Enjoy Norsk storytelling from the Upper Midwest

Chad Filley makes you laugh like a Norwegian

Chad Filley

Photos courtesy of Chad Filley
Chad Filley is an author, comedian, and storyteller based in Cambridge, Minn., who really knows how to make a Norwegian-American audience laugh.

Lori Ann Reinhall
The Norwegian American

Chad Filley is an author, comedian, and storyteller based in Cambridge, Minn. Described by some as “the best-kept comedy secret in Minnesota,” his reach goes far beyond his home state, as he has entertained audiences throughout North America.

With a unique ability to touch people across all age groups and walks of life, since 2010, he has performed at corporate functions, prisons, comedy clubs, school groups, festivals, banquets, and churches. He has even appeared on stage in Las Vegas and at the legendary Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn. The sky seems to be the limit for Chad, the man with the contagious smile, who simply is able to make people laugh.

As his website,, explains, most of Chad’s material comes from everyday life, which makes it so easy for his audiences to relate to him. He tells stories of “survival in the trenches of parenthood, matrimony, teaching high school, coaching, and firefighting.” He combines his own real-life experiences with “a humorous spin, helping him turn everyday events into comical stories.”

Most notably for readers of this newspaper, Chad is a Scandinavian storyteller, who is making his mark throughout the Norwegian-American community.

He was first inspired to explore the humor of his Norwegian roots when he got a grant one-time to work with storyteller Kevin Kling of international acclaim. As part of the collaboration, Kling took Chad to the International Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tenn.

“I saw Jewish storytellers, I saw Spanish storytellers, I saw Irish storytellers, all kinds of storytellers, but there was no Scandinavian storytellers,” Chad recalled. He knew there was a space to be filled.

Years of research went into the new project, which became The Norsk Storyteller ( Blending historical and family tales, Chad tells “hysterical and historical” stories of Scandinavian immigrants and their descendants in the Upper Midwest, including a story about his grandmother, Lily Filley.

These days, Chad is a frequent guest at Scandinavian events and festivals throughout the region and beyond. “No event is too big or too small” for the norsk storyteller. You may run into him at your local Sons of Norway lodge of at the Norsk Høstfest in Minot, N.D., where he was a big hit last fall.

With program titles including “The Immigrants’ Long Journey from Scandinavia to Minnesota,” and “Humorous Stories of Immigrants and their Descendants,” this popular Norwegian-American comic is ready to bring the house down wherever he goes.

This June, the Norwegian storyteller will travel to Norway for the first time to deepen his cross-cultural experience, and, above all, find new material. In Oslo, he will begin his research with Siv Ringdal at the Folk Museum, and then it will be on to Ottestad, to the Norwegian Emigrant Museum, where he will perform storytelling for Friends of the Museum and the local Sons of Norway. He will also meet with the museum’s director, Terje Mikael Hasle Joranger, to gather information and stories of emigrants.

The next stop on Chad’s Norwegian tour is Bergen for more research at the Leprosy Museum and the Maritime Museum.

Finally, Chad will head north to Tromsø, where he will spend a week with Stina Fagertun. He plans to go hiking in the forest to “learn” Norwegian methods of storytelling, participate in an Arctic Circle storytelling circle, travel to meet the reindeer-herding Sámi and possibly some Kven people. He will also meet with an expert on the witchcraft trials in Norway and visit areas where the old Sámi boarding schools were located.

With Norwegian grandparents on both sides of his family tree, the storyteller most likely has many long-lost cousins in Norway, who he would like to meet, but this initial trip will be solely focused on research.

While Chad has received numerous research grants in the past, he will be self-funding his Norway trip out of an intense passion for what he does and the desire to learn more. He will be doing a fundraising show with fellow storyteller Kling in Lakeville, Minn., on April 6—an event not to be missed for those of you nearby.

And now, before he takes off to the old country, Chad has an Easter gift for the readers of The Norwegian American, the story of “The New Pastor.”

Enjoy for now—with more to come once Chad was returned home from Norway!

The New Pastor

By Chad Filley

It was an exciting time for our little village in Norway. We were getting a new pastor, not just any pastor, but this one was single.

Many of the young women in the area were excited because this was their chance to escape being a farmer’s wife or their opportunity to escape being a fisherman’s wife. If they could catch the eye of the new pastor and eventually marry him, this was their chance to live a life of luxury.

Not only was this a huge deal for the single ladies, but it was also a big deal for their mothers, whose status would be significantly elevated if their daughter married a pastor. All the mothers decided to help their daughters make new bunads and bonnets to impress the new pastor on his first Sunday in church. Excitement grew in the days leading up to the holy man’s arrival.

