As a working comedian with nearly two decades of experience under his belt, Kjell Bjorgen has a lot to show for his career.
He’s toured with some of the biggest names in comedy, headlined clubs all over the country, and appeared at the prestigious Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal.
The one thing he doesn’t have? An album.
“I tried it once and I just didn’t like how it came out,” he casually explains, giving the verbal equivalent of a shrug. This weekend, Bjorgen will give it another shot, with two album recording shows at Sisyphus Brewing.
Back in 2001, Bjorgen was working as a waiter in Minneapolis when he decided to pack up, move to Los Angeles, and pursue his dreams of acting and standup comedy.
“I always loved SNL. That was it for me,” he explains of his early comedy influences. “That crowd reaction was incredible to me, and I knew it’s what I wanted.”
As an aspiring comedian, Bjorgen got plenty of that reaction very quickly, and was accepted into the Chicago Comedy Festival after just two years of performing. His set in Chicago was a hit, and soon he found himself headed to Montreal for the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival. JFL has been the launching pad for countless comedy megastars, including Amy Schumer and Kevin Hart.
While this would be a dream come true for many comics, for Bjorgen it was an ugly wakeup call.
“I bombed,” he says. “I got up and just ate shit. Because I wasn’t ready to be up there at that point. I didn’t know myself and I didn’t know my voice.”
While the experience of getting crushed on the big stage would be enough to break some comedians, it lit a fire in Bjorgen, who hit the road performing in every bar, club, and open mic he could find. The experience has allowed him to become a headline comedian at some of the biggest clubs around, including Acme Comedy Co. However, when it came time to record an album, he decided to choose a slightly more intimate setting.
“Acme is an amazing club, but it’s so big. It’s kind of like a mini-theater almost,” he explains. “Sisyphus is smaller, and you really have to engage the audience. But when you do, it just sounds so much better and more personal. That’s what I wanted for my album.”
Though it’s his first time recording a full album at Sisyphus, Bjorgen was recently a special guest of Paul Gilmartin, host of the Mental Illness Happy Hour, when it stopped by Sisyphus in October for a live podcast taping.
“That was a lot of fun. I really want to find new ways to get myself out there like that, and I think recording this album is going to allow me to do that.”
Now, 15 years after his failed Just for Laughs appearance, 45-year-old Bjorgen says he has finally found his voice.
“I know who I am now, which is another reason why now is the time to record this album.”
IF YOU GO:
8 p.m. December 7-8