One of the most surreal moments in the history of pop culture: fantastically brain-dead rocker Tommy Lee stands on a chair, raises his hand, and attempts… WORD PLAY. And he pretty much succeeds.
He had prepared us, the audience, the Icelander on the stage in front of him, with a warning: “Are you ready for this?” as though the cosmos was about to be ripped apart.
Truthfully, it may have been torn apart. Something metaphysical popped the second Tommy Lee completed his joke, lowered his hand, and nodded, acknowledging that he had made the joke without screwing it up.
“Magni… (pause for thought)… Ficent.” A combination of the Icelandic name Magni, with the suffex “Ficent”.
The single most intelligent gesture ever made by a man who co-authored a book explaining how to stick your unit in a breakfast burrito in the minutes after you have been serviced by prostitutes before you go home to your model wife. It did not go unnoticed in Iceland.
For a week straight, we heard the audio clip on every radio station. We saw the video on TV three times a night. It never lost its brilliance. The sheer joy in Tommy Lee’s soulless eyes.
When Magni first showed up on international reality television, he had the whole of Iceland expecting brilliance, and he failed to live up to whatever expectations they had.
Since then, Magni has done the impossible: he has been charming, intelligent, and he has demonstrated genuine talent on a reality television show. True, he is still doing “karaoke from hell,” but if the rules of the game are simply to find an okay tune and cover it, he hasn’t done badly. Other than flubbing Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones, he has had the good taste to choose My Generation by the Who, Plush by Stone Temple Pilots – bless him for remembering that tune, let alone breathing life into it, and Heroes by Bowie.
The problem is this: Magni is doing a little too well on Rockstar: Supernova. Iceland was horribly depressed to see one of their own perform badly for the world. But now, one of their own is demonstrating talent, and many are starting to realise that, if he is unlucky enough to win, he will be stuck living an embarrassment.
Icelanders know a little something about word play themselves. As our photographer, Gúndi, who decided to wander Southern Iceland photographing horses at sunset in an attempt at therapy after seeing Magni’s first performance, told me: “The band is called Supernova. Stars go supernova when they’ve burned out. We’re putting Icelandic culture into the galactic burnout competition.”
Magni himself seems to be suffering, though let me point out the Grapevine is not in contact with the TV star. I did take a moment, though, to look over Magni’s blog, after our office was visited by someone looking for Magni’s phone number.
Why did they want Magni’s number? They wanted to send him their Icelandic t-shirts so he could wear them on-air, guaranteeing large sales.
I joked about this to our book publisher, Edda. An author there laughed, then, a twinkle in her eye, demanded her books be sent to Magni immediately.
It was after this discussion that I thought I’d at least see if Magni was having fun promoting his home country.
His recent entry, asked about the upcoming Belle and Sebastian show in Iceland – a suggestion of Magni’s intelligence and interest in culture, and possible grounds for disqualification from Supernova. He then writes, “Life is just the same in wonderland. I’m tired and bored as (is) the rest of the gang.” Looking back, we can see what he was thinking the day after he wowed Iceland: “ I’m still mentally bored. I didn’t know you could get this homesick to be honest. Sure this experience is fun but it’s still 70 percent fu**ing boredom.”