Jono Duffy wants to know if you miss him yet

Jonathan Duffy has a brand-new comedy show coming up at Tjarnarbíó on September 11th. GayIceland caught up with the award winning comedian to find out more.

The title of your show is, Do you miss me yet?, but our question is, Do you miss us?
“Every single day. I was in my 6th year of living in Iceland when I left and it was the longest I had ever stayed in one place as an adult so there’s been a definite feeling of homesickness in the past two years. It’s a bit strange sometimes, I feel homesickness for a place I wasn’t born in or grew up in but it was indeed my home. I don’t want to make anyone feel sorry for me but I’ve really had some moments in the past two years where there’s been a real longing to come back, I’m talking about ‘crying in the shower’ kind of moments.”

“I don’t think I’ve been this excited about something in a really long time. It’s really exciting.”

What does it feel to be coming back to Iceland?
“I don’t think I’ve been this excited about something in a really long time. It’s really exciting. There’s something comforting about returning back to a place where you just know how things work and nothing is a big surprise. I miss so many things about Iceland like familiar places and faces, the fact that Icelanders never know how to line up for things and that they’re always late, the sense of community; I miss it all. To loads of people it would seem lame but I don’t really have many plans for the time I get to be there. I just want to be where I used to live and feel the things I used to feel for a bit before I have to return back to France.”

Is the show in Reykjavík an indication that you are moving back here?
“I don’t think I can say that the show is an indication I’m moving back, but moving back isn’t completely off the table. For those that aren’t aware, the reason I left France was so my fiancé (who’s French) could complete a masters degree. At the moment he just finished the first year of two years. At the end of the degree we have no idea what we’ll do so in a way, it’s totally possible that we could move back someday, it all just depends on what job opportunities are available in his field. The thing about doing stand up is that I can pretty much do it anywhere. I just need a microphone and an audience, so I think it’s good to make sure that the man I’m going to marry also has the same opportunities and career satisfaction as I do. If that means living somewhere else, it’s fine. Oh and he missed Iceland just as much as I do.”

Asked what the new show is about Jono says that it’s less of a big story and more of a catch up. “It’s going to be a night where I will fill people in on what’s been going on but I’m also keeping some space to be able to have fun and see where things go. I have much more fun on stage when I improvise and go with things that come to me on the spot and in this show I would like to be able to do more of that. Of course, I will always leave some space for some old favourites just in case there’s an audience member or two who’d like to hear me dig out my big old shelf joke…. If you know you know.”

Is it based on your life since you left for France?
“I will definitely be talking about life since I moved to France. It has been an interesting journey and when I say interesting, I mean sometimes it’s been like climbing up Mount Esja in a snowstorm while you’re on fire. France is a whole other beast and Paris is sometimes like its own country inside France, except for this one, you spell the word ‘Country’ without the ‘o’.”

The video that went viral

The last time we spoke Jonathan, or Jono as he is called, was set to premier a live show in France and he was a bit stressed since he hadn’t done one in a while, but Jono tells me that it actually went really well.
“It was a bit of an experiment to see if I could fill a theatre,” he says. “When I first arrived in Paris, I had no friends and no job and didn’t think I would ever have a career here as a comedian because I didn’t know anything about the scene or how to get gigs. Out of loneliness I started taking the little ideas I would normally have for jokes and put them into TikToks. I was doing that for a while and then suddenly after a couple of months, one little video I made about not being able to remember my phone number in French went a little bit viral and then I started getting a lot more attention on the app.

Eventually I developed a bit of a significant following and thought, ‘maybe I should see if some of these TikTok people would come see me live?’ So I booked a small theatre and the tickets sold out in three days. I did the show a second time and it went really well too. I’m actually doing a third run of the show, which is called ‘I hate Paris’ just after I get back from Iceland. I have no idea if it will go well again but that’s basically the gamble with stand-up. You’re only as good as your last gig.”

You sarcastically told us that the show you did from your apartment during lockdown was called ‘Jono Duffy, Nothing to Lose’ because at the time you were unemployed, had no friends and had nothing to lose. What is your situation today? What have you been up to since then?

He smiles. “I still don’t really have any friends haha. Yeah my situation has changed a lot. I can’t really earn a full time wage from stand-up in France so I have other work. One of the huge differences between France and Iceland is that the salaries are a lot lower in France and the country has a huge push to make sure everyone who is able to receive an education can get one. That’s great but what tends to happen is that everyone has a degree so if you don’t have one, it’s really hard to get a job. I’m an almost 37 year old immigrant who has spent the better part of the last two decades working on a career that doesn’t really make me the most ideal candidate in the eyes of French companies so I have to hussle a lot.

