Soho Theatre, Soho, London, 07/10/2019.
According to Wikipedia there’s only ever been ten Icelandic comedians who have existed and rather appallingly Ari Eldjárn isn’t listed as one of them, which suggests the article is somewhat outdated as he definitely deserves to be, and I’d be surprised if any of those who are on the list are funnier too. In this country he’s surely got to be the most famous anyhow as he’s appeared on Mock The Week and at many international comedy festivals, and has previously had a run which sold out at the Soho Theatre.
Now Eldjárn’s back with his second full length show and it’s an extremely likeable and engaging hour of stand up. It serves as an outsiders guide to life in Iceland with Eldjárn giving us an insight in to what life is like in the country, not only now but also during the comedian’s childhood. He starts by giving us the general gist of what it’s like to be part of a country with a population of only 340,000 people and a large element of this is how it’s a very plain speaking country, but also how pretty much anyone can be successful if they choose their career carefully, all of which leads in to a very funny segment about how their president used to be a teacher, and how he responded to an invitation to visit Sweden. Said visit included Eldjárn and the farcical story is a very amusing one, full of strongly amusing self-deprecation about himself and his fellow countrymen.
Following this are parts about how relaxed Iceland is when it comes to parenting, with it being quite standard behaviour to leave children outside shops even when they’re incredibly young, what television was like when he was young and the bleakness of only having one channel which showed depressing Hungarian films. There’s also a very funny bit about how excited he was when Marvel announced a Thor movie only to be disappointed by how they mispronounced so many important aspects of the mythology, and he ends with a segment about his children, which all ties in with his running a 10k race on the day his wife gave birth, all of which while not exactly hilarious is upbeat, funny stand up that’s very appealing too.
Not everything lands perfectly, there’s a section where he talks about what happened when Iceland got a second television channel but scrambled the movies so you could only watch ten minutes before the picture was (almost) unwatchable, it’s in no way awful but it’s a little weak, and goes on for a bit too long too given that it’s a rather bland observation. His take on other countries fluctuates in quality too, some of it is very funny but other parts feel a bit lazy or contrived.
These are only minor complaints though and as a whole this is a stand up show which has a high gag rate and which impresses the majority of the time. Ari Eldjárn’s a relaxed, confident comedian whose stand up may not ever be described as ground breaking, but he is routinely funny, something which is far harder to be than I’ve made sound. He’s also not only a comedian I’m definitely glad I’ve seen but one who I look forward to catching again in the future too, even if that might mean a trip over to his native country.