Kimi Tayler: Nordic Utopia Q&A

Katerina Partolina Schwartz

Katerina Partolina Schwartz

Based primarily in Iceland, Kimi Tayler is bringing her new show What Would Kimi Do? to Leicester Comedy Festival. Here she talks to Katerina Partolina Schwartz about her new stand-up hour, her work as East Iceland’s premier comedian and Angela Merkel.

How would you summarise What Would Kimi Do?

It’s a sort of nostalgic look at the 90s, the realities of living in a Nordic utopia.

I explore some of my childhood passions which include boy bands, hovercrafts and a small foray into radical evangelical Christianity. There was a particular band called the Worldwide Message Tribe and they had a song called Jumping in the House of God and it was an absolute banger, and I thought they were ace, and I went to see them live. They lured me in with the techno rap and I had to try and find my way out of it. But I still maintain that ‘Jumping in the House of God’ is an absolute banger.

What Would Kimi do is a love letter to my teenage self and being a bit different and a bit weird.

What do you hope audiences will take away from your show?

I hope that they will take feelings of finding joy in the small things and a sense of empowerment – that it’s okay to change your mind about things and to talk about things that have happened to you.

What are you looking forward to most about the Leicester Comedy Festival?

Performing for British audiences. I’m really looking forward to not only doing my own show, but I’m also on a line up for Tickled Pink which is an all-female line-up. For me, coming from a country where there are only a handful of women doing comedy, it’s really nice to be going somewhere where I’m going to be doing comedy with other women who are making comedy and who are reaching that standard. So, I’m really excited to network, meet some other people and get to see a few shows.

What’s the difference between doing comedy in the UK vs Iceland?

I would say audiences. Iceland is strangely positioned in terms of comedy because it has a lot of influence from the States and lots of influence from British comedy, but it also has this dark Nordic edge. There’s such a tradition of storytelling, so there’s a lot of closeted comedians in Iceland who have some of the best stories I’ve ever heard, but they don’t have a formal structure to how they think about comedy.

What are the challenges that you face doing stand-up?

I did a gig in a very small town a few weeks ago and someone came up to me and said, “I think you are only the third stand-up comedian that we’ve ever had here”. There’s a thirst for entertainment in the part of the country that I’m living in, but the communities are quite rural. So, I think it’s going to be a challenge to try and set up a bit of a network of gigs, but it’s also something people are interested in and people want to be entertained no matter where they live.  

I’m trying to promote the idea of comedy residencies and I think that having a time and a space to write somewhere that is pretty isolated is quite special, actually.

What comedian or performer has inspired you the most?

I love Sarah Keyworth. The sincerity of their performance, wit, stage presence and how they can craft a narrative, I just absolutely adore. I think Hannah Gadsby has changed the game for women in comedy, and it’s just completely masterful in how they leave breadcrumbs through a show and then bring everything together at the end. The reason I’m a comedian is because of French and Saunders. They’re just very silly and I think that seeing two women on prime-time TV, it made me as think as a child, ‘oh this is something you could do’.

What do you enjoy the most about being a comedian?

I love writing and being onstage. When something’s going well and you can feel the audience is with you. When you know you’re having a good time and that the audience is having a good time.

I was working with some young people for a while, and a few of them came up and said that they didn’t realise that this was something they could do. I really enjoy is when young queer people or young women can see that there’s a space for them in this industry.

When people appreciate my love for Angela Merkel, I appreciate that. I just tell them to look up a picture of her covered in birds. It’s just about the birds.

What Would Kimi Do is at Leicester Comedy Festival on Friday, 9th February. Ticket link here.

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