Learning from the locals of Iceland


Home of weird Icelandic comedy and karaoke nights.

Once a week, in downtown Reykjavik, there is an open-mic comedy night called GoldenGang Comedy at a bar with beer, a stage and board games called Gaukurrin. It's a lively bar that has a steady mix of young weekday drinking locals, semi-permanent students and curious tourists. Icelanders here are in their natural evening habitat: a bar with something quirky going on. 

Comedy night at Gaukurrin is the kind of event that leaves you wondering what you just witnessed... In a very good way.

It is a glimpse in to the remarkably ego-free and encouraging crowds that a country where most people are cousins needs to have. There is a clear policy of encouragement, clapping, cheering and seeing what people have to offer... Giving it a good honest go is all it takes to get a cheer and a pat on the back. This is a heavy contrast to the live music, theatre and arts scene I've experience in Sydney. Scene being the key word. Sure there is open-mic events and a comedy scene here, but it appears to be devoid of the 'give it a go' attitude. Noon will turn up and cheer you if you are terrible at what you do, regardless of the effort you put in. You'll get a frigid golf clap at best at a live event and if your art launch doesn't collaborate with a hip beer company and have celebrity attendees you'll be lucky to get a few mates through the door. 

Seeing a group of people with a healthy amount of body art, sit in a room, on a cold Monday night, get drunk and jovially encouraging each act was refreshing. Icelanders have to brave some crappy conditions to get to the pub, I guess that helps. Once you walk there through the sideways 40km/h snow you might as well get half-cut and be nice to people int he same warm dry room as you.

There's an example of an Icelandic comic (not at Gaukurrin) that pretty much follows the style below... 

Events like this are what makes people fall in love with the weirdness and loveliness of low-context communities like Reykjavik's comedy scene in Iceland. If you are in Reykjavik on a Monday night, don't miss it and DO NOT bring anyone who is easily offended.

We should all take a lesson from our viking friends... It's really important to be positive and offer that positive encouragement to people who are giving it a go. We all know that, but how often do we actually get out to an amateur open-mic and scream praise at someone who really didn't expect it? It's a win/win. Even in a big, warm and sunny city like Sydney or LA.

I'm just upset that I had to get to 28 years old and travel to the other side of the world to figure it out. Strange niche events are awesome.