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Arts Fringes

COMEDY

Edinburgh Fringe 2017: Tobias Persson @ New Town Theatre

What the Edinburgh Fringe website says:

What do you call a burning police car in Sweden? Monday. Seriously, everything is (boom!) fine. Nothing happened in Sweden last (bang!) night! Weekly shootings? Recruiting ground for Isis? Let me (kaboom!) get back to you, my head is on fire… 'Persson’s insights are sharp, his analysis is intelligent and his everyday dilemmas over how to be a good human being come from the heart…it’s clear he’s got it in him to become one of Europe’s top political comedians' (Sunday Herald).

Watch a video:

Railing against Political Correctness in Sweden

Swedish comedian Tobias Persson’s set “Sweden Sour” focuses largely on the atmosphere of political correctness and collective European guilt that hampers any reasonable discussion about religion (Islamic Fundamentalism in particular) and its place in modern Western society. He admits it’s a subject most comedians won’t touch in Sweden and, frankly, it’s a subject that most comedians will touch in the UK either.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the occasional jibe at political correctness when it’s carefully handled by the surrounding context - something that, for example, the hilariously fiery and profane English political comedian Jonathan Pie has handled well in the past. However, it’s hard to pull off without sounding like an extended rant against straw man opinions, and unfortunately (despite his repeated disclaimer that he’s a nice Guardian reader who listens to The Kinks) Persson falls into that trap.

There’s the occasional good line here, for example when citing a Fox News report that there are 55 no go areas in Sweden: “What would those be? Pubs where the beer is even more expensive?” However, they are isolated amid the overall negativity. While it’s important to openly discuss how Western societies treat those who behave abhorrently within their borders in the name of some fanatical interpretation of their own beliefs, there needs to be a two-sided focus on potential solutions, not a one-sided diatribe.

Lacks sure-footedness

It’s worth factoring in that Persson’s act seems to have been partially improvised, but even when taking this into consideration his delivery came across as being overly uncertain and prone to mid-sentence flubs. During the slot I attended the audience was rather small (around a dozen people), a factor which seemed to faze him somewhat. He even pointed this out, jokingly asking the attendees to laugh all the more to make up for all the people who aren’t taking up the seats. While I doubt that top-form delivery could have turned the dour comic material into a classic show, the faltering performance only served to further dampen the spirits.

Oddly enough, the routines shown in the YouTube video posted above are (from my point of view) considerably better than almost any of the Sweden Sour material. Maybe he’s just having an off-year, but based on the evidence I saw at the New Town Theatre yesterday he isn’t the ideal ambassador for Swedish comedy.

Rating: ☆☆

Tickets are available from the following link:

Edinburgh Fringe 2017 logo

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