“Anyone Can Write Standup”
Translation: Sahara Rós Ívarsdóttir
The Student Cellar was crowded on February 21st for the final night of the competition for the title of “Funniest College Student of 2019.” One student after the other took the stage and spoke animatedly about current issues, the funny sides of everyday life, and personal victories and defeats. There was a lot of excitement in the air when the winner, physics student Sigurður Bjartmar Magnússon, was announced. A Student Paper journalist met with Sigurður to discuss the competition, humor, and the future.
Sigurður Bjartmar said he wanted his standup routine for the finals to be about something everyone could identify with, like for example new technology or parallels between Icelandic and American society. “I just tried to keep things simple and entertaining and joke about things that wouldn’t leave people feeling badly.”
His standup was more general rather than personal, but Sigurður did share about his experience working in the computer store Epli on Laugavegur and funny conversations he’s had with customers there. He says it’s tricky to talk about yourself in standup without having first established yourself as a comedian: “People don’t know what kind of character I am when I get up on stage, so it’s difficult to make fun of myself, but now I’m preparing a routine where I’ll probably talk more about myself.”
Performed with Mið-Ísland
Regarding inspiration, Sigurður Bjartmar says that he he usually gets ideas for standup with his friends, but the best ideas most often appear during the dreamlike state between sleeping and waking. “I often get ideas when I’m just about to fall asleep, and I have to scramble to write them down in my phone. When I read them the next day, they’re usually just as funny.” Sigurður mentions the standup comedy group Mið-Ísland, whose current show is running in the basement of the National Theatre of Iceland, as his standup comedy role models. Members of Mið-Ísland actually judged the funniest college student competition and subsequently invited Sigurður to participate in their show. He says he’s thankful for the offer and the valuable experience he’s gained.
“Everything went well despite this not being the target audience I had written the routine for. Of course, this was quite a change. At the Student Cellar, my friends were in the audience, but there I didn’t know anyone. But it was very fun and good practice.”
According to Sigurður Bjartmar, it is of utmost important that the interest is there. “It’s just like with everything else, if you start getting interested in this then you’ll start writing the jokes down on your phone. But if you have no interest, then you would never write them down. I think almost anyone is capable of writing really funny standup, but not everyone has the interest.”
He also says it’s important to believe in yourself and surround yourself with people who appreciate your sense of humor. “What usually discourages people from writing standup is believing they aren’t funny enough. So, the first step is really just getting to know people who are ready to laugh at you.”
A new face in the business
Asked what the future holds, Sigurður says he is planning a new standup routine. “The idea is to do something bigger. The Mið-Ísland guys have really encouraged me and obviously want to see new faces in the business. They are not only middle-aged, but have also already gained strong positions as standup comedians, and simply enjoy having a bit of competition in the field. There are some young people currently writing standup, and it would be fun to either create a TV program or live show with some of them.”
Sigurður Bjartmar is in good shape when it comes to finances, having received a generous gift certificate from Landsbankinn as an award during the finale. But being the funniest college student isn’t always easy, as Sigurður has discovered.
“Using the gift certificate hasn’t always gone smoothly. It is gigantic, and after all that it turns out it’s not a real credit card. I also had to carry it home from the Student Cellar through the wind and rain, and it is almost impossible for one person to carry it alone. Eventually, I was knocked over, and I haven’t dared to carry it out of the house ever since.”