Ari Eldjárn – Return of the Icelandic

By Bren Carruthers

In most eyes, Ari Eldjárn is the Icelandic comedian – no other act has had greater success between here and the North Sea. Surely then, it should come as no surprise that his primary source of mirth and mockery is his homeland, the quaintness and oftentimes ridiculousness of Icelandic life.

It’s a deep well of content, and as he caricatures his fellow countrymen, as well as Danes, Swedes and Germans, it’s surprising to find how well-received it is by an Australian audience that – one would have to assume – have no more than a passing familiarity with the region. It may well be that Eldjárn’s relatively innocuous skewering is a close match for the classic Australian pursuit of egalitarian pisstaking.

While effective, the choice in material does render Eldjárn pretty one-dimensionally. In fact, he is well into the second half of Return of the Icelandic before he begins to offer us any insight into himself as a person: his family, his home life, his one-time DJing career. It makes for an odd, even slightly unnerving shift, as though a few pages of content from elsewhere have been stapled to the back of the runsheet to fill time, or as though Eldjárn’s identity itself has been ruthlessly relegated to a fifteen minute afterthought.

Does Eldjárn nail the laughs? Absolutely. But it’s hard not to think about how a better approach to constructing a show would take his craft to the next level – a level he is quite obviously capable of reaching.

Ari Eldjárn’s Return of the Icelandic is on in Melbourne Town Hall’s Powder Room until April 16.