Published January 28, 2017
Jonathan Duffy is an Australian-born-Iceland-residing comedian. If you frequent the stand up nights at Gaukurinn, you might have seen him talk about everything from STIs to how similar the Icelandic phrase ‘Heil Hilla’ (‘whole shelf’) sounds to, well, you know. His new show ‘Australiana’—a one man comedy cabaret extravaganza—beings tonight at Tjarnarbíó. To hear more about it, we sat down with Duffy for a few questions.
1. How did you, an Australian, end up in Iceland?
I talk about it in the show. Basically in short, there was a big relationship break up and I really wanted to get away to heal a bit. I had come to Iceland once before and thought I would just start here and see if things worked. If they didn’t I would move somewhere else. That was nearly 2 years ago and it’s been a crazy fun ride the whole time.
2. What’s been the weirdest difference between Iceland and Australia?
It’s much easier to make things happen here. In Australia you might have an idea for a show or project but it’s really hard to get things off the ground or get people involved. In Iceland if you want it to happen and are willing to work hard on it, it will. I never thought I would be embraced so much in a country so far from where I grew up.
3. How did you come up with the “Heil Hilla” joke? Where did you learn that word?
I had learned the words for items of furniture in my Icelandic class the day before doing a gig at Húrra. I was backstage and mentioned to the Icelandic comedians that I thought it was funny that the word for shelf (hilla) sounds like Hitler. They were all surprised because they had never thought of it before. Then I said ‘is there an icelandic word that sounds like heil?’ Hugleikur Dagsson said, ‘heil does, the word for whole.’ Then I said ‘ooh, I have a joke’ and it was born on the stage that night. I never realised it would take off the way it did. I’ve even overheard other people telling my joke in public.
4. Can you tell us about ‘Australiana’?
It’s a bit different to what people are used to seeing me do. It’s not just a comedy show, it’s a one man show. There’s comedy, stories and music. It’s basically like an open letter to everyone who has ever asked me a question about Australia or why I moved to Iceland. The whole thing is punctuated with songs by Australians that mark different points of my journey from being a gay kid in a really homophobic country who never thought I would ever be happy, right up to my first love, divorce, and the reason why I moved here. It has ups and downs, not just laughs. I’m really proud of it. It sold out during pride and I had so much fun doing it so I’m really excited to be doing it again.
5. What would you do if another gay Australian comedian moved to the city?
I would love there to be another gay comedian. I’m not gonna lie, it’s cool to say that I’m the only one in the whole country but I do worry sometimes that not having competition would make me complacent. Maybe a younger one would be awesome cause then I can transition into the bitter old queen I’m destined to become. I’ve always maintained that if you find yourself threatened by someone who is similar to you in skill, don’t get weird or territorial, just get better.
‘Australiana’ will have three performances: 28 January, 4 February, and 12 February, all at 20:00.