Stand up for stand-up comedy in Prague

Stand-up comedy is finally making its mark in the Czech Republic

With stand-up comedy finally making its mark in the Czech Republic, Prague.TV sat down with Dominik Heřman Lev to discuss its past and future and the man himself.

If asked to name a famous Czech stand-up comedian, many outside of the country would struggle. However, it looks as though this is about to change. A better grasp of the English language has meant more Czechs are attending international comedy shows in the country, which in turn is beginning to produce more local comedians.

One such comedian is Dominik Heřman Lev. 20 years ago he was living in California where he was first introduced to stand-up comedy.

“I was going to local shows and being introduced to the format of it, one person speaking to many others, entertaining people,” he said.

“The Czech Republic and Czechoslovakia has a rich history of comedy but this kind of format was never really introduced until recently. In around 2008, HBO came with a project called Na Stojáka which was a sort of translation of stand-up comedy. Because there were so few stand-up comedians at the time they got actors to do a kind of improvisation to open the show, with the intention of inspiring people from the streets. “

What spawned from this was open-mic nights where people could come along and have their five minutes, with those who were good enough being asked to do further shows, one of which was Dominik.

After leaving America he came back to the Czech Republic where he was working in a corporate job. This didn’t appeal to him any more so he decided to try his luck at stand-up comedy, and since quitting his job five years ago hasn’t looked back. As a result of the HBO show, stand-up comedians were now going out and performing in their own shows, plying their trade and learning what material worked.

Crown Comedy Club was formed by Dominik with the intention of bringing more foreign comedians to the Czech Republic. The first show began in 2011 but now you will see comedy stalwarts like Jimmy Carr and Eddie Izzard featuring throughout the year.

“Some people would look at it as a business type of thing but for me it was more of a hobby, I just wanted to see English performers here in the Czech Republic and build a fanbase of people who wanted to see stand-up comedy” said Dominik.

“It was great for me because I was learning so much, how they interact with the audience and it was just great to be around these people and spend time with them off stage.”

Since bringing big stars like Michael Winslow and Jimmy Carr to the Czech Republic, Dominik has joined forces with another comedy enthusiast and music promoter, Anthony Jouet (Fource Entertainment). Together they have promoted the biggest stand up show yet in this country, with 4000 people attending a Louis C.K gig while Eddie Izzard was also a huge success.

With stand-up comedy in this country only really taking form in the last ten years, the future seems bright. While there are some already established Czech stand-up comedians, those making the leap into English stand-up are doing so at the right time.

“The public interest in stand-up comedy is on the rise here, politics at the moment are so bad worldwide that political satire is coming through strong as well,” said Dominik.

“We’re starting to introduce the format of solo shows, like you see with the big comedians, so this is a good chance for people to showcase their material.”

In terms of his own material, Dominik mainly performs in Czech but has tried his luck outside his native Czech Republic. Nonetheless he feels its best to stick with what you’re good at and as he put it, “write the jokes for me”.

“I have a dog and what happens to me is when I’m walking the dog sometimes I just think about a subject and see it as a show. If it makes me laugh or giggle then I feel it will make other people laugh,” he said.

With stand-up on the rise in this country and more and more comics giving their two cents it seems a good time to try out the local scene and possibly gain the inspiration to try it yourself. Dominik will be performing his own solo, in Czech, on April 19th at StopTime Club while comedy fans can look forward to a host of foreign comedians making their way to Prague over the coming months.

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