Laughing along with English stand-up comedian Conrad Molden
Brit Conrad Molden, has been living in Denmark since 2012. he is candid about the challenges of learning as well as speaking Danish. Admittedly, Danish, is not an easy language to master. Conrad, on the other hand, has found a way of turning the frustration of learning Danish into comic relief.
Photographs: Greg McQueen
Text: Judy Wanjiku Jørgensen
Q: What has been surprising about the self-effacing nature of Danes?
A: The retired and modest nature of Danes is sweet, humbling, and definitely frustrating. When I teach at Aarhus University, it can be hard to get students to speak up about their ideas. A lot of people blame the miserable Aksel Sandemose, the Danish author responsible for creating "the Law of Jante." His legacy is still strong, as he wrote: "You're not to think you are smarter than we are." But the modest nature of Danes is definitely exciting for stand-up comedians. Much like the British, Danes don't take themselves too seriously, that's great for comedy. The boundaries are distant, like the shores of Bornholm.
British comedy is concentrated around the absurdity of everyday life. When we step outside ourselves and remember how abnormal the 'normal' is, we get a good laugh and a big dose of self-reflection. Reminding Danes and internationals that thanking others with 'tusind tak,' literally 'one thousand thank yous,' is an exceptional number of thanks in most situations definitely brings a smile to their face. I mean, the frikadellers were good, but were they really one thousand thank you good?
Q: In what ways has your Danglish comedy act made you feel at home in Denmark?
A: Without stand-up, I doubt I would have stayed in Aarhus, it's the friendships that have kept me here. The scene is vast in scale but small in community, and you always meet new and inspiring people. A lot of stereotypes have been broken for me. There are Danes who run late, who don't always wear black, who aren't concerned about healthy eating, who are extrovert and who don't drink (I know!). Comedy can often attract misfits, but I've found those oddballs to be just as Danish as the Dannebrog stuck in a big pile of rugbrød. Stand up is an influential art, a raw experience of jest: comedian and microphone. It's a pleasure to watch other comedians, perform with them, and be in a place where anyone, from anywhere, can make a room full of people feel a little less alone in the absurdity of life.
Many Danes I meet are incredibly friendly, kind and thoughtful people.
Q: How about authenticity and finding your purpose (and balance) in Denmark?
A: There's a mood amongst Danes that: Danes are cold people. As a foreigner, I'm some kind of 'exotic,' and my experience has never been this way. Many Danes I meet are incredibly friendly, kind and thoughtful people. Although their politeness and trust may simply be 'normal' to them, they should know that it makes internationals feel welcome. However, I do feel that I will inevitably always be the outsider, always wondering: "exactly, what are these people talking about?"
Q: Any plans for making comedy your day job?
A: From March 2018 to May 2019, I toured with my sold-out one-man show Danglish: A Hyggelicious Comedy Tour. This November, I'll be back with Danglish 2. It's been many shows, and the support from fans has been overwhelming. The dream is to live comfortably as a comedian. I know many who do it, although their version involves a lot of oven pizza and drinking discount supermarket beer! With a new family and a career in teaching, I'd love to continue exploring Denmark through comedy but also teach my passion for history to a new generation of historians.