Britain’s Funniest Gag Writer Will Headline At Shaftesbury Fringe 2020

The comedian who won the award for the funniest joke at Edinburgh Fringe 2019 will return to headline at Shaftesbury Fringe in July. Swedish stand-up Olaf Falafel has been recognised for his comedy material for three years in a row.

Olaf was one of the first performers to register for Shaftesbury Fringe 2020 when the website started accepting bookings on 1st January. As he waited to board a plane at Copenhagen Airport, he shared his gag which was voted the best at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

“I keep randomly shouting out cauliflower and broccoli. I think I might have florets,” said Olaf.

Each year, television channel Dave asks ten critics to compile a shortlist of their six favourite jokes from the Edinburgh events. Those choices are then shared with 2,000 people, who are not told the name of the performers. They vote for their favourite. Olaf says the publicity that followed his win led to sell-out shows. “It was doing quite well anyway and then, all of a sudden, overnight, I was having to turn people away. It was good for business,” laughed Olaf.

Olaf Falafel with his award for the funniest joke at Edinburgh Fringe 2019

Somebody once said, ‘There’s no such thing as bad publicity’ and it seems that the media that reported outrage over the joke helped to keep Olaf in the spotlight for even longer. There were claims that the gag was mocking Tourette’s sufferers, although Olaf doesn’t agree. Nevertheless, the reaction surprised the comedian and he received some direct complaints.

“Quite a bit, including email,” said Olaf. “People were being quite vocal in asking me to publicly apologise, saying it was offensive. It was interesting. I was number three in that list in 2018 and two years ago I was number nine. I don’t think any of it is offensive, but it was far more likely to provoke outrage. It was, ‘I wasn’t that close to my dad before he died. It was lucky because he trod on a landmine’.”

Olaf said there were no negative reactions about that joke. He feels that many people who complained about his 2019 gag were trying to create awareness of Tourette’s syndrome. “They did, and they rode on the back of it,” he says. “Some people were genuinely offended which I can’t quite understand. It was wordplay. It was never mocking people and wasn’t done from a place of hatred. I do think about things before I say them like most comedians tend to. It just depends where that line is. Everybody has that line in their head and is different for everyone, so you can’t please everybody.”

Olaf doesn’t feel compelled to get in the best jokes list this year, because he’s been so successful in this competition previously. “The pressure is off to be honest. I’ve been in that list three times in a row. I am fully expecting not to feature at all this year”

He says he enjoyed his performance at Shaftesbury Fringe and is looking forward to returning with a new hour-long set this summer. “It was a wonderful show with a great audience. It was a really good warm-up for Edinburgh, I’m hoping for more of the same,” he said.

Olaf says Shaftesbury Fringe works well for him as a performer. “You need to run through stuff as a comedian,” he said. “If you were doing an Edinburgh show, a lot of it is experimental and it’s the kind of comedy you can’t necessarily do in a 15-minute set at a London comedy club. You need somewhere that’s a little more off the beaten track where they are willing to give you an hour.”

He likes the warm and welcoming atmosphere in our town. “Perhaps you don’t have so much comedy come to you. Perhaps you are more appreciative when people do come along and a bit more forgiving when it’s a bit more stupid and not quite as polished. I really enjoyed it and that’s why I am coming back,” said Olaf.

Olaf’s hour-long show ‘Perk In Woegress’ is on in the backroom at The Mitre at 8.45pm on Saturday, 7th July 2020.

If you want to present your own comedy, music, theatre or spoken word show in one of the many venues dotted around Shaftesbury town centre, registration is now open at ShaftesburyFringe.co.uk.