You may have checked the weather forecast for the weekend and felt your spirits, well, dampen (badoom-tish). There is simply no denying: winter is upon us. Instead of wallowing in your gloom, you should come have a laugh at the Reykjavik Comedy Festival this weekend (Scroll down for the full programme!). One of the funny guys will be UK comedian/actor/video game star Harriet Kemsley. Harriet brings to her routines a mix of quirky realism and a ditzy, awkward persona. Unlike many of her peers, she doesn’t resort to cheap laughs – penis references, crude sex jokes, sexist or racist stories- to get the crowd going. And luckily for all, she is hilarious. Since her debut in 2011, she’s been winning awards all over Europe. Indeed, this year she was nominated for the prestigious Leicester Mercury Comedian Of The Year award.
We were lucky enough to grab a few minutes of Harriet’s time and get the low down in the midst of her Scandinavian tour (we’ll forgive her for thinking Iceland is a part of Scandinavia). Oh, and fans of Dark Souls II, you’ll be glad to know Harriet voices the character of Queen Nashandra, aka THE FINAL BOSS. Insiders tell us this character has an insatiable lust for strength kind of like how comedians grow stronger with each laugh they get. Neat!
IN THE BEGINNING
Where are you at the moment?
We’ve just arrived in Oslo. We were in Trondheim yesterday, but currently in Oslo.
Was it just a few years ago you got started in stand up?
Yeah, it was three and a half years ago. I didn’t really know anything about stand-up. I hadn’t really come across it that much. I’d done a bit of comedy acting and writing. My parents suggested it… I’ve never met anyone else whose parents suggested it. They were watching Live At The Apollo and they called me and said, “We think you could do this,” and I said, “you’re crazy! That’s a terrible suggestion!” and they were like “No, go and do it!” So I did.
I had just left university so I didn’t really know what I was going to do. So I just started doing it. I was so nervous about it that I would lie to all my housemates about where I was going, and I’d just go out in the dead of night, making up these elaborate lies about what I was up to.
So you were so nervous you didn’t want any friends to see you perform?
Yeah. I was so embarrassed and nervous about it, and I just thought it was strange that I thought I was funny. Eventually it all came out but I kept it secret for a while.
Is stand-up a full time job for you or do you have a “day job”?
No, it is full-time now. I was working full-time in a ‘day job’ until this summer . So now I’ve gone full time stand-up yeah.
I understand that you went to acting school. Are you still pursuing that field?
Yeah. I did a film last year called Bonobo. It’s got some really good British actors. Josie Lawrence is a really good comic actress. Tessa Peake-Jones… so that’s just been at Raindance festival, and it’s going to be released at the beginning of December.
Does your passion lie in acting or stand-up?
I think stand-up is what makes sense [laughs]. It’s kind of what is the main thing and then if I get any acting stuff, that’s great. But, I just always want to keep doing stand-up as like the main thing.
Bow down bitches
I also read on your IMDB that you voiced a character (Queen Nashandra) in a video game. How did that come about?
[Laughs] Yeah. So weird. I just do such weird things. I get asked to do the most insane stuff. It is a video game called Dark Souls II. I’ve never played it or really know what happens. I get these random kind of comments from guys on my YouTube and stuff, and I’m like “What are they talking about?” And then, I’m like “Oh… it’s a Dark Souls thing.”
So, did you just get given a page of quotes from the character and you read them out loud? How does it work?
Yeah. It’s basically just that and I was playing Queen Nashandra or something like that I think. It was really fun. They were so nice. The directors and the whole team had come over from Japan I think and they… because the game is so vast they weren’t entirely sure what was happening at different points. So the director would be like, “is she meant to be dying or laughing here?” And they’d be like [imitates noise of huddled whispers] “ah, dying”.
Scandals in the Scandis
Apart from Oslo, have you performed in any other Scandinavian cities?
Well I was in Oslo last week. I opened for Stephen Merchant. He came over here, so I opened for him. Then we stayed in Oslo for a few days then we went to Trondheim. We did a gig on Sunday then we were just there the last three days and had a bit of fun. Then Reykjavík tomorrow, then Stockholm.
Have you had any experiences in Scandinavia that have given you some new material?
I did. This guy I worked with about two days ago said that biologically women aren’t as funny as men. It made me a bit angry. He was like “it’s biological, it’s science.”
We had a guy who ran a strip club come and watch a show. He invited all the boys to get into the club for free and then offered me a baby-sitting job. It was really weird.
So Norway is giving you a great impression!
Everyone else has been so lovely and friendly. Just those two weird guys. Everyone else has been the best and nice.
Have you been to Iceland before?
No, never. I’m quite excited!
Do you have any pre-conceived ideas about what it will be like?
I’ve heard it’s very beautiful and I’ve also heard you’re quite democratic. You have a good way of working things. That’s kind of my impression at the moment. I would like to go to the Blue Lagoon, but I don’t know if we’ll manage it or not. We’re only in Reykjavík for 24 hours!
We look forward to seeing you!
Cheers! I’m looking forward to it too!
Catch Harriet Kemsley at The Reykjavik Comedy Festival, TONIGHT, at 20:00 at the BBC presents Best of Fest show with: Rob Deering Sean McLoughlin and Joel Domme. Tickets are available from Midi.is, Harpa.is, the ticket office at Harpa or by calling 528 5050
Reykjavík Comedy Festival Programme
All shows at Harpa. Tickets are available from Midi.is, Harpa.is, the ticket office at Harp or by calling 528 5050
Friday, October 24
– BBC launches Best of Fest, including Rob Deering , Harriet Kemsley , Sean McLoughlin and Joel Domme. Saga Garðarsdóttir warms up.
– Kerry Godliman of ‘Derek’ fame performs, Dóri DNA warms up.
Saturday October 25
– New York’s Funniest : Andrew Schulz , Ricky Valez and James Adomian. Þorsteinn Guðmundsson warms up
– Jim Breuer of ‘Saturday Night Live’ fame and one of the world’s funniest people according to Comedy Central has a stand-up show. Ari Eldjárn warms up.
Sunday, October 26
– Stephen Merchant, one of the co-creators of ‘The Office’ does the last show of the festival.