English funnyman comes to make Swedes laugh

English funnyman Paul Foot arrives in Sweden on Wednesday for his first-ever tour of Sweden. He chats with The Local's Vivian Tse about his impressions of Sweden and the Swedes and recounts his long, strange trip towards a career of making people laugh.

English funnyman comes to make Swedes laugh

English comedian Paul Foot’s daily (or nightly) routine may be the envy of even the most seasoned coach potato, but despite the late hours that he keeps, it is in no way a relaxing lifestyle – not for him, at least.

“I laze about in bed in the morning. That is the only thing I’ve done all day, but it’s very frenetic. I’m more like an athlete. Yes, I’m always up in the night, I’m writing and thinking and things, then I sleep,” the entertainer tells The Local during a recent early afternoon chat.

“I don’t like to write in the midday, it puts enormous strain on the heart. I do light admin, then ease into the day with lunch, then have an afternoon nap, then get up for dinner and do a show. There is lots of thinking to do. It takes up hours. That’s my job, to think,” he adds.

The performer was originally headed towards a career as an accountant. Fate intervened while he was pursuing a mathematics degree at university, when the self-described formerly shy child took to the stage and tried stand-up comedy.

“As soon as I did it, I decided it was going to be my career for the rest of my life and went into show business,” he recalls.

As a child, Foot was very shy and nervous, but he found his voice in the most unlikely of places.

“My first shows were during maths lessons. I would stand up and recite a poem,” he admits.

Foot has previously performed in Denmark, as well as Germany and Hungary, in addition to the UK and US. Foot anticipates that the majority of the audiences in Sweden will be Swedish.

“I have never been to Sweden. I’m quite excited. I think it will be a mixture of some expats, but most Swedes in the audience. In Denmark, they were almost all Danish, but speak English. I just charm them with my wit,” he says.

The country has made quite the impression on him ahead of his first visit to Sweden.

“I’m definitely bringing my winter jacket. It’s already cold here. I don’t even know what it looks like in Sweden. I imagine it will look Scandinavian, with quite white houses and very tall women. I imagine Swedish women are all very tall,” he reveals.

His ideas about Swedes don’t stop there.

“I imagine Swedish men have blond hair and are all extremely attractive. Everyone in Sweden is attractive. I imagine everyone in Sweden is very confident and strong. They go skiing all morning and spend the afternoon swimming in an icy lake and in the evening drinking,” he says.

Foot’s routines derive from “all the things that have happened in my life pouring out, but all mixed up in the wrong order,” he says.

As to why he is coming now?

“It has been arranged. I’ve been ordered to go to Sweden to make people laugh. Sometimes I speak to people in the audience. Nothing can be ruled out. Sometimes I involve people in some sort of improvised play, but they can just sit and relax watching me being them,” he explains.

Foot has also made his mark on radio and television. During his tour of Sweden, he will appear on the BBC’s Never Mind the Buzzcocks for the first time in a segment taped last month, but he will not be watching himself.

“I never see myself on TV. I just need to look at myself in the mirror,” he says.

Stateside, he has appeared in the finals of NBC’s Last Comic Standing, as well as shows in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Further afield, he will head to Norway for the first time in January and appear at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in Australia in April.

Paul Foot kicks off his maiden tour of Sweden on Wednesday in Linköping at Café M at 7.30pm (100 kronor), followed by shows in Märsta at Kung Carl Comedy Club (K3C) on Thursday at 8pm and Stockholm on Saturday at 7pm and Sunday at 4pm at Kafé Klavér (100 kronor). He will also make a short appearance at Stockholm’s RAW Comedy on Saturday night, although he will not be advertised.

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Danes are ‘world’s second-best’ speakers of English as a foreign language

A new annual ranking has judged Danes to be the world’s second-best speakers of English as a second language.

Danes are 'world’s second-best' speakers of English as a foreign language
Photo: ActionVance on Unsplash

The newest edition of the annual English Proficiency Index (EPI) from global language training company Education First (EF) ranked Denmark second out of 100 countries that don't have English as a national language. 

That’s an improvement from last year, when Denmark was fourth, and means it has overtaken Nordic neighbours Sweden and Norway (now fourth and fifth respectively) on the list. Finland is ranked third, but Iceland, another Nordic country known for its natives’ high standard of English, is not included in the analysis.

“The countries with the highest English proficiency in Europe are clustered in Scandinavia. School systems in these countries employ several key strategies, including an early focus on communication skills, daily exposure to English both in and outside the classroom, and career-specific language instruction in the final years of study, whether that is vocational school or university,” the report states.

This year's index was again topped by The Netherlands.


It appears Denmark has done well to slightly improve its position on the list, as the index authors found that the rest of the world is slowing catching up with those countries who have the highest proficiency levels.

“The worldwide, population-weighted average English proficiency score remained stable, but 26 countries’ scores improved significantly (meaning they gained more than 20 points), while only seven experienced significant declines,” the report summary notes.

The high scores of Denmark and the other countries near the top of the list are also a good reflection on those societies, EF writes.

“There is an increasingly clear relationship between a society’s connectedness to the world and the level of social and political equality experienced by its citizens,” the summary states.

“Closed societies turn inwards and nurture rigid hierarchies. Open societies look outwards. They are flatter, fairer places. English, as a medium of international connectivity, correlates well with measures of both equality and engagement with the outside world,” it continues.

A total of twelve countries were ranked in the ‘very high proficiency’ category, the highest level. Ten of the 12 are in Europe. The full top 12 is as follows:

  1. Netherlands
  2. Denmark
  3. Finland
  4. Sweden
  5. Norway
  6. Austria
  7. Portugal
  8. Germany
  9. Belgium
  10. Singapore
  11. Luxembourg
  12. South Africa

'Very high' proficiency is defined by EF as the ability to carry out complex, nuanced tasks in English, such as negotiating a contract with a native English-speaker, reading advanced texts with ease, and using nuanced and appropriate language in social situations.

The report is based on a comparison of English skills measured by testing 2.2 million people who took EF’s English tests in 2019. The full EPI report can be read here