People always like to talk about the weather, whether to make their plans according to it or recall events – especially if the weather happens to be extreme. That is how I am reminded of last week with its piercing wind, which noticeably quickened my usual pace. The good thing was, two events started, the Artishok biennial and Tallinn Comedy Festival, which offered and still offer (as the biennial still lasts) an opportunity to think and laugh at oneself and life in a cosily warm room. What is this dark time for, if not for inner contemplation. Culture.ee will hopefully post something in its blog about the biennial, but in the following paragraphs I will reflect on the impressions by Fopaa that took place at Tallinn Comedy Festival and the stand-up comedy by famous British comedian Steven K. Amos. All the rankings and charts friends beware that I will not rank the comedians, let this habit remain in the past.
Having listened to Fopaa before and Fopaa having advertised that they would perform some familiar jokes their friends would know from before, I felt like going into a comfort zone. In my imagination, I thought I knew what to expect and what Fopaa’s main figures Kaarel Nõmmik, Mattias Naan, Märt Koik, Tigran Gevorkjan and Kadri-Maria Mitt would generate. I was more or less right, but there were surprises. For example, it was pleasant that Märt Koik never stopped making fun of Helme family’s political party EKRE, that Tigran Gevorkjan revealed his family’s connection to the hot TV show of the 90s, „Travelling with You“, and that Kaarel Nõmmik’s business idea or vision about delivering kabanoss, a special Estonian wiener, to hospitals, has now been published. And, of course, Mattias Naan delivered at his renowned high quality. He only needs to appear on stage for me to start to want to giggle. In general, performances by Kadri-Maria Mitt have seemed likeable to me as well, but this time around I don’t know if it was the audience’s apathetic state or what affected her, but it came across as rather bland. In the spring, at Fopaa’s “best of” in Von Krahl theatre, the audience breathed in tune with her a lot more and she seemed much more convincing. Her jokes are not bad at all – they’re good, some even intelligent. Of course, intelligent is not the most correct word to describe some of Mitt’s pronouncements. Those, who know, what I mean, know.
For me, the new types in the Fopaa lineup were Lenno Kuurmaa and Märt Niidasoo. Lenno Kuurmaa, which is unfortunately only the pseudonym of the artist, came, similarly to Nõmmik, out with the business idea of producing holokaustiks (holo-notebooks) and told horror stories about an epidemic, which has hit Estonia, of gluten intolerance. We can speculate endlessly, whether gluten intolerance is only another trend or not, but the fact is that in order to avoid inexplicable stomach aches it seems best to just run from gluten as fast as possible. Those who know, know. Märt Niidasoo, on the other hand, described sad events that he has seen and heard a resident of the beating capital Pärnu. Having lived in a depressive Estonian village, these stories seemed familiar, I could just picture village discos that always ended in a fight. And well, as usual, no one knew why they even started. In conclusion, Fopaa was an ideal opportunity to escape for the wind and, as I often hear appeals for more physical activity, I moved my laughing muscles a lot that evening.
Frankly, I knew nothing about Steven K. Amos before. In fear of prejudices, I did not watch or google anything. In a way, I was a tabula rasa in this weird old ladies’ building called Salme cultural centre, to use Amos’s words. But seeing the number of people crowding into the hall of Salme cultural centre, his name was not unknown to people. Amos had divided the evening programme into two parts, the first to get to know the local audience and the second for more general and newer show elements. The apathy and numbness of Estonians was, of course, something that Amos could poke fun at. A grumpy face and crossed arms could be seen in the audience and reflected by Amos on stage. But as time passed, the faces became less grumpy, as Amos made us laugh about our own aloofness, racism and internet comments. The range of topics was even wider, but who knows, knows. In general, the level of engagement had grown a lot by the end of the evening and I believe such an applause had not been heard in Salme cultural centre in a while. I believe that also Steven K. Amos got the best experience from his visit here that an apathetic kabanoss-loving audience could offer – shivers from an applause.