Guest List

Greg Poehler Finds His Swede Legs

The comedian and actor lists fellow characters who're strangers in strange lands.

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VALERY HACHE / AFP / GETTY

Comedian and actor Greg Poehler is indeed the brother of comedian and actor Amy Poehler, but he’s made a name for himself most recently as the creator of a sweet, low-key sitcom, “Welcome to Sweden.”  In Sweden, where it first aired, it was such an enormous success that literally half the country’s entire television audience tuned in — and now it’s airing in the US, Thursdays on NBC. The show is a semi-autobiographical fish-out-of-water tale, so Mr. Poehler prepared a list of other accounts of acclimation:

 

Hello. I’m Greg Poehler. I am the producer, creator, and lead actor of “Welcome to Sweden.” And it’s a show about my life, really; I’m an American who moved to Sweden for love.

My character Bruce is very much a fish out of water. Because of that, I’ve been asked to make a list of my favorite fish out of water characters. So this is my list.

Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, & Before Midnight

The first thing that came to mind is the “Before Sunrise,” “Before Sunset,” “Before Midnight” movies. The Richard Linklater films. For those that haven’t seen these movies, they’re pretty interesting — they’re spaced nine years apart.

In the first one, Ethan Hawke’s character meets Julie Delpy, in Vienna. They’re both kind of traveling their separate ways. He’s an American, she’s a French woman.

And then in the third installment, “Before Midnight,” which I just saw, they are both in Greece now, working through the struggles that couples who have been together for a long time have.

I think for me, personally, it’s interesting watching these movies, especially now; I’m living in Sweden, I know what goes into these relationships. When you have two people from different cultures — in this case, French and American — there’s always going to be someone who is sacrificing something. No matter how deep and great your love is, the question is whether that’s enough.  And it almost has to be more love, I think, in a cross-border relationship than in a non.  Because it is so easy to just give up and say, “You know what? I just want to go home.”

 

Diff’rent Strokes


Another pick, as far as fish out of water tales, is something which is completely different, and that is “Diff’rent Strokes,” starring Gary Coleman.

“Diff’rent Strokes” is a show about two African American kids, Arnold and Willis Jackson, who are adopted by a very wealthy White man, played by Conrad Bane, Mr Drummond. Gary Coleman, in general, is just so funny in that role. His comedic timing, for such a young actor, is really amazing.

There’s something about that feeling of entering a new world. The thing about that dynamic is I think it forces the viewer to kind of reassess their own life in many ways — when you see people from a different environment through their eyes.  You’re seeing ‘upper class’ through the eyes of a young African American.

 

Big


Another thing I thought of is the movie “Big,” starring Tom Hanks. He starts off the movie as a child, and makes a wish at an amusement park to be big.   And he turns into this young kid in a middle aged man’s body. He’s very much trying to find his way in this new world.

Everyone has had that feeling of — when you step off the plane and are in a strange environment — you have to kind of reinvent yourself.  But also just wanting to go back to who you were before. When you try to reinvent yourself, are forced to reinvent yourself, sometimes you don’t like who you become.  And that movie, I think, on a much stranger level, really exemplifies that. No matter how well the adult version of him turns out to do or to be, he wants to go back to who he was before.

I feel like I’ve overcome all of these obstacles in my own life. I’ve been in Sweden now for eight years. Over time, you realize that, unlike “Big,” you don’t want to return to your former self, especially if you have a love that’s strong enough.

Now… I wouldn’t say I am a fish in water.  But I’m at least nearby.