Sofie Hagen: Bubblewrapped
By Chris Cooke | Published on Wednesday 26 August 2015
Lots of real life, and a little Westlife-themed fan fiction, fill Sofie Hagen’s first full hour show at the Fringe, and what a gem of a show it really is. Which is just as well, given a venue mix-up put her in a space with 500 rather than the expected 70 seats. Harking from Denmark, living in London, and winning in Edinburgh, Sofie put down the ‘Bubblewrap’ and agreed to answer all our questions.
CC: So, this is your first full-hour show at the Fringe. How’s it going so far?
SH: Well, it has taken me three weeks, but I have finally located the hidden chamber where the Scots keep all their vegetables, so I’m now feeling a lot better physically. And mentally, I’m much better than I thought I would be by this point. I feel like I have been extremely lucky this Fringe, my audiences have been the best people.
CC: Is there a theme in the show?
SH: There are a few themes, I think. I touch upon everything from mental heath to body image, from fetishes to boybands. And I stubbornly make all that somehow relevant to each other.
CC: Does the show bring together material you’ve performed in the past, or did you start with a blank page?
SH: My show doesn’t really have any ‘material’. Nor were there any pages involved. A few months ago I walked on stage and told a few stories about my life and suddenly 50 minutes had passed. And that became my show. People who know me who have seen it have all said the same thing, that I am completely different on stage this time. And that’s because I’m not doing stuff that has to work in a Saturday night comedy club in Liverpool, in front of a load of drunk builders. So I am just completely and honestly sharing – maybe over sharing! – stories about my life.
CC: You mentioned the boybands. What is it with Westlife?
SH: They’re only the best boyband ever, mate. I was a very obsessed teenage fan, to say the least.
CC: But I hear that all five (original) members have so far failed to see the show. Will you start writing fan fiction about The Wanted instead?
SH: Oh my God, I had to just Google them to find out who they even were. They are children! No, once a Westlifer, always a Westlifer. And I haven’t given up yet. Kian, Mark, Brian and Nicky have all shown interest in seeing the show at one point or another, so I just need to make all the stars line up. It will happen.
CC: Let’s back up a bit, tell us how you first got into comedy.
SH: I got myself some volunteer work at an open mic night in Copenhagen in 2010. From day one, I was hooked. I went home and wrote sixteen pages of “jokes”. Eventually the comedians forced me to actually try them out. And it was the biggest rush of my life.
CC: Why did you decide to move to the UK, and how did you go about getting noticed on the comedy scene over here?
SH: I went to London on a vacation, alone, to get over a heartbreak. Comedy feels like home in any country, so I found some open mic nights. As soon as I had gotten a taste of the UK comedy scene, I knew I couldn’t go back to Denmark. In Denmark there is one comedy club. In the UK, four new clubs have just opened while I’ve been answering this question. So I ignored my plane ticket home, found a flat and just kept on performing. That’s how you get noticed, by the way. Keep gigging and be funny. Eventually they’ll ask you to do more stuff.
CC: What’s it like doing comedy in a second language? Are you thinking in English or Danish?
SH: English is the perfect language for comedy. You have four times as many words as we do in Danish, so the possibility of making ‘the perfect sentence’ for ‘the perfect joke’ is bigger. So I enjoy doing comedy in English way more than in Danish. I think in both languages, depending on where I am, who I am talking to and what I am doing. Though I can’t have a phonecall with a Danish friend before going on stage, because then I will be a split second too slow.
CC: Aside from the language, do you have to alter the routine between UK and Danish audiences? Do cultural references need to change?
SH: I gig all over the world. I have gigged in sixteen countries now, so I don’t really use any cultural references. I talk about myself and the things I find funny, and that has so far proven to be universal. The main difference is how behind Denmark is in some regards. In the UK, you’ll say the word ‘feminism’ on stage and automatically get a supporting round of applause – where in Denmark, they’ll heckle me and tell me to get back in the kitchen.
CC: But does Westlife fan fiction cross all boundaries?
SH: Westlife fan fiction does not necessarily cross any boundaries. But reading it out loud on stage in front of a room full of people might.
CC: We love your podcast. Tell us more about that.
SH: I LOVE MY PODCAST TOO. It’s the best thing I have ever created, maybe apart from my show. It is called Comedians Telling Stuff – because no one told me not to before it was too late – and it is based on anecdotes and stories told by comedians. And it has had some amazing comedians on it, including Josie Long, Kyle Kinane, Mark Watson, Colin Mochrie, Russell Kane, Shappi Khorsandi, Nick Helm, Andy Zaltzman, and many more. I love doing it and I love my listeners. Meeting them at the show has been the best thing about my Fringe.
CC: I hear you’ve had some venue issues this Festival. Has it all worked out?
SH: I was meant to be in a 70-seater which didn’t get built, for some reason. No one’s fault, really. So PBH’s Free Fringe helped me out and placed me in a last-minute room – a 500 seater music venue where acts like Seether, Deadmau5 and Rage Against The Machine have all played. And, in fact, on five of my dates there are actual rock bands playing in there in my time slot! So I’m having to perform at different venues at slightly different times on those days. It was all a bit of a mess, and has been quite stressful, but hopefully people will bear with me and find my show!
CC: Away from your own venue stresses, you pop up at lots of the late night shows at the Festival. Do you have any favourites?
SH: ‘SetList’ and ‘Voices In Your Head’. They really push me out of my comfort zone and that is when the real magic happens. Plus they are not attended by drunk lads-lads-lads, like most late night shows.
CC: And finally, what next, for you and the show?
SH: Straight after Edinburgh, I am going to Denmark for a Danish festival where I am doing the show. Then I am going to Lund in Sweden for their festival. Then back to the UK, where I will hopefully be doing it in a few more places, if anyone wants me. I might eventually have to go to the individual members of Westlife’s houses and to do it in their front gardens. Just to make sure they see it before I start working on next year’s show.
‘Sofie Hagen: Bubblewrap’ was performed as part of PBH’s Free Fringe at Edinburgh Festival 2015.
Photos by David P Scott