Culture / Interview

“I’m Not a Comedian”: Fredrik Skavlan in Conversation


The host of Scandinavia’s biggest talk show, FREDRIK SKAVLAN is the communicator that returns the chat show to its origins…

You’re a Norwegian-Swedish talk show. Why are we in the UK?

Well, that’s a good question! I started recording my show here many years ago. The show is about conversation, it’s not rehearsed like many others, where it’s just about telling jokes. I’m a journalist, not a comedian. I started doing the show in Norway back in 90s. We attracted international guests, but to get more we had to travel. Currently, we have sets in Stockholm, London and New York.

But you are, nevertheless, a Scandinavian talk show.

Yes, we are certainly a Scandinavian talk show… and certainly my English reveals that! I think it’s wonderful that we’re so close, Scandinavia and the UK. We both have royal families, a lot of history, and we really seem to like each other. I’ve been coming to London since I was a kid. Scandinavians are very different people. It’s a bit like the four corners of the UK: we can understand but also confuse each other. I can start with a Norwegian, then bring on a Swede. When I bring an English speaker on, we’re forced to speak broken English and we become a Scandinavian unit. My job is to make conversation work. Sometimes I use an earpiece for translation, but I don’t like it. I never usually wear one because I don’t want the editor feeding me lines! I know what I want, and I have some bullet points, but then it’s about listening and following up.

Surely the producer has some ideas…

I work with my team, but I have to take full responsibility out there. We all try to come up with ideas, and when I’m not recording, I’m part of the team. There’s too much travelling though… we try to do New York in one go, but we do fly guests around. I wish we didn’t fly so much because I had Greta Thunberg on the show and I did feel a bit guilty!

Have you had any horror stories?

I’m always asked that. Of course, I have. But the lovely thing is we can edit them away. That being said, keeping some of the mistakes is a good thing. It makes it authentic. I like to be surprised and I like to try to surprise the guests. When I’m preparing, I often do a ‘pre-interview’, but I like to put in some questions in they don’t know are coming. I had Michael Parkinson on the show, I admire Dick Cavett in America. But I really believe in keeping the conversation alive, and to do that you can’t only tell jokes. Yes, I want a laugh too. But I can’t make a show about that.

FREDRIK SKAVLAN is the host of Skavlan, broadcast every Friday on SVT1 in Sweden and TV2 in Norway.

This article has also been published in Nordic Style Magazine.

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