One of the most important ingredients to good comedy is having unique experiences, and Bethany Van Delft has uniqueness in opulence.
Born in the Bronx to a pair of Marxist parents, she grew up to become an outspoken model traveling across Europe. In the time since, her distinct point of view and nonchalant delivery had helped make Van Delft a hit across New England as well as a favorite on major bills including the Boston Comedy Festival, Just for Laughs, and SF Sketchfest.
With her debut album, I’m Not A Llama, about to come out, I asked Van Delft a few questions about the struggles of being a model, comic, and a mother, plus the awkwardness of meeting celebrities and more.
You started your career in entertainment as a model. What are the differences in your peer-to-peer relationships with models as opposed to your friendships with other comedians?
More notable is that I am equally awkward with both. I never really did feel like a model. Before I learned how to small talk, I used to just recap SNL sketches, which my model peers tolerated until iPhones came out. I do feel like a comedian after all these years, which is good since I keep doing it.
How do you balance your time between being a full-time mother of two children with working on material for comedy and storytelling and doing shows?
I have no idea! It’s definitely not always balanced. My daughter was pretty sick recently; I wasn’t performing at all for a couple of weeks, I needed to be with her. Other times I’m out every night. I try to use the time they’re in school to write, work on projects, hustle, fold laundry, curl up in a ball, do the things that it’s easier to do sans children.
What do you think changed in your comedy before and after becoming a parent?
I am much better at bombing and sucking at comedy now, which has let me get better at comedy. Before I had kids it felt horrible, like the worst thing. I’m so freakin worried about failing my kids all the time, bombing feels like a coffee break.
You’ve performed on many comedy festivals and I’ve heard you mention how much you dislike “diversity showcases.” What is it that you dislike most about them?
I dislike festivals having a one-off “diversity” show. Diversity in that context usually means not white, so say, “not-white showcase.” The implication of a diversity showcase is that the rest of the fest is not diverse. Change that. There won’t be a need for “diversity” showcases when there are people of color, women, LGBTQ on all the shows. Make that the goal.
You host a comedy-storytelling podcast, Starstruck: Close Encounters of the Awkward Kind. What is one of your own awkward celebrity encounters?
Oh my gosh, there are sooo many, that was the whole reason for the show. Back in the ’90s I was in Paris modeling, and my intention for going was that I would be in Paris and I could go to the Louvre, like every day. I didn’t realize that that’s not how modeling works. In the short time I spent in Paris I became quite angry about it. And my agency hated my guts so bad. And so after like three weeks they’re like, You have to go. And I’m like, Send me to another country. There’s like a thousand. Right? Send me to another country right now.
And so this is my last week of being in Paris on their dime, knowing I cannot fuck up worse than getting kicked out of Paris forever. I was rocking my docks and my hoodie, and the French people back then would be like, Stupid American! I’d be like, Stupid fucking you with your bandana! I don’t think French Parisian people knew what a Bronx Puerto Rican attacking them was, but they know now. Also my parents are like super crazy lefties and I’m a person of color and a woman in America. So I was not pro-America before I went to Paris, but they turned me pro-America.
So my roommate says to me, “Just come with me to my agency and then we’ll go do something fun after.” We got ice cream; I got ice cream, she did not get ice cream. She went in her agency and I sat out front on the curb eating my ice cream, and somebody behind me went, “’Ello? ’Ello? ’Ello?” And I fucking intentionally ignored them … cause it’s a man … and then I’m sitting on the curb and then I hear this finger snapping in my ear, “’Ello?” I turned around and yelled, “Fuck off, frog!” at the top of my lungs and whipped my ice cream at him. And the dude was surprised and just walked away. And I was like, “I hate this fucking place! I can’t wait to get out of here.”
Just then, my roommate comes running out of her agency asking, “Oh my God, what did Roman Polanski just say to you?” And I go, “I don’t know, he said it in French.”
Listen to Bethany Van Delft’s debut comedy album, I’m Not A Llama, anywhere comedy is sold or streamed starting Friday, Dec 13, and find her live shows at bethanyvandelft.com/shows.