Improv comedian Bethany has been in Prague for over six years now. After meeting by chance at a karaoke night, in a very energetic rendition of Alanis Morrisette’s ‘You Outta Know’, I decided to see what Bethany’s version of comedy is and how she ended up in Prague. We sat down in her beautiful flat in the trendy Karlín to get a feel for her humour and drank some VERY delicious wine. Read on for more interesting tales, including a story about portraying a one-legged prostitute.
Where are you from originally, Bethany?
I’m originally from Anderson, Indiana which is an unemployed town right now. I moved to Bloomington when I was ten years old, well it was a small town called Ellettsville, but I claim Bloomington to be cooler. I grew up there until I was 18, and then moved shortly after that.
Did you move to Prague straight away?
Basically my parents told me “look you’ve gotta pay rent, or go to college”. University seemed like a good option at that point, so yeah! I went to Muncie, Indiana.. which was really easy! I was partying every day and not making bad grades, but I wanted a little bit more of a challenge, so I moved to Bloomington and also was in Wisconsin for a while, Florida, North Carolina. And, I originally moved to Greece, but ended up in Prague.
Wow, that’s awesome. What did you study?
Well, I’m pretty indecisive with most things in my life, so I studied.. psychology. Only because they wouldn’t let me sign up for a third year without declaring a major, so I basically asked “how can I get out of here the fastest?” and he said “psychology” (laughs).
What’s your favourite thing about psychology?
Ummmm. It sounds pretty bad, but I think manipulating people get’s a very negative connotation. I would say being able to persuade and read people, communicating through body language. That’s been really useful for life in general.
Should we ask your boyfriend if you’re manipulative?
He also studied psychology, so we are a #$%îng nightmare when we argue together (laughs). “You’re projecting! You’re manipulating right now!!” Yeah, he knows all my tricks unfortunately.
You said you were in Greece for a while, why Greece?
I went to New York with my buddy and he suggested teaching English. He mentioned Japan and I started looking into Japanese culture and apparently women can’t make eye contact, which is not my style. I’m pretty loud and obnoxious and offensive (laughs). I basically looked at Google images, at different schools. I saw Crete and they had a small town called Hana, it looked kickass so I thought ok, I’m gonna go there. I moved there like an idiot without a visa or anything. I thought “I’m American, I can live where I want”, which apparently is not true (laughs). I also looked up Prague on Google images and thought that it looked great, didn’t know anything about the city. So I arrived with about 6 bathing suits and no winter coat, and I’ve now been here six and a half years.
Do you miss anything about home?
The only thing I miss about America is my family. AND root beer.
What exactly is root beer? It must be something typical for the US?
Well, it’s a soft drink like Coca-Cola or whatever. But they brew ginger roots? I don’t even know what it is, but it’s delicious. It’s like an herbal thing that’s brewed. If ginger beer and Coca-Cola met and had a baby, they would have root beer.
What do you think of Czech food?
It’s like American food on steroids. I’m a huge fan of beer, meat and potatoes. So for me, reading a menu is basically like talking dirty to me.
So tell us about your comedy group. I see your badge that says “Too soon?”.
Yeah my friend made like 6 of these and I try to match them to my outfits! Well I came across it a couple of years ago. My buddy Brian, I met him through some other friends and he said “Hey, you’re pretty funny”, which was nice to know. He used to be part of this group so we started to get it going again, but it was hard to find consistent members. Then all of a sudden we got it going and we just started performing. Our first show sold out, we had like 150 people there.
Thanks! I had never been in front of people or performed before, besides karaoke (laughs). So I had a mild panic attack and then a Long Island, and I was all right after that! We’ve had many performances since then and book every place. It’s basically like ‘Who’s line is it anyway?”. So we basically get a bunch of stuff from the audience, whether it’s performing or singing. It’s all improv. I love doing it and I’m a total attention junkie, so it’s great! (laughs).
What is the crowd like at your shows? How do the Czechs like it?
Maybe 50/50 – expats and Czechs. What’s cool about having all English teachers as performers is that you’re really good at anticipating problems with vocabulary. For example, once we had to take on the role of an undertaker – we knew that probably 50% of this audience wouldn’t know what that meant. We can adapt, we’re good at anticipating the problems. I would say everyone has to be up to an upper-intermediate level. Some of the jokes are pretty vulgar, I like to push the limit.
What are the differences between the Czech sense of humour and the American?
Well, I really like dry, sarcastic, dark and inappropriate humour that’s maybe a bit cynical. So for me, I think the Czech sense of humour is great.
Have there been any iconic or weird moments?
Umm, I mean it’s all pretty weird. Once I was a one-legged prostitute that was out of work, singing and dancing on one leg, which was pretty fun! I was also a kindergarten stripper once too (laughs).
Do you have a favourite comedian or style of comedy?
I really like Sarah Silverman. I really like very offensive comedy, even if it’s racist, I think if you make fun of all races equally, it’s not racist. For me, anything is fair game. I am not a racist person, but I will probably laugh at a comedy skit that is based around something like that. I like intelligent humour.
How would you describe Prague?
Well in winter it has a very sinister feel. The gothic thing I mean. I have a totally different opinion in the summer – it’s very vibrant and alive. The whole of Prague is out on the streets immediately. Prague is also excessive, people drink to excess, eat to excess – it’s amazing! It’s also a little cold, which is common for Czechs, but people are receptive to a smile. I say Dobrý den to people on the street, most think I’m hitting on them or I’m crazy.. but that’s cool (laughs).
If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you see?
Well it would probably depend on what social class I would be, but ever since I was a child I’ve really been into Roman history. It’s because I had this really amazing history teacher. This guy was describing everyday life in Roman times and it was awesome!
Who couldn’t you live without here?
Well obviously my boyfriend. I’d be a shitty girlfriend if I didn’t say that (laughs), but I do love him very much. I’ve been here for six and a half years, and the ones that I am friends with right now are the ones that have been here throughout the years. Basically, my friends.
Keep updated on the Too Soon? Facebook page for details about upcoming comedy shows!
Written and transcribed by Ryan Keating-Lambert. Photography by Petr Kurečka.