PRAGUE — Whether there’s a Czech Eddie Murphy waiting to be discovered remains to be seen, but HBO is launching its standup comedy franchise in the Czech Republic and Slovakia Dec. 17.
The genre is already a success in Poland, where HBO’s standup show has been winning impressive ratings since 1998.
Airing in six parts on Fridays at 10 p.m., “Na stojak,” (Standing Room) is already creating a buzz in the Czech Republic. Local stars turned out in droves for a recent preview screening of the first crop of Czech comic hopefuls and the series is being produced by Ondrej Trojan, director of Oscar-nominated “Zelary” and the force behind the films of Jan Hrebejk, including “Up and Down.”
Trojan says he agreed to produce “Na stojak” because standup has a strong history in Prague — to say nothing of the Czech passion for irony.
Czech comics would never be mistaken for Chris Rock, though. “Different nations have specific tastes for humor, like Irish humor, like Australian,” says HBO’s Czech topper Lubos Jetmar. “We also have some specifics.”
Describing the local comics as “funny and intelligent,” Jetmar says Czechs are more prone to black humor, linguistic “twists” and “intellectual” routines. But, he adds, “some of the jokes will surprise our viewers with plain and simple humor.”
So should American standups be nervous? “I have to say sorry to Eddie Murphy,” Jetmar says, recalling Czech comedies of the ’60s, “our Vladimir (Mensik) was funnier.”