“I developed a bit of a significant following and thought, ‘maybe I should see if some of these TikTok people would come see me live?’ So I booked a small theatre and the tickets sold out in three days.”

At the moment I have three main jobs. I teach English, I write blogs for a marketing agency based in Iceland and I make informative videos about insurance for expats. I guess I should be thankful that a career in stand-up has taught me to always say yes to paid work, but in France I really do work a lot.

At the moment I’m about to do a lot of travel. In September I’ve got shows in Paris, Northern France, Switzerland and Reykjavík. Then I will continue to do my ‘I hate Paris’ show once a month till the end of the year. I don’t really have any huge projects on the go because I’m still figuring it all out.

Sometimes I kick myself for leaving Iceland when I did because I missed out on a bunch of opportunities. I was supposed to have a small role in the second season of Stella Blómkvist. I was going to come back as the character I was in the first season. I mean it’s not a huge character but it was really nice to be invited back, but I couldn’t do it because all of the lock-down procedures and everything at the time would have meant that it would have actually cost me money to do the job but I would really like to do more acting for screen so I’m in the process of trying to showcase that skill a bit more. Not many people know this but I was an actor long before I was a comedian, so if any Icelandic screenwriters are reading this and looking for a bearded late 30s guy with a dad bod who’s pretty good at doing a bunch of accents and knows how to deliver lines, I’m available.”

I would love to come back to Iceland more regularly or even pick up with some of the things I had started to work on when I was there. There’s a whole lot of things I had planned before we left and I would love to be able to do them some day.”

The French like it when comedians make fun of them

Asked how the French are reacting to his stand-up performances he says the reception has been pretty positive so far. “French people, just like Icelanders, like it when comedians make fun of them. I think it’s a weird little mark of respect. It’s nice when you’re in the audience to know that the comedian has taken the time to learn about your culture and the things that make you tick in order to make fun of them.

In Paris, the audiences are generally 50% French (who speak English) and 50% immigrants. The material I’ve been doing has a similar spin to when I first started out in Iceland. I look at the things I’ve gone through as an immigrant and find a way to make both sides of the audience laugh.”

Is it tough to break into the art scene – or should I say the world of performance – in France?
“From what I’ve seen it is actually really tough here. I have to admit that I’ve been very lucky because I’ve been working as a comedian for so long that I have a tonne of videos and evidence to prove I know what I’m doing so when I got here I was able to get spots at the same places as people who are already working professionally. I didn’t have to beg open mic nights to give me 5 minutes, which is what I was totally expecting.

I would say that the English speaking scene in France is a little bit harder than Iceland because, in Iceland most people who would go to see standup understand English. The potential audience is much harder to reach here. There are also a lot of legislations that make it really difficult to actually make money from comedy. For example, when I want to do a show in Iceland I just book a theatre and do the show. In France you’re only allowed to do that about 6 times a year without having a production company behind you and then there’s a whole lot of administrative processes and legal things that make it really hard to just operate as a solo performer.

One of the things I really loved and miss a lot about Iceland is that it really is a country where you can take an idea and just make it happen. People are supportive of new artists, concepts and directions and are willing to give things a go. That kind of support doesn’t really happen in France. You need to be established here to get support and attention, and it doesn’t matter if you were a big deal somewhere else, if the French haven’t heard of you, you don’t exist so you have to work much harder to get noticed.
Is the new show the only reason you’re coming back?

“One of the things I really loved and miss a lot about Iceland is that it really is a country where you can take an idea and just make it happen.”

I have to be honest, the show isn’t the main reason I’m coming back, one of my best friends is getting married. Some people might know that I’ve had a podcast for a little while called ‘Not in Front of My Salad’ with an Icelander called Emilia Gunnarsdóttir. We continued it after I moved to France and she’s getting married so I’m coming back mainly for her. We are coming over for her wedding but as soon as we knew we were coming I straight away booked Tjarnarbíó.”

Will this be a ‘One show only’ ?
“Yep 100%! I have one week in Iceland and only one night in the theatre so it’s definitely a one time thing. If you haven’t got tickets and it sells out, you’ll miss out. I know I said that I would like to come back more regularly, but I have no idea when that’s gonna be so if you don’t get in now, it might be your last chance. I’m not getting any younger and every day is a gift so just come and let’s have some fun.”

More info on the show here.

Á. Óskarsson
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Á. Óskarsson hefur komið að fjölda stórra verkefna við byggingu íþróttamannvirkja og hefur frá stofnun kappkostað að bjóða vandaðar og endingargóðar vörur.

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