Standup is a craft, a passion and a life choice. For a dedicated comedian, there is a deep seriousness in making a living from laughter. With the stages NyV58 in Vestergade and Comedy Zoo in Musikhuset, stand-up has really become an established element in the Aarhus cityscape. But how did this comedic flourish come about? And who are the comedians that make up the comedy community?
If you meander down Vestergade through the gate to no. 58 and cross over the old cobbled merchant's courtyard, you will find Aarhus' comedy headquarters. The historic building has housed some of the most iconic music legends of the 80s such as Thomas Helmig, Gnags and Anne Linnet. Today, new efforts have been put into giving the atmospheric premises a renaissance as a venue. This is where the Aarhusian standup has established its new stronghold.
Eight comedians sit in a basement room. Aarhus' stand-up offering usually contains a high degree of diversity made up of men, women, Caucasian and more colorful comedians. The evening's lineup now once again consists of a purely boys' team, while the age range varies, however, from a young Jesper Davidsen of high school age, to the more experienced Jes Busk, who has turned 50.
The waiting time is used individually, just as the comedians' jokes are created and recorded differently. Morten Korsgaard sits on a bar stool while he taps a notepad and memorizes the bits he will take on stage with. Tightly written, semi-illegible sentences fill the pages, while arrows indicate a strategic order for his joke progression.
Behind him, Jonas Kjærsgaard wails along with Victor Lander's bid for equality. Both of them have performed at the Zulu Comedy Gala as 'the new hopes', which can be considered a quality seal of recognition for their talent in stand-up. The two gentlemen have high ambitions for the future and are in the process of moving the tent poles to Copenhagen, in order to take the promising comedy careers to the next level. "You will be good in Aarhus, but you will be known in Copenhagen," explains Jonas Kjærsgaard.
Fewer scenes with more shows
In these minutes, however, Victor Lander is mostly occupied with riding around on the shoulders of Jonas Kjærsgaard, while he shouts "Say, you want cock!".
Jes Busk sits silently on the sofa next to him and watches the rodeo race. With his mere presence, he marks the generation gap, of which the entire session is a physical manifestation. The Comedy Gala performer Jacob Taarnhøj solemnly declares that this is obviously the level we have reached in Aarhus. "Over in Copenhagen, it was all jokes about Sartre all the time. We don't want that here."
Jacob Taarnhøj, reversed from the rodeo constellation, has chosen to move from Copenhagen to Aarhus for the sake of stand-up. With three stages to alternate between at the same address, NyV58 offers some unique settings for comedians to express themselves.
You have to be able to get back up when things go wrong, otherwise you can't become a comedian.Dan Okking, comedian
"With places like Lygten, Mellemrummet and Huset, Copenhagen has many more scenes. But I actually think we have more spots in Aarhus because we have the opportunity for the daily open mics here. Aarhus is also a bit more democratic with the stage time distribution. So I quickly got the idea that I had to move here if I wanted to become a good comedian.”
Hjalte Rytter, recipient of 2nd place during the DM in Standup 2013 and the evening's host, pokes his head into the room: "That's it now."Prince Joachim in the rehearsal room
Dan Okking gets a big laugh out of faking a conversation between Prince Joachim and the financial advisors in the Luxury Trap who ask who will pay his deficit of 42 million. "That's what I was thinking, you all should." Then he hesitates and explains to the audience that he is still working on an ending to the joke.
An open mic is a comedian's workshop and rehearsal space. Young ideas and thoughts scribbled in notebooks see the light of day and meet the audience's verdict. While you can make your friends laugh, standing in front of an audience and being funny on command is a completely different process and requires regular stage practice.
"It's also about learning to deal with defeat. For them, there will be plenty, regardless of how good you are," explains Dan Okking, as he sits in the basement bar after his performance. "A bad show is inevitable, even if you are a professional comedian. Good comedians of course have a higher hit rate with their jokes, because that comes with practice. You have to be able to get back up when things go wrong, otherwise you can't become a comedian.”
The microphone, the stand and the stool
A microphone stand and a café table equipped with a cold Ceres and a crumpled set list make up NyV58's makeshift scenography. The profession actually takes professional pride in working with the scraped props. For standup is the ability to create laughter with the use of the body and voice. Without remedies, without being in character, without classic jokes and without the fourth wall. Only the comedian as himself, in cash settlement in front of his audience. Standup is humor in the present, in a raw and uncomic form.
It is the premise that makes standup stand out from, for example, the revue tradition, where monologues are to a greater extent character-driven. Therefore, traditionally, a historical dividing line is drawn and the stand-up's Danish entry is dated to the early 1990s, certainly at Café Dins in Copenhagen. Casper Christensen and Jan Gintberg were among the first stand-ups, and a few years later the first DM in Stand-up was held with Lars Hjortshøj as the winner. The comedy was largely centered in the capital, and Aarhus was waiting for it. But before long a movement arose.
There is something about the city of smiles
Victor Lander knows Dan Okking's shutter joke and discreetly nudges Hjalte Rytter, who is absent-mindedly sitting on the neighboring chair and playing on his smartphone. The host breaks away and introduces Victor Lander, who with the irrepressible charming smile of a Risskov boy raises the hall's energy level an extra notch. It is a man in his 20s who is speaking. It's standup about moving away from home, having divorced parents and about fictionally drowning your father in The Sims. The delivery is eminent, even if he is only moderately successful with his bite of equality. “We can't really get equality yet, girls. Because you are responsible for the last 2,000 years of drinks in the city, if we just count from the time of Jesus Christ.”
