Sofie makes laughter from the most unlikely material
Your relationship with an abusive grandparent, one who was a Nazi no less, may not on the face of it appear to be much to laugh about.
But Sofie Hagen has done just that with her new show, Dead Baby Frog.
It is named for the phenomenon where you can apparently put a frog in cool water, slowly turn the heat up and it won’t realise it’s boiling alive until it’s too late.
It’s not the first time the award-winning stand-up (she won the Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Awards Best Newcomer in 2015) has mined her own past for laughs. Her previous show, Shimmer Shatter talked about her absent father.
However, for the Danish comic, there was never anything else she could talk about.
‘I talk about the things in my life,’ she tells The Guide, ‘when I start writing the show about six months before Edinburgh, when I go up on stage, I just start to talk about the things that are in my head. If at that time I’m going through a thing where I’m working through my issues with my grandfather, then that’s what I have to talk about.
‘There wasn’t really a choice or decision, that’s what I need to talk about now, it’s the only thing I can think of, it would be weird to talk about anything else.’
The man in question is actually Sofie’s step-grandfather, who is ‘very much still alive,’ but is so far unaware of his starring role in a comedy show.
‘He doesn’t speak English, he doesn’t have a computer and he doesn’t have any contact with the outside world really apart from the Danish news, but I will finish this tour in Denmark, and then the Danish reviews will come out, so I’m sure he’ll find out.
‘But by then it’s too late. I don’t mind if he knows, the whole show is powerful to me. His whole life was to set himself up to be this amazing person, and in order to do that he made sure everyone else felt really horrible.
‘In order to take that and say, you’ve created this, you’ve made me this person – you gave me this material, you made me a comedian, so your whole life you spent abusing women in order to feel better about yourself has now backfired and I get to tell your story.
‘It is revenge. It’s unhealthy and it’s not constructive. I’m not saying this is the healthiest way of dealing with it, but I get to tell hundreds and thousands of people about this and it feels goods to say that I get the final word, and I get to say: “You’re an [unprintable word]!”
He made this – this is all on him. If he was a nice guy, I would have had a normal job.’
Sofie has also been the victim of a great deal of online trolling and abuse, and she has written about how we should take the energy used combatting these people and use it for something positive and creative instead. But the level of abuse came as no surprise to her: ‘This has been going on ever since I got Twitter and Facebook and started thinking about things online.
‘I’m not at all surprised. I’m not even overwhelmed. You know with mosquitos? They’re just a bit annoying, they don’t hurt your feelings, they don’t make you scared or sad, they’re just always there, you just have to constantly bat them aside, or do anything to not have these annoying little things around you, and that’s the same feeling: “Oh shut-up”, “Oh you’re there again?” ‘These trolls think they hurt us,the men who give us abuse online they want to hurt us and they want to affect our feelings, but they need to know they are utterly, utterly irrelevant.
‘Basically there’s a lot of hateful comments, I don’t read them, I’m too busy, but I noticed that some of my fans and supporters were trying to engage with them.
‘It was more for them to say listen, we’re not getting anywhere by talking to them, let’s ignore them and try to create some goondness and try to spread some love. Talking to them will only make you tired and annoyed put your energy into something positive and creating something to make people happy.’
The Ashcroft Arts Centre, Fareham
Thursday, October 12