Iceland’s Only Joke
A noble nation fueled by clean geothermal energy and a strong dose of quirkiness (they actually believe in elves, diddle around with Matthew Barney, etc.), the Icelanders are fun-loving, open, and pure at heart. I can make these broad generalizations after spending just five days in Iceland checking out the Airwaves Music Festival because there’s only 300,000 Icelanders total, which is basically the population of Manhattan below 14th Street. So when stumbling around from venue to venue checking out the bands, you encounter a representative chunk of Icelanders in toto. The dudes are friendly and a tad aggro and like to throw them ‘bows a bit too much as they jostle around the club — they are Vikings after all — but not in a headbutt-you-for-kicks sort of Glasgow Kiss way. The girls are pretty forward, pretty blonde (though not exclusively), and pretty fun. All in all a charming bunch, which makes Reykjavik a killer place to host a festival. They have a famous, stunning hot spring called the Blue Lagoon, which is worth the trip right there. But one thing the Icelanders do not have are jokes.
Me and my team of Reyka vodka-fueled anthropologists set out into Reykjavik armed with tape recorders and on a mission: to hear an Icelandic joke. After all, Iceland is a nation still reeling from a historic financial collapse. They believe in elves. They believe in copulating with elves (really!). They eat those adorable puffin birds. That right there should be sufficient comedic fodder (an elf and a puffin walk into a bank …). So we interviewed a broad cross section of the populace hoping to discover the elusive Icelandic joke, speaking to newspaper editors, club promoters, clerks, secretaries, waiters, bartenders, bankers, fishermen, musicians, artists — a whole range of Icelanders. They only thing we got was the following (and from several different people, making this Iceland’s only official joke):
Q: What do you do if you get lost in an Icelandic forest? [Pause for dramatic effect] A: Stand up! [Ed: Icelandic forests have extremely low trees.]
So, note to aspiring stand up comedians: Go to Iceland. Why try your luck in LA or New York? There’s much less competition in Iceland, and everyone speaks English. If you have more than one joke, and it doesn’t involve forestry, you’re Iceland’s Chris Rock. Photo: Eric Ervin