Some people wondered why many girls were even bothering because the odds-on favorite to win the pastor’s heart was the beautiful Elsa. She had flowing blonde hair the color of buttermilk. The young maiden often sang at church and had the voice of an angel. Ole Oleson had even said she’d make a great mother because she had a nice pair of child-bearing hips. Most were certain Elsa would catch his eye, but it didn’t stop everyone from trying. After all, this was their chance to live a life of luxury.

Maybe he liked redheads. If so, there was Lily. Her fair skin and auburn hair made her a true beauty, but if she had one downfall, it would be that she had a temper. She once got so mad at her father that she huffed at him in public. It was scandalous.

If he preferred brunettes, then he might choose Lorraine. Not only was she beautiful, but she was the best cook in the region. If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, then Lorraine had a chance. She was even known to cook with exotic spices like salt and pepper.

The pastor’s first Sunday finally arrived, and everyone showed up for church. It was like Christmas and Easter combined. People who hadn’t seen the church’s insides in years turned out. There was a bit of a scandal because somebody sat in Ole Oleson’s seat, but the ushers removed them before it got ugly. There was an energy in the room as everyone eagerly anticipated their first glimpse of the reverend. The room was electric.

All of the single hopefuls were sitting up straight, not too straight because they are Norwegian, but straight, nonetheless. They all were wearing their new bunads and bonnets except Elsa. She was letting her blonde hair flow freely. All of the other girls thought she was a tart.

When the bishop approached the front of the church, he thanked everyone for making it out. “I’m so glad to see everyone attending Pastor Hansen’s first Sunday. I know you are going to love him and you’ll continue attending. So, without anything further, I’d like to introduce you to Pastor Hansen.”

As the sacristy door opened, a tall, dark, handsome man walked out, and the young ladies’ hearts began to go pitter-patter, pitter-patter. Then he spoke, his deep voice making him sound like a Norwegian Charlton Heston.

“I would like to thank everyone for coming out today. I have a feeling this will be the beginning of a great relationship. I am so excited to accept my first call here. But before I go any further, I need to introduce you to someone. I want to introduce you to my new bride, Helga.”

This revelation zapped the energy out of the church like a balloon popping. The sacristy door opened, and in walked Helga. She was even more beautiful than Elsa. Everyone instantly hated her, not only because of her striking appearance but because she snatched everyone’s chance at the life of luxury that comes along with being a pastor’s wife.

Nobody heard another word Pastor Hansen said for the rest of the service.

As if it weren’t enough for everyone to not like Helga because she married the beloved bachelor pastor, she was also a bit unsophisticated. She came from up on the hills where she didn’t understand the concept of time and rarely showed up somewhere on time. She is often late for church. If the service started at 11:00 a.m., she might stroll in around 11:10 a.m.

One Sunday, not too long into her husband’s tenure, she arrived at church just as her husband had asked the congregation to rise for silent prayer and reflection. She entered the room as everyone rose to their feet.

“Oh, please,” she waved her hands downward. “Please, sit down. I can remember when I wasn’t any better than the rest of you.”

It was a long first year for Pastor Hansen and his beautiful bride.

You can listen to the story of “The New Pastor” and enjoy other tales by Chad Filley at Chad is also available to perform at your next special event. Email him at

This article originally appeared in the March 2024 issue of The Norwegian American.

Smorgasbord of talented Scandinavian-American performers highlights April 23 showcase in Cambridge

By Rachel Kytonen

For first-class music, storytelling and comedy, you will not want to miss the Scandinavian Showcase.

The Scandinavian Showcase features a smorgasbord of talented Scandinavian-American performers and will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 23, at the Hardy Performing Arts Center at Cambridge-Isanti High School. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and all tickets are $10. Tickets are all general admission and can be ordered online at or will be available for purchase at the door.

The showcase features the comedy and music of “Ole” impersonator Bruce Danielson; author and storyteller Rose Arrowsmith; nyckelharpa player Renee Vaughan; and Scandinavian storyteller and comedian Chad Filley.

“Bruce and I have worked together. I came in at the at the tail end of the Kaleidescope Revues, and when he was done, we did a show together in Milaca and really enjoyed it,” Filley said. “My side of it is I do stand-up comedy. And then I got a grant one time to work with Kevin Kling, and in addition to mentoring me in storytelling, he brought me down to the International Storytelling Festival in Tennessee. I saw Jewish storytellers, I saw Spanish storytellers, I saw Irish storytellers, all kinds of storytellers, but there was no Scandinavian storytellers. And that’s a passion for me.

