Lofty Ambitions Comedy Opens At Loft Hostel.
On a late winter Thursday, a crowd sits awaiting a comedy show about to start. How strange it is to be in a crowded room sitting in the audience of a show. Everyone around has their masks off and is drinking beer. It’s certainly not something most of us are used to doing, given the past year. Lofty Ambitions Comedy nights hope to change that and get people back out for a good laugh.
Heading up the endeavor is Kimi Tayler, Reykjavik’s one and only working queer comedian. A lesbian from the UK, Kimi is the widow of the late Jono Duffy, Iceland’s best mix of Eurovision references and potty humor. Now that he’s moved to France, Kimi finds herself regrouping and partnering with fresh new talent. Working with Kimi this time is Mette Kousholt who, a few days off the boat from Denmark, is jumping right into the Icelandic comedy scene. Who said moving internationally wasn’t possible during a global pandemic?
Lofty Ambitions’ first show was Thursday, March 4th. The lineup of seasoned comedians plans to host bi-weekly events throughout the spring and into June so as long as gathering restrictions stay as relaxed as they currently are.
The next show is Thursday, March 18th from 20:00 to 23:00.
With low case numbers and more doses of various vaccines on the way, the possibilities are looking good. Following their first show, an air of uncertainty hung over the comedians as a small outbreak of the UK’s variant B.1.1.7 made its way into supermarkets and gyms. We all stopped to contemplate if Iceland was facing a fourth wave. Thankfully, the scare was contained but it showed how luxuries like going out to comedy shows can change at the drop of a hat.
GayIceland sat down to chat with Kimi about life in Iceland, comedy, and what she’s been getting up to during lockdown.
“I’ve been very busy for an unemployed person! I’m doing Icelandic classes four times a week, studying sociology at the University, and just started volunteering at Kattholt. I’m quite bad at being unemployed because I’m thinking, right, how can I make myself more employable.”
What comedians started Lofty Ambitions?
“So it’s me, Laufey Haraldsdóttir, and Mette Kousholt. The three of us got this going. Laufey started doing comedy in London and is a question master on Gettu Betur, Iceland’s college game show. She has improv experience and will be rotating as host for some nights as well. Mette arrived in Iceland in August while no shows were happening at all. She was well established in the comedy scene in Denmark. We all met through Soulflow Comedy shows at Gaukurinn and wanted a new space to work on material for our hour-long shows. Laufey has a lot of experience with improv. Who knows, there may be some musical comedy. It would be really great to get some character comedy. I’m going to be doing a live fort building. There’s room for so much with this platform.”
So Lofty Ambitions is not an open-mic night?
“It’s important for us to do something longer than an open mic format so the comedians can experiment and try new material for a longer act. It needs to be a space that’s an open form with other comedians who know what they’re doing. There’s such a lack of diversity in comedy in Iceland, to begin with. There’s no character comedy, no physical comedy. Most often it’s a bunch of straight white guys doing stand up.”
“I’ve joked about it before, I’m the premier gay comedian in Iceland because Jono’s gone. And let’s face it, that was the only way I was going to steal the crown.”
Are you Iceland’s only queer comedian now?
“I’ve joked about it before, I’m the premier gay comedian in Iceland because Jono’s gone. And let’s face it, that was the only way I was going to steal the crown [laughs]. Let’s be honest. But losing him and not having a tribe of allies like Jono makes it more difficult. The great thing is that now after Soulflow there’s this community of people now who are writing and performing and I won’t be the only one. That’s a really great thing.”
Why did you step away from running Soulflow?
“There needed to be a space like Soulflow, because that didn’t exist when I was starting comedy in London, and there wasn’t one here. It’s great for getting started in comedy and getting more talent out. The next step really didn’t exist, as there was nothing for established comedians to kind of stretch themselves. This is always going to be people who know what they’re doing, so the audience can feel quite comfortable. Although it might be a bit off the wall, the audience will know these comedians. Some of it might be shit, it’s new material not tried out on a crowd before. But no one’s here to take someone down or criticize. The great thing about a space like Loft Hostel is that it’s a super-inclusive space and I think the ethos is going to attract a slightly different crowd than you’re going to get in a comedy club space.”
So what should we expect from a Lofty Ambitions show?
“The nice thing about Lofty Ambitions is some of the guys who do more traditional stand-up will be coming here and testing material out. It’s more of a curated lineup than people just signing up on a list. Most of these comedians are working on 1-hour shows and will be doing 20-30 minute sets. Everything we’re doing is dependent on restrictions and our priority is to make sure everyone is complying. Loft is doing an amazing job at that. Unless there’s a deadly eruption affecting we’ll be going ahead every two weeks.”
How do you feel about bringing covid into your material?
