“So I was working at Kiki,” Australian comedian Jono Duffy chirps, sipping a white wine. He takes a bite of toast before abruptly waving his hand around, indicating the story must be restarted. “Ok, so when I lived in Australia I was very much the twink. I had platinum blonde hair and my whole life was living on one sandwich because no one will love you if you’re not skinny, you know?” He laughs and takes another sip. “But then I discovered this thing called socialising, which involves beer and I gained a little weight and grew a beard.”
Jono motions down to his body, proudly showing the efforts of his increased socialising. “So, then I was working at Kiki,” he continues, back to the original story. “Early one evening this guy comes up to me and asks if he can buy me a drink, and I say no and he says oh that’s a real shame because I only came here because my friend texted me that they finally have a cute bear working at the bar.” Jono pauses and gets into character. He mimes casually looking around the bar. “I was like, where? Then I realised, oh, it’s me. I guess I am a bear now.”
He breaks down into laugher. It’s effervescent, but so are all interactions with Jono. No matter the topic, he exudes vivacity, naturally turning every conversation into a heart-to-heart, or better yet, a tête-á-tête. Onstage, he’s just as enchanting, with an empathetic comic flair that makes you want to hide him in your pocket just so you can hear him narrate your life. It’s a true gift.
This year, Jono will be bringing his comic chops to the Reykjavík Fringe Festival, where he’ll be premiering his new solo stand-up show ‘I Wouldn’t Date Me Either.’
Kimmy Schmidt, the bear
The show revolves around Jono’s life since breaking off his long-term relationship in 2015, just before moving to Iceland. “At the time, the last time I had been single the iPhone didn’t exist,” he says. “I felt like Kimmy Schmidt, emerging like a mole woman from a cellar. I didn’t even know what Grindr or Tinder were.”
He laughs and takes another bite of toast. “I had to learn about dating and romance and getting fucked up and getting fucked, all those things people normally do in their early 20s, but I was 30.” Shrugging in a faux-dramatic fashion, he leans in and speaks directly into the microphone. “I will say though, if I have dated you in the last three years, I will probably be talking about you.” He gives a coy smile, but he’s definitely not joking.
While the show certainly has its fair share of steamy sex stories, Jono emphasises that it will tackle so much more than just romance. In ‘I Wouldn’t Date Me Either,’ issues like self-esteem, ageing—hence the bear story—and the gay community at large will be brought to the forefront and intimately examined by the seasoned comic. No one is safe.
“When I started dating again in Australia, oh I feel so sorry for those guys,” Jono says, visibly cringing. “Every date was pretty much me downloading how terrible my life had been and then three days later getting very confused about why they didn’t message me back.” He laughs, and then pauses, as if not knowing how to approach what he wants to say next.
“I stopped dating in Australia when I went home with a guy who removed the condom without telling me and then afterwards told me he was in a polyamorous relationship and didn’t know if he was positive or not,” Jono says carefully. He’s referring to the man’s HIV status. Jono immediately went on PEP to prevent the infection. What followed was a painful month. “Oh, there are so many side effects you can get on PEP and I got all of them,” he says, laughing exuberantly. “I couldn’t trust a fart!”
It’s in these moments that Jono’s comedic brilliance shines though. He can take the darkest topics—things most won’t even broach—and find the kernels of humour in them. In doing so, he acknowledges stigmas while at the same time breaking them. Exposure to HIV is not uncommon among gay men, and the reactions to PEP are well-known. Jono recognises the seriousness of the topic, while at the same time pointing out the ridiculous parts of it. To boil it down: Shitting yourself is funny.
Pedants not wanted
After leaving Australia, Jono went on a dating crusade around Europe before settling in Iceland. Different nationalities, he gushes, date very differently. “Swedish people are very concerned with how equal everything is,” he notes. “I went on a date with a Swedish guy. We had pizza and wine and when the bill came, he got out his phone and calculated how much each slice of pizza and glass of wine would cost and then presented me with a figure and asked if he could just pay that because that is all he consumed.” He mimes looking at a bill skeptically. “It should have been a red flag, but I didn’t leave.”
In Iceland, his second puberty came in full force as he navigated his way through the tight-knit Icelandic gay community. “People ask me what’s like being gay in Iceland and I say it’s the Hunger Games,” he declares, before pausing to take off his jacket. Underneath, his shirt has a plump hairy man coyly posing on it. Bear pride.
“Yes, here in Iceland there’s 10 of us and we all represent different districts. There’s 101, 105, you know,” he states this truth starkly before narrowing his eyes. “We meet up once a month at Kiki and fight.”
But the crux of Jono’s story is that of personal growth. “With every crazy standout date, they’re all on me,” he says. “I think for every story I tell about some weird person I’ve dated, there’s ten about me being that weird person.” He shrugs, a little embarrassed but clearly at peace with his crazy bitch past. “Eventually though,” he continues, “I came to the realisation that I needed to work on loving myself, you know, in the words of RuPaul.”
He puts his hand up and takes on that faux-dramatic affect again. “But really, the show is just the song Taylor Swift should write,” he says. “‘Maybe I’m The Problem.’”
Info: The show will be held at The Secret Cellar on July 4 at 22:40 and July 8 at 21:00, and at Tjarnarbíó on July 5 at 22:00 and July 7 at 22:00. Tickets are 2,500 ISK and can be bought here.