“With his Ole and me wanting to do the Scandinavian storytelling, we talked about this and talked about trying a show. There will be a few other people performing besides myself, Bruce, Rose and Renee,” Filley said.

Filley hopes for a great turnout for the Scandinavian Showcase and mentioned First Bank and Trust has already purchased 50 tickets, and the local Sons of Norway will be attending the showcase as their April meeting.

“This is amazing, this program we will be putting on. People are reaching out,” Filley said. “I got asked to do a festival in Kansas because they saw the Scandinavian Showcase online. When I asked how they heard about me they said, ‘We Googled Scandinavian and your name popped up.’ So we have no idea where people might be coming from for this showcase.”

Danielson, who will be performing with Byron Nelson, a guitar player from Little Falls, has been performing as Ole for 35 years. Danielson has performed anywhere you can smell lutefisk, including at North America’s largest Scandinavian festival, Norsk Hostfest, in Minot, North Dakota; on the Charley Pride stage; in Libby, Montana; and all over Wisconsin.

Arrowsmith, a native of Braham, grew up a perpetual wreath-girl at Midsommar celebrations and is proud to be a Scandi-nerd. Her performances include “deliciously imaginative” folktales from Sweden and Norway.

Vaughan, of the Woodbury area, has played for the king and queen of Sweden and is a current Artist Fellow with the American Scandinavian Foundation.

Filley blends humorous and dramatic tales of Scandinavian immigrants and their customs, their descendants, and even a tale or two about his grandmother, Lily Filley. Filley has performed on the stage of the Grand Ole’ Opry in Nashville, Tennessee; in Las Vegas; and all over the Midwest.

“My goal is to put on high-quality entertainment and get more experience doing this and I couldn’t think of anybody better to work with than Bruce, and then we have these other lovely people coming in,” Filley said. “It’s just going to be a tremendous show.”

The showcase has been in the works since last fall.

“I had another grant where I had worked with Rose and Renee. I happen to see her on Facebook that she was doing a performance – and she has performed for the king and queen of Sweden – I messaged her and she agreed to meet and we talked and she was so supportive,” Filley said. “I looked at Renee’s resume and was like, ‘Wow, she has performed everywhere.’”

Danielson taught for 11 years at the New Prague School District prior to joining Cambridge-Isanti Schools, and Vaughan is married to a man who performed in one of Danielson’s plays while he was in New Prague.

“It’s a small world,” Danielson said.

Danielson will be the emcee for the evening and mentioned he and Nelson have collaborated together on some fun songs.

“You know the song, ‘I’ve Been Everywhere,’ where they list off all the towns, where I’ve regularly had that in my act and I’ve had all the verses memorized,” Danielson said. “Well, nowadays, no one’s been anywhere, so now I’m doing the latest version, ‘I Ain’t Been Nowhere.’ So Byron and I are doing that and we’ll be doing a song between each of the performers, so we have a couple of fun songs planned. Byron will be performing as my cousin, so that will be fun.”

Filley has done extensive research for his Scandinavian storytelling.

“I’ve received several grants and one of them was to allow me to go and research, so I’ve gone to archives all over the state and looked for stories,” Filley said. “So a lot of what I’ll be telling people – granted you have to fill in some details that are not in the newspaper – but this is real stuff I’ll be talking about. I want to bring Twin Cities quality material to outstate people, and that’s what they’re going to get. They’re not going to have to travel; this is going to be a first-class show in which people locally will be able to see stuff that would fit in the Orpheum Theatre.”

Danielson said for those people who never experienced the Swedish Festival that was held for many years in Cambridge many years ago, this is a chance for them to get more familiar with the Scandinavian heritage.

“Those who missed the Swedish Festival, this is a great chance to connect with the Scandinavian background again,” Danielson said.

Filley said the showcase will entertain for all ages and will be fun, but also educational.

“This will all be family-friendly; children are welcome,” Filley said. “When I first start out advertising myself, I say I’m a history teacher because I teach world history, and then I say I’m a comedian and storyteller. I think it’s really good for them to see what it’s been like in the past. People don’t realize how tough these pioneers were. But these stories will be fun, entertaining, while also a little educational.”

Filley said he’s proud to be offering a great show with his colleagues in Cambridge.

“I think for $10 this is an amazing bargain and it’s going to be awesome, world-class entertainment, and Bruce,” Filley jokingly said.