Exclusive Interview with Lasse Åberg

Lars "Lasse" Gunnar Åberg

Lars “Lasse” Gunnar Åberg, Swedish actor, artist, film director and musician

By Sofie Kinnefors
Lasse Åberg is a veteran of making humor part of everything he creates. Well-known for his participation in Swedish comedy movie classics, such as Sällskapsresan and Den ofrivillige golfaren, Åberg, 80, was awarded the prestigious Hedersguldbaggen (Honorary Guldbagge Award) for his accomplishment and contribution to Swedish entertainment in January 2020. He has dedicated his life to amusing the world. “Almost everything I’ve created is based on humor – the movies, my sketches, the TV productions and my books. Humor has become my niche.”

Tell us about your upbringing and how you found your artistry. Was music and humor present in your family?

I grew up in a working-class family on Kungsholmen in Stockholm. I dreamt of becoming an artist at an early age. When I turned 10 years old I told my friends and family that I wanted to make a living as a professional artist. I spent a lot of time drawing and was praised for my work. My father was a wood turner (svarvare) and a drummer. For some time, he played with an orchestra that accompanied Frank Sinatra at Chinateatern in Stockholm in 1953. I admire my father for his sense of humor. He was always quick with a funny line.

Where did you go to college?

Konstfack (University of Arts, Crafts and Design) in Stockholm, where I was enrolled between 1960 – 1964.

What did you do next?

I participated in numerous TV comedy series. I directed and starred as Stig-Helmer Olsson in the movie Sällskapsresan and its sequels which were box office successes, made over 300 million SEK, and became international hits. I also played the role of Tarzan Apansson in children’s programs along with my fellow actor and musician Klasse Möllberg. I also performed and recorded albums together with composer/guitarist Janne Schaffer in Electric Banana Band. One project I’m very proud of is the creation of Åbergs museum featuring world-class art and an impressive Disney collection.

Who were your earliest collaborators?

Without my friend and producer Bo Jonsson, I probably wouldn't have made any movies. In the mid-70s, he sent me a letter saying: “Hi Lasse, could we meet up. I have some thoughts on a movie. Bosse.” That was the beginning of our collaboration and what would become seven movies.

What does the Hedersguldbaggen award mean to you?

Hedersguldbaggen is a kind of endorsement of the recognition comedy (igenkänningskomedi) that I represent. The award is a tremendous personal achievement. I hung my Hedersguldbagge next to my other Guldbagge Award in Åbergs museum.

Name a few other awards.

I am proud to have received the Ingmar Bergman Award in 1981 (for the film Sällskapsresan), and Guldbaggen in 1991 for best male actor in the role of Stig-Helmer Olsson in Den ofrivillige golfaren. I also received Albert Engström-priset in 2012, Piratenpriset in 2015 and H. M. The King's Medal – 8th size in blue ribbon (8:e storleken i högblått band) in 2003.

Tell us about Åbergs museum.

Åbergs museum opened in 2002. We are in a stylish barn by Väppeby gård in Båstad. On our website we describe what customers can expect from a visit. “At the museum everybody can have a good time, doesn´t matter if you are young or old. You will find a fabulous collection of cartoons and art as well as one of the world’s premier collections of Disney artefacts. For the children we have the Tarzan jungle hut. Of course, there is also a shop and a restaurant available. There is a permanent exhibition of props, photos and costumes from the films about the lanky nerd Stig-Helmer. Outside the museum is a large playground for children and two nice cows that never harm a fly. So, have a jolly day out and visit Åberg’s museum. We boast about being Sweden’s most amusing museum.” Åbergs museum and shop are open to the public Monday through Sunday from 11am until 4pm.

Åbergs museum, so near to your home in Fånäs, is widely known for your Mickey Mouse themed paintings. Of all Disney's wonderful characters, what made you choose Mickey Mouse?

Pop art has always inspired me – Lichtenstein and Warhol, for example. I started making pastiches using Mickey Mouse as my model because pop art fascinates me. It “undresses” what is considered fine culture art and affirms the simple things in life and art – the so called “little life.” One might just as well paint a soup can as a beautiful landscape. Had I started sketching today I might have chosen Hello Kitty or My Little Pony as my model.

Which artists inspire you today?

My idols include the very talented artists Jim Dine and Claes Oldenburg. Jim Dine is an American pop artist from Ohio. He became popular in the 60s and is well-known for his sketches of colorful hearts. Claes Oldenburg is a Swedish-American sculptor. He is renowned for his impressive public art installations depicting everyday objects.

Have you visited Disney Land Park in Anaheim, California or Disney World in Florida? And if so, how did you experience your visit there?

I have visited Disney's parks in California, Florida and France. I found them well-organized and effective. I do, however wish that I had been 10 years old and not middle-aged when I made my visits. It would have given me another perspective.

In which areas do you feel Sweden contributes most globally?

I think Sweden sets a good example when it comes to helping and developing third world countries (U-hjälp) and integration.

How do you think the image of Sweden is changing and developing internationally and especially in North America?

I believe that Sweden has, and always has had, a good reputation in the US and the rest of the world.

What aspects of Swedish culture and life are you personally most passionate about promoting?

As a member of Electric Banana Band, I am proud of the unprecedented success of the Swedish music industry globally. 

What have you planned for this spring and summer?

This spring I opened my souvenir exhibition (souvenirutställning) at Dansmuseet in Stockholm. I will be exhibiting my paintings on Österlen in Skåne and in Lindesberg in Västmanland. I’m also working on the script to the musical Banankontakt which premieres in October.