Viggo Venn started to realise something was up when Amanda Holden handed him a photograph of her mum in a hi vis waistcoat.
“When Amanda Holden shows you a picture of her mum in a hi vis you think: ‘There’s something happening here.’”
From being a rank outsider on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ the crazy haired Norwegian suddenly realised he was in with a chance and then, in April this year, he became the shock winner.
“I wasn’t the favourite. My friend’s Dad bet £10 early on and won £1,600.”
Initially the judges, the studio audience and the viewers wondered why they couldn’t stop laughing at this irrepressible fool skipping around the stage and removing loads of jackets.
He even received a NO vote Simon Cowell the first time he appeared.
But there was no stopping Viggo Venn. His seemingly simple act was full of new surprises each week and he became a fan favourite – beating the competition and drowning out the heartstring-tugging sob-stories with his irresistible joie de vivre.
Since the win he hasn’t stopped moving.
“It has been the craziest time of my life. I have been in a high vis factory and I’ve given a high vis to the Ambassador of Norway.”
In his homeland Norway, where Viggo Venn was not so well known, he is now a celebrity.
“In the UK they are used to this sort of humour but in Norway it’s OK, this is new.”
Viggo is so highly thought of, he now works as a tutor alongside the famous clown teacher Phillippe Gaulier in Paris.
Of course, Edinburgh Fringe audiences and comedy fans have known about Viggo for many years – both as half of the popular clown act Zach and Viggo (with Zach Zucker) and as a solo performer.
In fact, the now famous high vis routine, originally featuring only three jackets, was an opening number for Zach and Viggo, who also had a routine featuring an auto-tune machine – as seen on BGT.
When Zach and Viggo decided to pursue solo careers, Venn tried to develop as a stand-up with his show British Comedian, which made great play of the fact that whatever he did on stage he was always introduced as Norwegian.
“I wanted to do stand-up. The stand-up crowd is so warm. I do know I’m a clown but I did try to talk.”
For his comedy pals, who’ve gigged with Venn at venues up and down the UK and at Stamptown, the long-running variety night run by Zucher, his win was a breakthrough – particularly as it introduced a wider audience to modern clowning – which is a favourite at festivals around the world but rarely makes it into the mainstream.
“The clown community has been so happy. They say it’s so good to see what we do work on that sort of stage.”
Zach and Viggo remain good friends and reunited on stage at the Montreal Comedy Festival in July.
Venn, who did a ‘tiny tour’ at the beginning of the year is planning a tour of major theatres in the Autumn, produced by the comic Mark Watson. It will be the same show he’s doing in Edinburgh’s Monkey Barrel – but bigger.
“I think we need to adapt it to a bigger stage.”
He’s played a music show in Norway to 20,000 people – but also regularly appears at the Bill Murray in London to an audience of eighty. Has the fame changed the way crowds respond?
“Before ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ I had to warm them up – but now there’s an expectation when the show starts.”
Despite the odd bit of social media and tabloid griping about him being the wrong sort of act, Venn has nothing but good things to say about his TV experience.
“It was fantastic. Before I did ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ I thought it was more staged – but it’s actually a real thing. The judges don’t know anything.
“Also, they let me do stupid things. I asked for 4,000 high vis vests and they said: ‘Let’s do it.
“I was very happy and very free as an artist to do what I wanted.”
He brushes off the idea of a backlash.
“I did some research on it – on past winners. Eighty per cent of people won’t have voted for me – so I understand that they won’t be happy about it.”
Really nothing seems to phase Viggo Venn – he was and remains an absolute delight. All this couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
For his Autumn tour he may have some special guests, possibly including award-winning clown Julia Masli, who as part of surreal sketch show Legs was the winner of the Malcolm Hardee award for Comic Originality.
And in Edinburgh Masli and Venn, who booked the slot months ago before any of this happened, will be sharing a run– with two weeks apiece at the Monkey Barrel at midnight.
When Masli’s show ‘Hahahahaha’ is on, Viggo Venn will be working the sound and light desk.
The effortlessly good-natured Norwegian thinks that is hilarious in itself.
“It’s funny. I won Britain’s Got Talent but in Edinburgh I’ll be working as a tech.”
Viggo Venn: British Comedian
August 16 – 27