“It’s impossible to ignore a year like this. For some people, it might be more a part of their comedy. For me, I’m not going to go talking directly about covid but about the circumstances that we all find ourselves in now. They’re pretty good for comedy, ya know? Like, I lose my job, everything’s falling apart for a bit and then I just decide to get into building blanket forts. My girlfriend is doing all these high-minded, academic things at the university and then comes home and asks “What are you doing?” Well, I’ve done all the pickling, there’s nothing left to pickle in the cupboards, so I’m building a fort!”
How do we bridge the gap of this pandemic not being funny?
“It is crap, it is horrible. And there are lots of people who have a sense of how lucky they are to be in Iceland as foreigners. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a bit crap to be stuck here. And then there’s the guilt of people back home having a much worse time than we have.”
Were you performing online during the pandemic? How is it without a crowd?
“It’s horrible, I hate it so much. I did a gig a couple of weeks ago to a camera. It was just me in a room with two sound tech guys and the first minute and a half was just horrible. The whole point of comedians is that we need attention and laughter and reactions. It was just to a dead camera. You can’t feed off that. Then once I could see one of the sound guys was laughing I was like, okay, I can work with this now. That’s good. But no, online doesn’t work for me. Some people have done really well with it and found good outlets, but there’s a lot of trash out there too. A lot of people who are comedians think they’re content creators now.”
Where do you find your inspiration for your comedy?
“Usually there’s a nugget of truth with the things I’m talking about. I definitely raid my own experiences. My mother is a brilliant source of comedy. She’s fantastic. There are so many little things that come up when I’m just having a conversation with her that I just take. She’s a big ally for the LGBT+ community in the UK. She runs a PFLAG group. And sometimes she knows far more than I’d like her to about, well, everything. She went to some kind of queer family day and she stayed for a lecture on puppy play. She said, “It was a bit of an accident really. I was in the one before and thought I’d stay and be supportive for the next group!”. A lot of things just happen around me, I’m always laughing at horrible things that have happened to me.”
“I’ve been wading a bit more into my mental health. I’m writing some new stuff right now that’s a bit heavier but it’s so important to take the power away from it. In these situations, if you can take the power away by laughing about it. For me, my source of comedy has always been myself. Comedians have different styles, but a situation I’ve been in myself will be a butt of a joke, I’ll never make someone else the butt of a joke because that’s punching down.”
With bars closing at 23:00, is there time for all the acts?
“It means we have to start on time as well! I really enjoyed that last week. Starting on time was really nice. Comedians are not known for their time-keeping skills. Comedians and Icelanders are not known for their time-keeping skills, so when you put those together it means you say a show is starting at 7:30 and you don’t start until 9:00. The Brit in me who likes to arrive 15 minutes early for everything really enjoyed this. Because everyone’s got a specific amount of time it means that if someone runs late it cuts off another comedian’s time. But maybe this will be one of the benefits of covid, comedians will actually start on time! I like to be home by 11, so punctual comedy is perfect [laughs].”
The comedians performing at Lofty Ambitions Shows include:
Snjólaug is an Icelandic comedian who has been performing all over the world in the last 10 years. During covid, however, Snjólaug was forced to get a real job and consequently became Iceland´s worst employee since those bankers crashed the economy. She will share her misfortunes and rookie mistakes with Lofty Ambitions.
Helgi Steinar began performing standup comedy in Beijing, China in 2014 and since then has made a name for himself as an international comedian. This concluded in him winning Funniest Show at last year’s Reykjavik Fringe Festival. He has toured with and opened for comedians like Tom Stade and Pete Johnsson and is a regular in the Reykjavik comedy scene.
Kimi Tayler is a British comedian who’s performed in the UK, Sweden, and Denmark. Despite her obvious dyspraxia she is an award-winning disco dancer, self-titled dating expert, one half mediocre Accapella band Crapapella, and is an absurdly charming and unpredictable storyteller who has risen to the heady heights of Iceland’s premier D-List Celesbian standup comedian.
Triple-award-winning Irish comedian Donal Vaughan started comedy in 2012 and hasn’t looked back since, taking his stand up internationally. When not making fun of himself, the BSc Zoologist jests about science and the natural world. He also regularly tours theatres and festivals around the UK and Australia with his science comedy children’s show Science Magic.
Arnór Daði is an Icelandic comedian who’s been working the Reykjavik comedy scene for about 4 years. He has traveled the country doing stand-up and won three awards for his show “Big Small Town Kid” at the Reykjavik Fringe Festival 2020.
Mette is Danish, and for diplomatic reasons, ambivalent about talking about that fact here in Iceland. She’s been doing stand-up for over 3 years including performances in the UK, Denmark, and of course here in Iceland. At Lofty Ambitions, Mette will offer up her observations on being new in a country, and on getting beyond 30.
Mauricio, originally from the Dominican Republic (not the US, before you ask), is now living out his 30’s here in Iceland with his Icelandic wife and their twin babies. He’s been an active comedian for 2 years, and has quite a few stories to tell about it! Mauricio is working on a show for the Reykjavik Fringe Festival, and is eager to come work it out in front of you.