Oh, you thought just because there’s not much international travel right now that Reykjavík Fringe Festival would be cancelled? WRONG! It’s back and wackier than ever, with a week-long showcase featuring the best of local performers along with a selection of special live-streamed acts from abroad. Expect comedy, silent discos, art exhibitions, comedy, burlesque, drag and… oh yeah, more comedy.
At the Grapevine, we are unapologetic Fringe-addicts, so we’re happy to now present a series of interviews with some of our favourite performers of this year. First on the roster? Arnór Daði Gunnarsson, a comedian who will be performing in two shows this year: his solo “Big, Small Town Kid,” and a dual show with Huw Coverdale Jones entitled “Big Red, Little Blue.”
First off, let’s talk about you! What was your journey into comedy like? What was it about doing stand up that grabbed you? Who were your formative comedians?
I’ve always loved comedy and everything about it. As a kid there was nothing better than that magic feeling of making your classmates laugh, and if you got the teacher too, you could get away with just about anything. And while my friends were getting into music like Eminem and Rammstein, I was rocking Laddi’s classic album “Of feit fyrir mig.”
I’d seen some stand up comedy on TV but nothing really stuck until I saw Louis C.K. when I was 17 years old. It blew my mind. He made it seem so easy and effortless. From that day on, I was obsessed, watching anything and everything stand up comedy from Maria Bamford to Doug Stanhope. Probably my biggest influence, and in my opinion the funniest comic around, is Brian Regan. Look him up!
In my late teens to early 20s, I thought about doing stand up every single day—scared that I would never have the chops to do it. Even worse: “What if I did, and bombed?”
The small-town mentality messed with my head too. I didn’t want to tell people what I really wanted to do with my life in fear that I wouldn’t fit in anymore (which I now know is ridiculous). So I came up with a plan: Apply for The Icelandic Film School, get in, and that way I would have an excuse to move to Reykjavík and start doing open-mics without anybody knowing.
On June 16th, 2017 I stepped on stage for the first time at Bar11. It was overwhelming in every way possible. The audience was a stag party from Dalvík. Goddamn Dalvík! I bombed so hard. But I didn’t mind. I did it! I feel like I’ve come a long way since then and it’s really been the time of my life. I’m up to the neck in student loans, but you know, comedy!
Let’s talk about the development of “Big, Small Town Kid.” Where did the spark of the idea come from? What can the audience expect?
The “bits” or the “jokes” that get the most response from people are the ones about my childhood—growing up in a town of 150 people—and just my point of view as a small town kid, I guess. So I thought “Big, Small Town Kid” would be a fitting name for the show. Not all my material is about the small town life, but there’s a lot of it. The show will also be featuring my friend Mauricio Villavizar. If people aren’t aware of him already, they will be soon enough. His calm, cool and collected stage presence is enough to draw any audience member into what he’s saying and make any comedian that’s going up after him shake in their boots.
Your other show is a Huw Coverdale Jones/Arnór Daði Gunnarsson collaboration. There’s not a ton of info on the Facebook page/tix.is page, so I’m very curious. Can you give us your elevator pitch for the show?
When I moved to Reykjavík and before I ever signed up for an open-mic, I went to see the [local comedy] shows a bunch of times. One guy was doing the kind of jokes I wanted to do—a kind of low energy one-liner comic. That man was Huw Coverdale Jones a.k.a. Little Blue. His “I’m better then you” persona matched his “I’m smarter than you” jokes. When I started doing comedy, I found out right away I could never write these kind jokes, so I’m just stuck with the storytelling stuff.
Huw signed up to do a show at the Fringe in December and planned on writing an hour before July. That whole COVID-19 thing screwed him so he asked me if I wanted to split his show with him. I was honoured and of course said yes!
With me being a heavy set ginger and Huw’s depressed demeanour, we thought the perfect name for the show would be “Big Red, Little Blue”. Our comedy stylings are very different, making the show even more fun and diverse.
What are some other shows you’d recommend catching this year at Fringe? Any expert picks?
I’m looking forward to this years RVK Fringe. Not only because I’m taking part in it, but there are so many shows I just have to see. First one that comes to mind is Kimi Tayler. To be fair, the Fringe is where an artsy, multi-talented comic like Kimi thrives. Her and Laufey Haralds have a show “Hold On To Your Thumps” and “Crappapella” with Jono Duffy.
People are also streaming shows from all over the world! My friend Andrew Sim is doing one of those “Linda’s Freak Show” and he’s the perfect person to do it too. There’s also a bunch of comedians from The Secret Cellar doing shows—York, Helgi Steinar, Eggert and Bjarni Gautur only to name a few. RVK Fringe is loaded with talent this year and it’s going to be off the hook!
“Big, Small Town Kid” by Arnór Daði Gunnarsson will play at The Secret Cellar on July 6th at 21:00 and July 10th at 20:00. Tickets are 1,500 ISK and can be bought here. “Big Red, Little Blue” by Arnór Daði Gunnarsson and Huw Coverdale Jones will play at The Secret Cellar on July 7th at 22:00, July 9th at 20:00, and July 12th at 19:00. Tickets are pay what you want but can be bought in advance for 500 ISK here.
Read more Reykjavík Fringe coverage here.
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