“I always ask them to mention that I’m Norwegian at the top, otherwise people doubt that I’m a real person – nobody speaks English that way,” jokes comedian Daniel Simonsen in his signature accent.
“I don’t even know why I talk like that myself. I just started talking, and that’s how it went. Immediately I was like, “Oh, no.”
These opening lines disarm the “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” crowd during Simonsen’s first appearance on the show in 2019.
Over the next five minutes, he details his self-doubt and general shyness as a person, a few themes that come up often in his material. It’s a formula that seems to kill wherever it occurs.
Simonsen brings his adorable brand of honest anxiety and observational humor to the Hilarities 4th Street Theater in Cleveland on September 15.
Although more recent as a comedian “on the road” in America, Simonsen first worked in comedy and television in the UK, touring theaters and even winning the UK Comedy Competition. “So You Think You’re Funny”.
The Norway native quickly made a name for himself on the New York comedy scene after moving to the United States just six or seven years ago, thanks to his nonchalant delivery, deft timing and straightforward observations.
Moving to America, he said in a recent phone interview, was a lot like “starting from scratch.”
“It was definitely a big decision. It was like going really poor again. It was really difficult for about three years,” he says.
In addition to hitting the road recently, he also performs regularly at Manhattan’s Comedy Cellar, a comedy club that hosts the city’s top performers. His stand-up frequently appears on Comedy Central’s “This Week at the Comedy Cellar.”
He says the inauguration of the famous Comedy Cellar in New York was a major turning point for his career in the United States.
“I think when I walked into the basement in New York, that changed a lot. And that’s also how I got on ‘Late Night,'” he says, referring to his debut on a TV show. late night on “Late Night with Seth Meyers” in 2018.
Although the uprooting meant a major reset, he says it was worth it.
“I just felt so strong when I arrived in New York that this was where I had to be. I always wanted – deep down inside, my dream – was always to try America one day I just decided to do it.
The city experience, in general, was also personally energizing for the comedian.
“I really like New York as a city. It was like the best city I felt like I had ever been in. It was also a big factor in (the move). But it was the same in London – the first three years I was very poor there.
Getting through comedy’s bad years is a tough job for any performer, but doing it twice, and with a shy side, is an even bigger order.
And while some comics develop a stage persona that’s partly based in truth, partly fictionalized for the stage, Simonsen says his stage presence is pretty close to the real thing.
“There’s a lot of truth in that,” he says.
“I think it’s like an improved version of yourself. It’s like whoever you are, I think, becomes amplified on a stage,” he adds. “I get quite nervous, so that’s part of it. Your nerves may not become a character but add to it, you know?
When asked how he dealt with his nerves at first, Simonsen explains, “You basically force yourself to do something that scares you. It’s (nerves) not as bad as it used to be when I started; it was extreme.
Recalling his early days in the business, he recalls being so nervous before a particular show that he kept a bucket with him backstage in case he got sick.
“Now it’s not that extreme, but I get nervous regularly. It’s kind of an extreme – standing – thing I think.
You can argue that telling your audience you’re nervous – as they did – is a bold and vulnerable move that allows the audience to be vulnerable as well.
But Simonsen isn’t so sure.
“I never really thought of it that way. But I think it’s still obvious. So I don’t share anything that they can’t smell,” he laughs.
If you ask the humble comedian what aspects of his work he thinks audiences love the most, he’ll refuse to congratulate himself.
“Actually, I have no idea. I don’t know, to be honest. It’s hard for me because I can’t really see myself from the outside. I think you always see yourself differently, you know, than you see anyone else. It’s quite difficult to judge yourself, I think.
Then there are also the cultural differences to take into account.
Reflecting on how European humor compares to American humor, he says, “I think, personally, Americans are the best at stand-up. I don’t know why, but I guess it comes from here. I guess sometimes in Europe the humor is a bit more subtle. It’s a little more in your face, maybe, in America. Punch lines are perhaps much more difficult.
Simonsen started acting on the road before the pandemic hit, but of course he had to press pause as lockdowns mounted across the country.
Now he’s back, recently wrapping up shows at the Go Bananas Comedy Club in Cincinnati — Cleveland is his next stop.
“I actually like America a lot,” he says of being on the road.
“Wherever I go here, I feel good. I haven’t been anywhere yet where I didn’t like it. It’s just kind of a magical place for me.
When: September 15.
Where: Hilarities 4th Street Theater, 2035 E. Fourth St., Cleveland.
Tickets: $40 to $120 (with tickets sold for groups of two, four and six).
Information: pickwickandfrolic.com or 216-241-7425.