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Tuesday 9th September 2003

As the premiere of Pikk Priek approached, I found myself wondering if my humour would translate and be amusing to the Norwegian people. I passed some time looking around the Norwegian folk museum. It’s a collection of buildings from the past, moved from their original locations and rebuilt in a big park. I went into an eighteenth century parsonage. The actual rooms were behind locked gates, but you could look in and see how a Norwegian parson lived 200 years ago. It looked very comfortable.
The table in the lounge was covered in dirt and someone (presumably an employee as there was no direct access) had written in the dust with their finger. There were two words (from memory “Vaske Me”). Although I don’t speak Norwegian, it was fairly clear that this was the joke that would be made anywhere in the world, by some cheeky rapscallion, keen to take the time to point out the uncleanliness of others, yet not keen to take the time to get a cloth and vaske the table himself.
I realised that funny is funny all over the world. It was going to be all right.

A few hours later and I was sitting in the bar next to the venue that the show was opening in, watching the audience arrive. I can’t think of any show I’ve ever been involved in that had such a kerfuffle around it. There was a small red carpet, with candles around it and a smattering of journalists and photographers, talking to important personages and taking their pictures. Again it was slightly bizarre to see people I didn’t recognise being treated with awe and wonder. Jan would help me out by explaining who was who. The country’s top soap star was there and a few comedians. The orange faced man surprisingly didn’t turn up. Perhaps he had to stay in and wash his moccasins. Or maybe he was being sucked off by a seventeen year old girl.
Both good reasons for non-attendance in anyone’s book.
Jan and Kjetil looked very nervous. It’s their (and some other people’s) money riding on this. I was more relaxed. For once I don’t stand to lose anything on the enterprise. I suppose I will make money if it goes well, which would be nice, but I’m not too bothered about that. I was more interested to see what they were going to do with the show, how it would be performed, what they would have changed. It was clear to me beforehand that there had been quite a few changes made. They didn’t exactly say so, but were clearly preparing me for the fact that there might be some differences. They kept mentioning things that aren’t in my version of the show and Kjetil has told me about their decision to lose the Penis Museum section about ten times over the last couple of days.
I explained that I wasn’t bothered and that they had to make the show work for the people who are watching and the performer, who is in his fifties, so some of the jokes wouldn’t sound right coming out of his mouth.
Although I had convinced myself that I wouldn’t be upset whatever they had done to my baby, as the lights went down I found I was surprisingly nervous. I wanted it to be good, partly because it would be embarrassing for me if it was shit, but partly because I didn’t want the people who had put faith in my show to lose their shirts on this.

Nils came on and seemed to talk nervously to the audience. Was he really nervous, or was this a joke? I don’t know. I don’t speak Norwegian. I had no idea what was going on. It’s a while since I’ve done the show and I was struggling to remember my version in any case, though it took a good few minutes before I recognised jokes that were my own. I wondered just how much of this was going to change.
As it turned out there were quite a lot of differences. A fair amount of cuts and quite a few digressions that seemed to bear no resemblance to my show. The joke about the Guinness Book of Records record for the biggest cock (hilariously it turns out to be a massive cockerel, not like you expected a penis…. I subvert it though, as you’ll see if you come to the show) obviously wouldn’t work in Norwegian. In their slide a man stood holding on to a massive bread roll (I think). The audience laughed. I can only presume that’s a pun in Norwegian, but who knows?
After a slightly slow start the audience did begin to warm up and there were some big laughs and rounds of applause. Being a premiere the audience was older and more sycophantic than a normal crowd, but they still seemed to get most of it.
I found myself surprisingly annoyed by cuts and changes and also occasionally felt like getting up and shouting “No, this is how you do that bit!” The style was different, but ultimately, though such feelings were inevitable I was able to see that the way Nils was doing it worked for him, and that it was a good thing that he had adapted the show around himself.
Mainly though, I just couldn’t understand what was happening, so whilst it was delightful that Norwegian people were laughing at jokes that had mainly originated from me and also just amazingly strange and surreal that something I had written was being put on in a different country, it was also deeply confusing. And when bits didn’t get laughs or where I couldn’t understand what was happening so the reaction was hard to gauge, it was quite painful for me. This is my baby. I’ve thrown him out into the world and given him to strangers and sometimes he’s going to get hurt and there’s nothing I can do.
In the end though, despite my reservations, despite the inevitable oddness of having my work changed and performed by someone else, despite my vanity in thinking that the way I do it is best, the show went down extremely well. There were big laughs (more for my bits than his, I thought, but then maybe the bits I thought were his were actually mine. Remember it’s in fucking Norwegian!) and lots of applause and in hindsight I can see that Nils was extremely good. In fact it is a massive honour for me to have my work performed by one of the top actors in the country (he also presented the Norwegian version of Survivor, so suck on that. Has something you’ve written been performed by the presenter of the Norwegian version of Survivor? No it hasn’t. So shut up and come back when it has – if you are Ibsen then that last bit doesn’t apply to you. You and I share that accolade. Though somehow I think it’s unlikely that Ibsen reads my internet diary, so basically fuck off the lot of you. I am skill. And at least I’m alive Ibsen. Yeah, not so clever now are you? Bet you wish you’d cheered up and enjoyed being alive a bit more now don’t you? But it’s too late.).
So afterwards we went for far too many drinks and I met Nils for the first time and he was an extremely pleasant and friendly man. We have shared a journey into the land of cock that most men (gay or straight) will never experience. We had a bond. We got drunk together. They seemed to worry that I would be upset about the changes, but aside from the initial jolt of surprise at some of it, I really wasn’t. I realised that I just wanted this to work out, for their sakes as well as my own.
The rest of the night is a blur, but somehow I got back to the hotel OK and collapsed on my bed without getting into it. All I remember is that they warned me that in Finland they really like to drink. They like to drink vodka til they pass out. I am going to Finland on Saturday. I fear for my life.

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