By JOSEPH TINTLE
Some of my friends wondered where I was during the last week of June and now I’m here to explain.
My wife, Kathy, and I wanted to do something very different this year, so a day after school closed we boarded a flight bound for Iceland with the intention of checking out the burgeoning comedy scene in Reykjavik.
We arrived 5 ½ hours later, booked a room, got some sleep, then went off to find a night club that advertised, “The funniest comedians just south of the Arctic Circle.” We figured it was a can’t-miss getaway for three days. After all, the city had elected a standup comic named John Gnarr as its mayor in 2010. So off we went for an evening of laughs at the Goldengang Comedy Club.
Icelandic comedians have good intentions, but they do not have well-thought out routines. There is always a kernel of humor in their jokes, of course, but they need to work on their setups to those jokes.
The “best” comedian of the evening, Bjorn Hanssen, walked out to rousing cheers and then quieted the audience by saying, “You wouldn’t tip a waiter before dinner, would you?”
The audience chuckled.
Then, out of nowhere, he admitted that he doesn’t like to read much and he attributed it to the fact that current book titles don’t intrigue him. If they did, he said, he might take up reading. He then suggested titles that he believed would capture his attention: Twenty Reasons Why You Must Never Give Yourself a Vasectomy, Let’s Give Satan a Second Chance, and Suicide: What’s All the Fuss About? The last one got big laughs because suicide is rampant in Iceland. Hanssen mentioned that 10.4 people out of 100,000 Icelanders commit suicide every year. To put it in perspective, he stated that South Korea has the highest rate (24.7) per 100,000. “But we’re catching up,” Hanssen added gleefully.
Okay, not bad, but then he meandered for a while muttering about how he got caught in traffic that afternoon, and how a piece of meat he had ordered for lunch had a price tag underneath it. Again, the audience was going nuts, but my wife and I looked at each other like we hadn’t received the memo that his material was funny.
Then, out of nowhere, he shouted, “CANCER, BRING IT ON.”
Bjorn then announced that he was going to tell a joke for any Americans who might be in the audience. “The nearest lake to Three-Mile Island has the best nuclear fishin’ ” (PAUSE) My favorite Rock ‘n’ Roll song is by Steppenwolf. You know, “Bjorn to be Wild.”
The audience moaned at that one.
But he kept going.
“Have you ever seen an Eskimo beauty contestant?”
“Do midgets have short life spans?”
“And who retrieves the discuss after the athlete tosses it?”
That, believe it or not, was his big finish. The place went crazy. Afterward, I asked the bartender if there were any big-name comedians in Iceland.
“You just saw him,” he said.
“My wife and I would like two more drinks,” I said. “And make them doubles.”