, drawing out new ideas, and (hopefully!) great comedy.
Where does your affection for Norway come from?
I came to Norway for the first time to perform at Latter, after my first 4-month tour of Europe in 2011. I returned in 2012 for more gigs, and I began to learn more and more about the country. Norwegians like to think they are bland, boring people (in some ways they are!) but they are also very quirky. I love all the silly traditions and social trends. I love their lame celebrities, national scandals, and privileged first-world problems. Once I tapped into the zeitgeist of the country, I realized how much comedy there was to draw upon, and that Norwegians love hearing comedy about themselves.
What's your favourite part of Norway?
Ålesund is gorgeous in terms of natural beauty. I always have a lot of fun on Tromso – Northerners are a blast! But I'm a city-boy, so definitely Oslo — and Grünerløkka is definitely my favourite neighborhood.
What inspired the viral video ‘Shit Expats in Norway Say'?
The video was inspired by boredom in Alta – I neeeded something to do when I was there! I spent a lot of time developing my “Norgesvenn” brand of comedy. The whole idea of me, in the Marius Sweater, trying really hard to fit into Norwegian society, but missing the mark completely. There is a lot of social etiquette in Norway that you don't realize exists until you move here. I've explored that a lot in my comedy – in a way that is fresh and ironic. So I think the video was a natural progression of my stand-up. I'll be doing more “Norgesvenn” videos this autumn.
Can you poke fun at any nationality, or are some easier than others?
Definitely some cultures are easier than others. I try to be aware of my privledge as a white person from a first-world country. It can always be a challenge if you are making fun out of a country that is poorer than yours. People are sensitive to prejudice, even if it is unintentional. A lot of people will see you as an asshole, without taking a look at the intention of the joke. I especially try to stay far away from topics related to race – its too touchy a subject.
How is your flamboyant style of comedy received in different cultures?
In all honestly, people constantly surprise me. I've done work in Bosnia this year, and it was fantastic! Big, tough Bosnian men (who have never spoken to an openly gay person in their lives) came up to me after the show, wrapped their arm around me, and told me how funny I was, and thanked me for coming. And at the same time, I have done shows in Norway and Denmark, and been shocked when an audience member after the show, might say something like “Do you really have to act so gay?” Or a Norwegian comedian performing after me will mock me in their act with blatantly homophobic cheap-shots. Many Scandinavians accept gay people, as long as they act straight, and never talk about their sexuality. But for the most part, when you come across as a very strong and confident person, you won't encounter any problems. Also, I am a forgiener, and I am not held to the same social expectations.
You have a varied backgound in writing, film & comedy – where does your future lie?
I began my professional career as an actor, but I didn't enjoy the buisness side of the industry. I couldn't stand being at the mercy of agents, casting directors, and producers . I'm an independent person, and I was determined to create my own career. Stand-up is the perfect fit for me. I'm going to keep being a badass, world-touring comic for as long as I can!
SEE DANIEL-RYAN SPAULDING LIVE IN NORWAY!
By popular demand, Daniel brings his Norgesvenn show back to Norway later this month. From Brown Cheese to the Law of Jante, the perils of falling in love with a Swede to Gay Rights in Russia – NORGESVENN covers it all! You can expect a sensational, eventful show, with lots of new material, and some favourites!