Culture Editor Grace Baxendine sits down with Danish Comedian, Sofie Hagen to discuss everything from her current stand up show to the fat acceptance campaigning in her recent book
I first came across comedian Sofie Hagen after being recommended a podcast by a friend. This podcast was The Guilty Feminist; a rather successful one now at that. The early episodes I listened to consisted of conversations on anything from nudity to the pros of being a crazy cat lady. I knew straight away that this woman was funny, and more importantly relatable. Hagen is currently on a tour of the UK with her new show Bumswing, and I was lucky enough to have a quick chat with her.
Could you tell the reader a bit about yourself?
So, I’m originally from Denmark and based in London now. I am a stand-up comedian. I am an author. I am a feminist. I am a podcaster. I just do a lot of things all the time. I’ve done quite a few stand-up shows now, Bumswing being my fourth UK tour. I have been described by people who don’t like me as an angry feminist, and by people who do like me as just a feminist, so that’s great and all that matters to me. My comedy is very raw, personal and I guess I would like to say very funny, but I’ve learnt all manner of things in the UK, modesty being one of them.
Why did you originally move to the UK? Maybe the modesty? Or the comedy scene?
Haha, it is actually a very funny and random story. I was in the UK on holiday and then on a whim, I thought it would be quite funny to see how British people lived and as I was with some friends, I ended up pretending to be flat hunting. So I suddenly ‘jokingly’ viewing a room, they offered it to me, I accepted, and just like that, I accidentally moved to England. Then I just stayed, it’s an amazing place to learn comedy and seven years on I’m still here!
So would you say there’s any similarity in British and Danish comedy?
There is quite a difference. Denmark is so much smaller, the community of comedians too is much smaller and intense. I guess coming to the UK from Denmark was the equivalent of going from a small town to a big city. The UK just had so many comedians of all genres, comedy clubs, shows and festivals completely dedicated to comedy! It just felt endless, unlike Denmark. When I was back in Denmark, I had a To-Do list of everything I wanted to achieve in the next five years, and within two years I had achieved them all, there was nothing more to really do. Whereas in the UK there will always be something more; something new and exciting.
So you obviously love the British comedy scene. Growing up did you have any favourite comedians or panels shows from the UK?
We used to do this thing back in Denmark after an open mic. Eight or ten of us danish comedians would all go to the pub, and whichever one of us had the biggest phone would stream Never Mind the Buzzcocks, and then we would all just sit around that little screen and watch it. Sometimes, I watch back those same episodes, but now the panelists are some of my friends! It feels rather surreal.
But on the whole, I was watching a lot of American and Danish comedians. I hadn’t heard of shows like Live at the Apollo, which was part of the excitement after moving here.
Podcasts have become such an important platform for comedians. For example, I first heard of you on ‘The Guilty Feminist’. How did you get into podcast making?
I used to do this podcast, my first semi-successful podcast, and it was called Comedians Telling Stuff which is grammatically incorrect but no one told me that at the time. It was as simple as getting different comedians on the show to tell funny stories, and in fact where I met a lot of my good friends and the comedians I have collaborated with since then.
Your recent book: ‘Happy Fat’ has had such a warm reception in the UK and it’s such a positive piece! But, would you say it was fuelled in part by criticism for your ‘fat acceptance’?
Yeah, so there are a lot of trolls out there with this emotional hate towards others in general I think. Their abuse online makes them feel better, and that’s cowardly and almost sadder for them you know. However, the book itself was so much more than them. Firstly, for fat people, something for us and about us that isn’t a negative thing, but also for the people who say they are feminists, the liberals who want to think they’re on the right side of history but still don’t include fat people, who still judge and still hate. There’s alot of science, history and theory rooted in my book and it talks about how fat phobia is really damaging leading to suicide. My hope with the book was that fat people would feel listened to and maybe even be inspired to be a part of this movement.
And your show Bumswing has already begun! How is that going?
It’s going really well! I’m really really excited about it. Saying that, it’s a hard show to sell in the sense that I can’t really describe it, you have to see it to believe it, that’s the english expression right?
Bumswing is a really strange name, where did that come from?
I have always been hopeless with show titles but I wanted something funny and yet relevant to the show, and without saying too much, this bizarre title somehow manages that. It comes from the name of a very specific swing at the school where I went when I was a child in a town in Denmark called ‘Shame town’. This weirdly vivid swing and what happened on and around it over my childhood, is something that is so clear to me. And so, again very weirdly inspired by this swing, the show focuses on memory, childhood and change.
What’s next? More touring ?
So the second half of my show is my support act, Will Duncan, who many will know from the podcast All killer no filler and then I do some new material for the show that’s going to be my next show so people almost get two shows in one, even if the former is still very much a work in progress. So this whole tour is such a fun project with so many strands of different bits going on.
On the side of that: I’m writing a new book, doing my podcast, just started drafting a new sitcom pilot with Matt Watson… there’s always about a million things on my to do list, but that’s why I love my job!