They are roaring with laughter, that cannot be missed by anyone close to the top of hill Arnarhóll in the city centre; the people who have gathered around the statue that represents Iceland‘s “first settler” Ingólfur Arnarson. In the middle of the group is a stand-up comedian telling stories about Ingólfur, which are the source of laughter. The Bizarre Reykjavík Comedy Walk has begun.
“It’s a great family entertainment for guests who are not ready to go to sleep yet and wants to find something interesting to do in the beautiful evening sun,” Svanur Gísli Þorkelsson tells me, referring to the light summer nights, as we start walking with the group down hill Arnarhóll.
Svanur is the orgestrator of the walk, which is led by Darren Foreman and Gísli Jóhann. Darren is an actor and comedian from Los Angeles who has lived here since 2001 and is currently one of the most popular comedians in Iceland, having previously worked on the famous children‘s TV program LazyTown. Gísli Jóhann is one of the promoters of a stand-up comedy at restaurant Gamli Gaukurinn on Mondays. And as we continue our walk from Arnarhóll to Lækjargata they take turns telling jokes along the way.
“I like to leave things to routined comedians,” explains Svanur. “Darren and Gísli are used to doing comedy shows and I trust them completely to grasp the opportunity to be funny whenever they get the chance. But if I would really have to then of course I’d jump in.”
“What we’re trying to do here is bring the comic side of things in to light. So … if you want life to be fun, then you’ve come to the right place.”
This is not to say that Svanur doesn’t have a thing or two to say about the tour, as I find out that the two comedians go by a script that is written by him. “But then Darren and Gísli Jóhann have the freedom to change and make fun of whatever happens or comes into their hands during the walk,” he points out.
Svanur is certainly no beginner when it comes to tourism, having been a tour guide since 1986. He lives in the UK and that’s where he got the idea to do a comedy walk in Iceland. “I’ve worked on all kinds of walks around the world, pub walks, ghost walks, art walks and such and the ones that are always most popular are the comedy walks. So I thought to myself, why not organize one in Reykjavík this year!”
A decision Svanur says he that he certainly doesn’t regret since The Bizarre Reykjavik Comedy Walk has gotten great response since it begun earlier this this year. “The group has varied from four and up to fifty people and the feedback has been just great,” he says with a smile. “The participants just love the walk and say it’s well worth the 3000 Kronur per person. So if the tour continues to be this popular, and people keep on booking, then we will definitely continue in the winter pending the weather and with minor adjustments when the evenings start getting darker.”
As we proceed to Tjörnin, the pond in the centre of Reykjavík where city hall stands, making occasional stops on the way to look at this or that, I can hear Darren and Gísli in the back poking fun at Icelanders in English, how weird our behavior is and how eccentric we can sometimes be and what makes us distinctive from other nations, such as our extreme pride. Nothing is off limit, it seems. Everything is up for jokes, whether it’s politics, banks, business, The Sagas or volcanic eruptions. And the giggles and laughter that follow strongly indicate that the group of foreign guests appreciate the black humor.
“What we’re trying to do here is bring the comic side of things in to light,” Svanur enthusiastically explains. “So if you’re more of a fact-seeking walker, then maybe this tour is not for you. However, if you want life to be fun, then you’ve come to the right place!”
“Darren and Gísli are used to doing comedy shows and I trust them completely to grasp the opportunity to be funny whenever they get the chance.”
The tour takes an hour and fifteen minutes and as it is coming to an end I decide to use the opportunity and ask Svanur a question before we part: Why does he think that The Bizarre Reykjavik Comedy Walk is so popular. Or to be more precise: What’s the secret behind a successful comedy walk?
“Well, the main thing is to keep the walk short so that you don’t walk to much,” he replies without hesitation. “To find interesting things to laugh about and enjoy each other’s company. To be able to laugh with the comedians, who’re doing their best to entertain people. And what way better to end a day than to laugh a bit before going to bed.”