In the twenty years I've been a comedian, standup has moved from being a hobby to something that can constitute a professional career path.Anders Fjelsted, comedian
After a successful number of years with Thorup's basement on Store Torv as the standup's hangout, NyV58 has gradually transferred the good vibes of its audience. But the comedy wave should probably not be attributed to a single venue, but rather to a general joy for comedians in Aarhus. Every month, the country's biggest stand-up shows draw full houses to Musikhuset, and comedians such as Jan Gintberg, Christian Fuhlendorff and Simon Talbot have chosen the characteristic Great Hall for their TV recordings.
Aarhus has bottled great talents such as Ruben Søltoft, Jonas Mogensen and Mark le Fevre. And a comedian like Henriette Thuesen manages to shake any delusion that comedic talent is linked to a gender issue to the ground. Aarhus has even got its own Comedy Zoo, which used to be exclusively centered in Knabrostræde as a Copenhagen phenomenon.
Comedy Zoo Aarhus
It is the comedy agency FBI (Funny Business Inc.) that, with Comedy Zoo Aarhus, is now taking up residence in Musikhuset with a club scene that presents a snapshot of the country's current and professional comedy. The black blackbox that houses the Filurscenen on a daily basis has been given a comedy makeover, and the room exudes a club atmosphere with small round tables and red lanterns. On stage, Anders Fjelsted, Jacob Taarnhøj and Mikkel Klint Thorius visit the hall with their well-prepared material.
"A club set consists of the best 20-30 minutes you can perform at the moment," says Jacob Taarnhøj. Therefore, there is also a much higher frequency of laughter during his show at Comedy Zoo than at NyV58. It escalates when a bit about his time as a volunteer Danish teacher for Syrian refugees sends the audience into a frenzy with a punchline that the g in Støjberg is mute and stands for "Go to Sweden."Craft or celebrity catalyst
Anders Fjelsted has several one man shows in his back catalogue, Comedy Aid appearances and a past as a TV host. But recently also had a half-assed job in a BMW showroom, where the audience sat inside the cars and watched him.
"I had a job at a high school in Svendborg, where I also just had to pull the plug on the Avicii music and have the beer pong table stopped before I could get started," adds Mikkel Klint Thorius.
"There is simply no reason why people should not give themselves the best setting for the comedian, now that they have hired and paid us to entertain them," agrees Jacob Taarnhøj.
A comedian has to deal with too much. Offended people, miserable jobs and a cloud of prejudices about the profession. That comedians are sexist, that everything is about obscenities, or that it's just about getting famous and scoring ladies.
In my eyes, standup is the purest form of comedy.Mikkel Klint Thorius, comedian
"In the twenty years I've been a comedian, stand-up has moved from being a hobby to something that can constitute a professional career path," reports Anders Fjelsted and continues: "Before you throw yourself into it, you have to ask yourself , why you want to be a comedian. If it is for the love of the craft, then you are on to something. But if you see comedy as a quick shortcut into the world of media or theatre, then you have to stay away from the profession I love and put all my heart's blood into."
As long as the profession is not exploited with a loophole in mind, the comedian can easily be an expression of a wider talent. Mikkel Klint Thorius sees stand-up comedy as a basic craft:
"In my eyes, standup is the purest form of comedy. If you master it, you can use it for so many other things. And it annoys me when even great comedians from our own profession state that young comedians are just lazy and want to be famous. They have no idea of the work we put into our livelihood. There are so few spots to perform on, and so many for the bid. If you don't constantly renew yourself and practice, then you're out.”For laughs
The evening is well over. The audience roared with laughter and generously sprinkled applause along the way.
"You can feel Thomas Warberg's mark on Aarhus. An Aarhus comedian can do something else. There is a greater focus on their jokes.” muses Mikkel Klint Thorius in the sofa arrangement in the back room.
"But when there is only one open mic in the city, it can quickly become a regular audience for which you perform. This means that you have to write new jokes all the time.” objects Anders Fjelsted. "It's not necessarily only a good thing, because there is an enormous amount of training in also perfecting your jokes, and practicing the delivery and timing of the material you have."
The comedians evaluate their performances during a four-night beer. Could a callback be made there? Will the audience laugh at an Olympic bite if ISIS as a designated state participates in the discipline '100 meter jihad'? How do you make a joke about weed burners more effective?
It is the constant underlying stream of thought that flows in a comedian's consciousness. It is a life of applause and adrenaline rushes, but also a life of endless hours on the Danish motorways, family deprivation and uncertainty about the future. If you compare the pluses and minuses, there is no doubt with the three boys who have risen to round off the evening at Herr Bartels. Anders Fjelsted hesitates for a moment:
"After all, there is nothing in the world that is better than laughing and making other people laugh too. It is the euphoria that makes it all worth it.”
Thomas Warberg on the Aarhusian standup environment
In 2008, Thomas Warberg arrived in Aarhus, bringing with him visions of establishing a stable comedy environment. Over the years he created agreements with cafes and venues to get an open mic going on a weekly basis. Among others, Café Jorden, Smagløs and Café Gemmestedet have been stages for the stand-up, before for a year it became the legendary Thorup's basement, which gathered the comedian.
What was the Aarhusian standup scene like before you took the initiative to create a more established environment?
“There wasn't really anything. There had been quite a few before, but that "generation" had drifted off a little bit. I think there was an open mic every month, which was mostly occupied by people from Copenhagen.”
What made you take the initiative?
Well, it was something as weak as a girl. My ex-boyfriend entered journalism school, and we therefore had to move. I saw it somewhat as a necessity for my own development to create some scenes where I could perform.
Is there a difference between the comedy environment in Aarhus and Copenhagen today?
The difference has clearly narrowed. In "my time" it was more of a concept. Now I actually think it has been established so well that the differences are more blurred.