Norwegian Comedians Sing Praises of Former UN Official

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: He's the former top humanitarian official at the United Nations, known for his tireless work to relieve human suffering in places like northern Uganda, Sudan's Darfur region, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Here he is speaking about the situation in Darfur.

Jan Egeland: Our number one problem is there is no political coherent effort to put an end to this man-made disaster

Werman: He is Jan Egeland, the soft-spoken Norwegian diplomat. Now, compare Egeland's low-volume demeanor with this musical tribute to his diplomatic achievements.

Ylvis [singing]: But when hand grenades are flying, there's just one man you can trust. When there's war and all is hell, send in Jan Egeland, the United Nations superhero man.

Werman: As you might detect there, the song is a piece of comedy. It's the work of BOrd and Vegard YlvisOker. They're a comedy duo known as Ylvis, who have their own talk show on Norwegian TV, and they felt Jan Egeland deserved the star treatment.

Ylvis: I guess we felt that he's like a big hero but he could walk the streets of Norway without being recognized, I guess, at least by the people in our age. So we felt that it would be cool to give him the attention he deserves. We just wanted to honor him. We haven't heard his reaction yet, so we're excited to hear what he thinks. I think he's more busy saving the world still, he's around providing some contracts about not using land mines in war and doing some peace talks.

Werman: The production values on this video, all your videos, I mean they're really up there. It's not like you got a Handycam and filmed a little song you wrote.

Ylvis: The thing is that we're not on a very high budget, but we have very good people working with it and they put all their passion into it.

Werman: And that part of the song where you kind of go into full power ballad mode, you're in an arena. Was that for real?

Ylvis: Yeah, it was. That was actually for real. It was with 25,000 people. It was actually someone else's concert and we just had the opportunity to be like a support band for them.

Werman: Whose concert?

Ylvis: It's a group called Mods, so it's a new. I'm sure you've heard about it

Werman: I haven't heard of them yet, but now I am.

Ylvis: Oh, they're coming. They're coming. Definitely.

Werman: So you piggybacked on the Mods gig and got a great scene for your video.

Ylvis: Yeah. It was a great scene for the video afterwards, but when we were actually taping it, I think 25,000 people were wondering what the hell are we watching right now. There was a kind of a strange vibe going on on stage there.

Werman: Did you have to explain to them, we're shooting a video about Jan Egeland?

Ylvis: Yeah, actually it's kind of hard to explain when you are screaming to 25,000 people. What is actually happening right now, and just to explain, Egeland is quite a figure, you know, he has been peace talking in several countries. You don't get the oh, okay, that sounds interesting. It's more like, come on, I want to drink beer.

Werman: Right, and, well, 25,000 more people in Norway now know who Jan Egeland is, I guess.

Ylvis: Which is our mission.

Werman: So Jan Egeland isn't the only song you've written. Here's a song written about Stonehenge, of all subjects.

Ylvis [singing]: What's the purpose of Stonehenge? A giant granite birthday cake or a prison far too easy to escape.

Werman: All these burning issues but what you really want to know about is what does Stonehenge mean. Do you understand Stonehenge now?

Ylvis: You know after this song I get huge amounts of tips on Twitter and email all the time of, I guess you're interested in this, and there's some new explanation on Stonehenge mystery. It was fun in the beginning but now it's like, okay, another explanation of Stonehenge.

Werman: I love you guys' comedy. We've got links to your videos at BOrd and Vegard YlvisOker, the Norwegian comedy duo known as Ylvis, speaking with us from Oslo. Thanks so much.

Ylvis: Thank you. Thanks for having us.