Friday 04 December ComedyHK hosts a special One-Night-Only performance with international comedian Daniel-Ryan Spaulding. We caught up with Daniel-Ryan Spaulding ahead of his arrival to learn more about his “Expat Life.” Interview by Andrew Grant
Tell us about your new show, “Expat Life”. What should audiences expect to see? What are you hoping audiences will take away?
I like to describe “Expat Life” as a wild ride through Expat culture. I’ve been to many expat events, and they are usually pretty bland socially.
I wanted to create a show for internationals thats breaks the ice of polite social interactions. I’ve toured the show throughout Europe, and its always been a fantastic way to kick off the night, and give people something to talk about after the show.
I am assuming your show is inspired by your own experiences as an expat living in Amsterdam. What was it that made you want to leave your native Canada? Why did you settle on Amsterdam?
I left Canada in 2011 to tour internationally. Canada is lovely, but its not for me. I wanted to travel and see the world. Living in Europe has been amazing. I love that so many countries are so close together. You can easily go on weekend trips to Barcelona, Berlin, Stockholm. You can’t do the same in Canada: it’s a huge country and even its own cities are spread far apart.
I moved in Amsterdam in 2014 for a number of reasons. I think Dutch values are well aligned with Canadian sensibilities, and at the time I was building good working relationships with a number of Dutch comedy companies. The Dutch are good buisness people, very open to collaboration, and working with people from around the world.
You live in Amsterdam yet you have a page on your website dedicated to Norway. What is your relationship with Norway, and why do they get their own page while your country of residence, The Netherlands, do not?
Mainly because me website needs an update!
I lived in Norway for nearly 2 years before I moved to Holland. I created a show about Norwegian culture, and toured it throughout the country. I still do shows there every 3-6 months, but ultimately it was not the right timing for me there. My show was very popular with international audiences in Oslo, but it was impossible to break into a larger mainstream Norwegian crowd as an English language comedian. I still love Norway, and will always be open to performing there.
In just about every interview, biography, or review at some point refers to you as “Canadian comedian Daniel-Ryan Spaulding.” Does your nationality play any part in your identity, either onstage or off?
Labels are important to people and business. I consider myself a “citizen of the world”, but yes, I was born and raised in Canada. I don’t mind being Canadian, but I do get annoyed how often that title is attached to me – professionally and socially.
I am half-Croatian, and that is also a part of who I am. I connect a lot with Croatian & European culture. I was also educated at a French school, and grew up in a very multicultural community. And I’ve lived most of my adult life in Europe. So it can be a tough pill to swallow to always be introduced as “Canadian” because it often has a very bland or white-washed connontation to it. I cannot deny that I am Canadian. Canadians have a unique sense of humour, its a little quirky, campy, and usually quite creative – and you can definitely see that in my act.
I watched your videos “Shit Expats say in The Netherlands” and “Shit Expats in Norway Say” and found that a lot of the stuff you say is directly applicable to the expat community in Hong Kong.
Having toured around the world, how universal do you feel the expat experience is?
The expat / immigrant experience is very relatable, because – at its core – it is about cross-cultural comparasion, and the feeling of being a fish-out-of-water. Everyone can connect to that!
Your bio says you are the first openly gay comedian to tour Eastern Europe and Asia. Many of those countries don’t have the most progressive attitude toward homosexuality. How has your reception been? Have you faced any challenges touring in these countries?
People are often shocked when I say things like “I’m performing in Bosnia next week!” They imagine me being beaten to death by homophobes on stage. But it’s a common misconception.
Most people who go to comedy are open minded individuals, because they are there to listen to people share their observations, opinions & experiences. Extremely closed-minded, negative, or violent people usually arent up to the task of “listening & laughing.” And, like any professional: I tailor my material to the audience. I know how far I can go before it becomes uncomfortable. I know when to be mild mannered versus when to be uninhibited & filthy.
Conversely, there are homophobic & ignorant people in the “progressive” countries too. Just because I’m performing in the UK or Scandinavia doesn’t mean I wont have an asshole audience member come up to me after the show, say something offensive, or avoid eye contact with a disgusted look on their face. I’ve experienced a whole range of reactions extremely positive to negative, so I cannot judge or make assumptions about any culture.
At the same time, would I ever perform in Saudi Arabia? Probably not.
You can catch Daniel-Ryan Spaulding’s new show EXPAT LIFE live in Hong Kong Friday December 4th in Sunset Lounge at Le Meridien Cyberport. Ticket holders can enjoy a free shuttle bus from Hong Kong Station, and 50% off food and drinks at the venue. Full info and details at comedy.hk/DanielRyanSpaulding