If you took a trip to the heart of the comedy zeitgeist, where razor-sharp wit meets soft-edged empathy, you’d find Boston standup Bethany Van Delft. A natural gift for laid-back storytelling, combined with the unique perspective of her Dutch-Puerto Rican roots and her cool finesse with observational gags, has placed her at a sweet spot within the modern business of merriment. Plugged directly into the new Boston groundswell of brewery-night indie comedy, and skilled as both a host and a star turn for The Moth (the acclaimed live yarnspinning hub on radio and podcast), Van Delft is as hot and fresh as artisanal bread, but much funnier. And, as she tells Where Boston, it all started with a gauntlet thrown down by her shrink.
How did your standup career begin?
I literally took a standup class. It was a challenge from my therapist—I made up all these excuses why it wouldn’t work and she said: ‘Why don’t you go tell a joke and see what happens?’ The rest is history. There were lots of stops and starts but that’s the very beginning. I stuck with it from there.
How has Boston shaped your standup comic persona?
Some of the best comedians in the country start here, so having those people as my peers has been unbelievable. Getting advice from comedy legends, how supportive the community is with each other here, it’s just inspiring.
Who are your comedy heroes?
I grew up in a lefty household, with tons of Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor and George Carlin. And Rita Moreno. I grew up with 'The Electric Company' so seeing a Puerto Rican woman, a woman of color, being funny and ridiculous—that put it somewhere in my head that something like this could happen one day.
How does your storytelling for The Moth feed your standup?
The two things don’t seem like they go together but it’s symbiotic—you know how football players will sometimes take ballet. I always thought those big burly guys taking ballet must be hilarious, but it helps them strengthen their core, it helps their balance and timing, and it actually makes them better football players, so that’s kind of how I feel about storytelling and standup. A good comedian is telling a story.
What’s driving today’s comedy scene in Boston?
There are so many bar shows now. The new group of comedians coming up, they don’t wait for stage time: they just start a show. One of the great shows is at The Hideout; there’s a couple of guys doing shows in Cambridge at Gallery 263; and brewery shows. I have one at Dorchester Brewing Company called Artisanal Comedy on the last Wednesday of the month. I host it and I produce it— I do the lineups for the shows. If I see someone who has a really fresh point of view I’ve never heard before I will book them on the show. Lots of women, people of color, different gender orientations, people who express their comedy in a different way. Like, there’s a jester that performs, musical acts, people that use powerpoint presentations. This is a phenomenal comedy city: There’s something for everybody in Boston.