Sofie Hagen - If this isn’t fun for you, then what’s the point? by Jamie Cole
It takes a dash of charm, a smidge of charisma and whole lot of confidence for a person to stand up in front of sea of eyes and ears focused solely on the words that are about to come from their mouth. Especially when those words may hit us like a ton of bricks- reminding each of us that we aren't always as kind as we should be. Danish Comedian, Sofie Hagen, took some time to tell us a little bit about how she's making an impact while keeping her fans laughing.
You mentioned that Denmark has comedians in abundance. How do you feel the humour of the audiences differ between Denmark and the UK? Do you feel as though the topics you feel strongly about are better received by audiences in the UK?
They absolutely are better received in the UK. Denmark is painfully and embarrassingly behind when it comes to accepting feminism, queerness, anti-racism and general social justice stuff. There are some absolutely incredible activists in Denmark working hard to change the status quo and I cannot praise them enough, because it is such disheartening work and they are getting pulled through shit on a daily basis for doing their important work. The society on large is still so against the very concept of progression within social justice. So, in general, the humour does differ. But when I do my shows, I get mainly feminist audiences. So they are always nice. There are people who get it.
Social Anxiety is hell! What is it about being on stage that lessens your anxiety?
It’s the fact that I am in control. I know what I am about to say, I have the microphone, the lights are on me, the seats are all turned in my direction, people are silent and waiting for me to speak and I have an hour to make a point. Even writing it down fills me with calm.
Last year you did two really remarkable things to help make your fans feel more welcome at your shows. 1) You allowed them to address their needs concerning anxiety. 2) You arranged for non-gender specific toilets for those who do not identify as male or female to feel comfortable. What impact did both of these gestures have?
It’s hard to say what impact it had, but I know what I wanted from it. Obviously, with the toilets, I wanted trans people and non-binary people to feel safe going to the bathroom. I wanted them to know that they are welcome in my shows and that they are a priority. I wouldn’t do the tour show in venues that didn’t allow me to change the toilets. But I wouldn’t expect any trans or non-binary people to be grateful or anything like that - this should be the norm. What I do want is to make a statement. So often I had to explain it to venue managers, who had never considered it before. I wanted my audiences to SEE the toilet signs and think about it. I have since then had a lot of emails from venues saying that they were going to change their toilets because of it. And I guess it’s the same with the anxiety thing - of course, I want people with anxiety to feel safe in my shows, but it’s also an important statement to make - that it’s quite easy to accommodate anxiety, if only you make a tiny effort.
You mentioned in one of your stand-up routines, Put us [plus-size women] as the lead and Let us be anything but the before photo. How did this come about?
I wouldn’t call that a stand-up routine - it was more a rant of some sort. Actually, some trolls posted it somewhere saying it was “shit poetry slam” which I only have to agree with - I was not trying to do poetry slam, so it probably is quite bad if that’s how you want to see it, yes. It was just some thoughts I wrote down on a plane one time. I was just furious. I am so tired of turning on the TV and not seeing fat bodies represented. Whenever we are, it’s as something negative. Just fucking give me some fat romantic leads, please. And a fat Disney princess. Fat action heroes. Fat superheroes.
I love your line directed toward the guy who jokes that a fat woman can’t get laid before 3am and you followed it up by saying, “I’m sorry I didn’t text you back”. Hilarious! Does this stem from a personal experience?
Absolutely. This comedian and I had slept together a few times. He was really nice and romantic. One night when I arrived, his hallway was full of lit candles and he had boyband-songs playing. This was easily early evening and we were both sober and adults about it. It never went beyond a few one-night-stands and I think it ended when I stopped contacting him. A year or so later, I hear him on a podcast joking about fat women being unable to get laid before 3am and I just imploded. You seemed to be enjoying yourself, asshole.
Do you have a stand-out moment when you decided to make a fashion statement in which you were previously not comfortable?
I have never made a conscious fashion statement. Fashion is something I know so little about - and care so little about - that my nickname when I was 12 was ‘Farm Fashion’ because apparently, clogs weren’t cool back in 2002. But less than a year ago, I was talking to a friend about style and I said, “Well, I love wearing trousers but I can’t.” and she said, “Why not?” and I said, “Because I’m fat.” and then I heard how ridiculous that sounds. I had no idea that that had been what I had been thinking my entire life. That fat people can’t wear trousers. So I bought some. The first time I wore them, I felt like I could never wear a dress again in my life. I realised I had never felt comfortable in dresses. It was a huge moment. Realising that I had worn dresses for a good 15 years without ever liking it. So in a way, wearing trousers is a statement. Dresses ‘hide your curves’ or some bullshit. Trousers are very: HELLO THIS IS MY BODY, NICE TO MEET YOU. And I like that.
Much respect for your willingness to stand up for your beliefs, especially on social media where the backlash is plentiful. What advice do you have for others who stay quiet for fear that they will be criticized if they speak up about a topic they are passionate about?
Follow people who speak up on that same topic. I follow so many fat activists and people that I see battle this online abuse so well every single day. It gives me strength. Because if you speak up online, you will get attacked. I suggest you make sure your social media and identity is secure. Make sure you have a hidden address, that your password isn’t “password” or “123456”, that no one can find your family through your Twitter - guard yourself. Just in case. And don’t read the comments. If you can get the ‘blue tick’ on Twitter, you can make it so that you can’t see most of the abuse. Never block anyone - always report the abuse and then ‘mute’ them. These trolls live to be acknowledged, so by muting them, they simply don’t exist to you, but they’ll never know. They’ll keep tweeting you, getting increasingly frustrated that you don’t answer. That’s how you win. It’s okay to take a break or to remove yourself from the debate if it’s affecting your mental health badly. Know that by speaking up, you are making a difference.
Lastly, what is your stress-relieving routine right before you go on stage?
I try to remember that it’s meant to be fun. I take deep breaths. I get my voice going. And I say to myself: If this isn’t fun for you, then what’s the point?
Sofie, my dear, nobody needed to give you the lead. You stole it!
To learn more about Sofie and follow her hilarious and inspirational journey, check out SofieHagen.com.