Stockholm plays host to international laughter fest

Sweden's capital will this weekend welcome a host of international comedy stars when the very first Stockholm Comedy Festival opens on Friday.

Stockholm plays host to international laughter fest
Bill Burr, Ennio Marchetto, Babben Larsson

The festival will feature a range of acts within stand up, performance and vaudeville performed by the best of Sweden’s comedians with a generous sprinkling of international talent.

Bill Burr (US) headlines a cast of foreign stars coming to Stockholm, a city which in recent years has become a thriving hub of humour with new comedy clubs opening across the city.

Burr is a regular performer on The Late Show with David Letterman and has his own HBO Half Hour Special despite having the undisputed knack of lulling you into believing he’s an illiterate moron.

In fact Burr offers up an informed and eloquent perspective on race, politics, organized religion and pretty much anything on his mind at the moment. For Stockholm residents that moment is Friday, 8pm at Rival on Mariatorget.

ABBA legend Benny Andersson’s Rival hotel is one of the main festival venues as well as Södra Teatern on Mosebacketorg, Boulevardteatern on Götgatan, and Norra Brunn – Stockholm’s perhaps most established comedy venue near Odenplan.

Jessica Kirson (US) will warm the stage at Södra Teatern on Friday evening and again on Saturday with her wide variety of characters and voices that have shot her to fame and the award of “Best Female Comic” by the MAC association in New York in 2006.

Jason Andors (US) turned to comedy after a freak break-dancing accident ended his hopes of becoming a dancer. He is physical and with his tough New York City background he is unlikely to find Norra Brunn’s sophisticated Vasastan audience too daunting a task.

Al Pitcher (NZ) represents the smaller of the lands ‘down under’ and is reminiscent of a very energetic Eddie Izzard, if that is at all possible to imagine. The Edinburgh Fringe in 1999 gave him the platform to launch a worldwide career, the same year that Al ‘The Pub Landlord’ Murray belched his way into British hearts.

Commedia Dell’Arte is a form of improvisational theatre that began in Italy in the 15th century. The theatre form largely faded out until it was rediscovered in the 19th century and Ennio Marchetto (IT) – the Living Cartoon, the Swami of Origami – is in town to ensure that the renaissance reaches these northern climes.

The festival line-up is completed by the pick of Sweden’s funny men and women. Cutting edge exciting acts such as Yvonne Skattberg, Nour El-Rafai, Klungen and Henrik Dorsin are fused seamlessly with the established old guard represented by David Batra, Peter Wahlbäck, Henrik Schyffert and many more.

The virgin Stockholm Comedy Festival has the stated goal of establishing itself as “one of the largest and most dynamic annual humour festivals in Europe” and it is happening right here, right now.

Five minutes with Bill Burr (and some strong language)

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Stockholm Open set to serve up a storm

The ATP Stockholm Open hits the Swedish capital on Saturday with international players vying for a piece of the €530,000 ($718,000) pie. Will it be a local Swede who takes out this year's title? The Local chats to the tournament organizer to find out more.

Stockholm Open set to serve up a storm

“All the sponsors, players and organizers are getting ready, I’m really excited,” tournament spokesman Christian Ahlqvist told The Local over the phone, with the sound of tennis balls thwacking around in the background.

Held inside Stockholm’s Royal Tennis Hall, the tournament has been played every year since 1969, attracting some of the biggest tennis names in Sweden and the world.

“All the big Swedish players have played in the Stockholm Open, Björn Borg, Mats Wilander. Former world number one Roger Federer won the title in 2010. We’ve had some really great players, its always been one of the tournaments to play in,” explained Ahlqvist.

IN PICTURES: See Swedish tennis legend Björn Borg’s career in pictures

Headlining this year’s contingent is Spanish world number four David Ferrer who is tipped to take home the trophy.

“Ferrer is coming from Shanghai, he’s a great player and he’s always performed very well here,” said Ahlqvist.

But if you thought it was a one horse race, think again. Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov and Polish giant Jerzy Janowicz (who is over two metres tall), both 22, are two young players looking to challenge Ferrer and show the tennis world that they belong at the top.

However the odds are against Sweden netting the championship. World number 444 Markus Eriksson is the only confirmed Swedish player so far, although more may find their way through in Friday’s final qualifications. But statistically, the odds aren’t historically in the Swedes’ favour, with the last winner, Thomas Johansson, in 2004.

A strong Swedish presence in the singles may be lacking, but the Swedish men are expected to do better in the doubles.

“Jonas Björkman is making a comeback in the doubles with one of the best doubles players in the world, Robert Lindstedt. So that will be interesting to see,” said Ahlqvist.

As for a tip for the winner, Ahlqvist likes world number 41 Jarkko Nieminen from Finland.

“Jarko is someone who’s been a bit on and off the court with injuries. He’s played here so many times before, he’s almost a Swede. Everyone would love to see him win one.”

Saturday marks the opening ceremony for the Open, which will be held on centre court and is free for everyone. The tournament begins on the same day, with the final scheduled for Sunday the 19th.

Josh Liew

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