Ylvis er tilbake! After a century long break (2 years), Ylvis are coming back to Norwegian people’s television screens. Following the end of five seasons of their talkshow I Kveld Med Ylvis (“Tonight with Ylvis”) , the show that brought all their greatest music videos (including that one about a dog or whatever), they now bring us STORIES FROM NORWAY – a documentary/musical series featuring all the greatest news stories from Norway*.
I was lucky enough to attend a premier held for the series in Oslo this week, so as one of the few fans that travelled from overseas to be there, I’ll do some international reportage. Pseudo-Guardian journalist style:
It’s a snowy February Tuesday in Oslo. Out on the (relatively short) red carpet, other guests are bumbling around. No barriers, security or paparazzi here. This is Norway for godsake. If you even try act like a celebrity you’ll be ostracised for breaking the laws of Jante. Since I’m on my own, I awkwardly say hello to some fellow fans and instantly remember why I shouldn’t talk to strangers, before Norwegian TV presenter and friend of Ylvis Stian Blipp comes in to save the day with his teeth-flashing (is that a thing?) arrival. I jump on the selfie-bandwagon and ask him for a pic. I’m instantly outted as a foreigner by my failure to formulate a coherent sentence in Norwegian (I swear I managed fine in 7/11 earlier) but it makes a nice icebreaker. He politely asks where I’m from, if I’d like him to do the selfie (his millenial radar must have sensed I’m not part of the Snapchat generation) and is generally lovely and surprised that I have actually bothered to fly over here just for the event. The pleasure’s all mine Stian, the pleasure’s all mine.
It’s time to go in and all us ‘normal’ folk are ushered upstairs. I catch a glimpse of the brothers running around like they’re making sure everything’s under control (to be fair they probably set up the whole thing themselves. Once again, *patronising American accent* this is NOR-WAY). The doors open to a balcony of a small but beautiful traditional theatre. This is Christiania Teater, an old theatre now operating as a hotel and gorgeous venue (my event production-head fell in love). I scout out a good spot, perching myself on a ‘front row’ spot stage right. From here I get to do some celeb spotting from above to pass the time before the show starts.
We’re treated to the first two episodes of Stories From Norway, introduced by Eivind Landsverk, head of TV Norge (channel broadcaster). The first episode, Stupetårnet, tells the story of the diving board built in the small town of Hamar, that ended up running massively overschedule and overbudget by around 24 million kroner (originally due to be 1.5 million), resulting in a huge media scandal. (For my Hamburg friends, think the fuss around the Elbphilharmonie but on a vastly shitter scale). Each episode of the series deals with a different story, brought to life in the form of an English-language musical and intersected with documentary style interviews with the real-life people involved.
It might sound absurd, but if you have followed any of Ylvis’ work (not just that song), it actually makes complete sense for them to come out with a documentary-musical-parody-format at this point in their career. A lot of parody humour can get a little tedious, but Ylvis have a real knack for paying attention to and caricaturing the details you probably didn’t even notice. In fact the quality of the production of the whole show is as good as if it were completely serious. Their self-depreciating humour is also present, unafraid of poking fun at themselves or in this case, their country-men. Add to that their actual musical talent and proven creativity, through over 15 years of comedy stage/revue and television, backed by their own production company and entrusted with full creative control by TV Norge, it’s almost written that it’ll be a winner.
Without giving any spoilers, the Hamar episode, despite being a very typical Norwegian tale, doesn’t disappoint. The documentary elements offer a welcome break between familiar cringe-style musical segments, and the editing and timings serve to exaggerate the absurdity of the story. The musical reconstructions sway from realism to the surreal, so much so that you can count on the unexpected to make you crack a smile if not full on howl with laughter.
Following the first episode, Bard and Vegard join Eivind on stage to introduce the next episode. This is the one I’m most excited to see and that is more likely to draw international attention. It’s about the time our favourite Canadian pop star Justin Bieber went to Norway, spilt water on stage and, after getting pissed at fans trying to pull on his towel, stormed off and refused to play the rest of the show. What a dick. A superstar diva moment might not sound so ‘wow’, but the episodes dealing of Bieber-fever and the media circus around a REAL star visiting Norway adds to the geniality of the story.
Clips from the episode have already been circulating for a while online as promotion. The spillage scene, complete with the offending water splashing fangirl-Bård in the face has a kind of League of Gentlemen-vibe to it, though the full episode is full-on Ylvis in its own right (I wish I could write more about it, but I really don’t want to spoil it!).
The premiere is a success and I have my own Bieber-style fangirl moment by stealthily interrupting the press huddle downstairs to get a photo with the guys (apparently being in your thirties, alone and in a dress that looks like a tablecloth makes you look less fangirl and more Norwegian press. But hey I’m doing this international reportage blog post here aren’t I?).
To sum up, the show is sheer Ylvis brilliance. I only hope the 2nd episode won’t result in a backlash from Beliebers, though lets face it, even his fans should be pissed off at his behaviour. Ylvis are very clever and despite making fun of lots of things they never resort to ‘mean’ comedy. Norwegian (and Scandinavian humour in general) can be quite dark and similar to dry British humour, and for that reason I think it’ll appeal to more than just a Norwegian audience. Even if the rest of the world still only knows them as the Fox guys, for their fans and followers in Norway and beyond, this might just be the next peak in Ylvis’ career.
Stories from Norway will be shown online for free on Dplay from Monday 19th February, with a new episode every Monday. Check it ooooot!!
EDIT (19th Feb) – after FINALLY being able to re-watch both episodes (it’s been a long 6 days) and seeing the overwelmingly positive reaction from both fans and critics, I just wanted to add that I am so fucking proud of these dudes ❤ . I love everything they’ve done/do but to see them come back time and time again just smashing it.. gah I don’t know how to express emotions in words (I know, why have a blog right?) but, Bård and Vegard –
* Or for the fan nerds who have gotten through the entire YouTube-bank of Ylvis content you could say an INFUSICAL.