“Mostly sex stuff”

Photo/Karítas Sigvaldadóttir

Photo/Karítas Sigvaldadóttir

Alice Bower is a student of folklore at the University of Iceland. She recently won the standup competition Funniest Student 2018, an annual event held at Stúdentakjallarinn, organised by the Student Council’s Committee of Culture and Social Events in cooperation with Landsbankinn. Following the win, Alice has been busy performing as a comedian. In addition to being interviewed for radio and television, she recently performed with the Icelandic comedy group Mið Ísland and participated in the Comedy Convention in Hólmavík.  The Student Paper spoke with Alice about the competition, her comedy routine and the trip to the Faroe Islands that she is planning with the 100.000 kr. prize money.

Doing stupid things in the Jamaica of the North

“I signed up because of the money,” says Alice when asked why she decided to participate in the first place. Her dream is to go to the Faroe Islands with her friend, whom she calls Captain Fun, but she doesn’t really want to go. “I asked her what I had to do to get her to come with me, to which she replied, if you win the Funniest Student competition and pay for the trip, I’ll come with you.” They have purchased tickets for G Festival in July and the plan is to film a short series together drinking and doing stupid things, which they will call “Jamaica of the North: Captain Fun and the Troll Take the Faroe Islands.”

Alice had never done stand-up before but says she’s often the clown among her folklore classmates. At first she was anxious but it helped a great deal that so many people showed up to show their support.

“A lot of people showed up to support me, which I did not expect at all, people from folklore, and I thought to myself, yeah, I’m more popular than I thought! But it turned out that most of the people who showed up had a class and it was their assignment to go there. So I wasn’t as popular as I thought,” she says jokingly.  “I’m never shy, but I wasn’t really confident in participating at first, because Icelandic isn’t my first language and the stand-up was in Icelandic. There were two girls who did their routine in English and they did a really good job, they were really funny. But I was a little afraid that if I did it in English less people would listen to me,” she says about her decision to perform in Icelandic instead of her native English, but Alice grew up in London.

“At least there were a lot of people there that I knew and it gave me courage. I wasn’t as anxious because these were people I knew and I didn’t feel like it was as big of a deal. It was just like hanging out in Stúdentakjallarinn with my friends.”

“Mostly sex stuff”

Despite her initial hesitation about speaking Icelandic, Alice incorporated her insecurity into her routine and made fun of it. She says she owes her success to the fact that everyone at the event was really drunk. When asked about her routine she explains that it’s “mostly sex stuff.”

“I don’t have many one liners, it’s mostly narrating, telling stories and imitating others. I make fun of my Icelandic, talk about my love life and various jobs I’ve had, and sometimes I go into my childhood, but that’s a little harder to translate.” In her stand-up she tells stories about getting drunk and working several low paying jobs, as she thinks there is a lot of humour in those jobs. Furthermore, human interaction is one of her topics as well as telling embarrassing stories about herself.

“I make fun of the various ways in which boys have tried to get rid of me. Things like ‘I have to go paint an apartment in Selfoss’ or ‘maybe if you ask me on a Tuesday’ as opposed to Saturday or Friday or even Thursday where he would have something a little better to do,” she explains. “If I was an event, I’d be karaoke night at Gaukurinn.”

You can’t take yourself too seriously as a folklorist

Besides performing with the stand-up group Mið Ísland and participating in the Comedy Convention in Hólmavík, Alice has been busy doing stand-up since her win. Among the things she’s done is perform at a benefit for the Women’s Shelter and an event hosted by Young Professional Women in Iceland. She also performed as an entertainer in a math competition for elementary schools.

At the Comedy Convention in Hólmavík, she was one of five acts to perform. According to her, four of the acts were folklore students. Asked if there is something funny about studying folklore she says “yes, you can’t take yourself too seriously as a folklorist because people will make fun of you for what you’re doing. They don’t realise how difficult the subject really is.”

However, not every night can be as good as winning the competition for the funniest student. “It was a major highlight to win the competition but not every night is like that. Sometimes there is a small audience and maybe they don’t all speak Icelandic or they don’t like my sense of humour.” She says that in the competition she experienced the greatest atmosphere a comedian possibly can and that it’s strange to start off her career with such a big ego boost. “People were drunk, half of them were told to be there by their teacher and it was an unusually good atmosphere,” she says, laughing.