For the Boston comedy mainstay, putting together her debut stand-up album was an exciting, and exhausting, journey
Over the course of 15 years in comedy, Bethany Van Delft has come to be known as a number of things. For one, she’s a gifted storyteller both on and off the comedy stage. This past year, she was voted “Boston’s Best Comic” by Boston Magazine. She’s also been a staple in the Boston comedy scene, both as a supporter of her fellow comics, and as a power player herself, headlining rooms all over the city and abroad. But one thing she isn’t is… a Llama?
As her debut stand-up album, I’m Not a Llama, drops today (December 13), Van Delft is happy that she was able to push through the woes of second-guessing herself throughout the process of putting the album together, but it wasn’t easy. From not being too sure about how to feel about certain jokes evolving after the recording, to wondering if she should even be doing an album in the first place, Van Delft soldiered on through the process because she knew deep down that it would all come out just fine, but even now — six months after recording — she’s excited, of course, but also still sort of in disbelief that it’s happening at all.
“I grew up listening to actual vinyl records from comedians like George Carlin, Richard Pryor, and Moms Mabley, and I remember just wanting my mom to put on music instead,” Van Delft tells Vanyaland. “But as I got older, I started listening more to what they were saying on those records, and it was really intriguing to hear people’s ideas come from those records, but it was never something I ever thought I would do. So as this day comes upon us, it’s just a really cool, great thing to get the chance to do this.”
Recorded at The Setup in San Francisco with the Blonde Medicine record label, Van Delft covers a myriad of topics on the album, balancing both newer, continuously evolving material, to jokes and ideas that date back eight years. From race to raising kids, to being a virgo and her battles with anxiety and depression, all with her calculated yet natural approach, Van Delft kept the crowd with her the whole time, but leading up to the recording, she wasn’t super convinced it would end up that way.
Opting out of recording the album in Boston for fear of “fucking everything up” in front of family and friends, there was still a level of anxiety as the night drew closer in San Fran, but at some point, it all just clicked for the Bronx-born comic, and she was able to pull through, as you can tell from the crowd’s reaction on the album, with the high quality humor she’s known for. All anxiety and worry aside, she had a great time doing the album, and while she is already looking forward to the next thing, she’s quick to admit that closing the chapter on her introduction to the process of putting an album together is the best feeling in the world.
“I definitely had anxiety out west, too, because I didn’t really know the openers too well, but I knew they were good, but then I worried that they would think I sucked, and that I shouldn’t be doing an album,” says Van Delft. “But I feel like I had the opportunity to just let it all go, not let it sweep me away, and really get into the moment to do the set the way I had been thinking of doing the set.”
After the recording, Van Delft was totally down to take some time off before sitting down with the Dominic Del Bene, Blonde Medicine’s founder and CEO, jumping into the next phase of getting the album ready for release. After a few months, the process continued with Van Delft fleshing out the creative and marketing side of the release, and it was that sort of collaborative effort that she was looking forward to so much throughout the process.
“I was very much so into the idea of collaborating with all the people who do what they do best on this project. Like, working with Dominic to break up the tracks, and figuring out what to call them, and giving the artist free reign to listen to the album and do anything he wants for the artwork,” says Van Delft. “I was so into that part of it, and I’ve also known that I love to collaborate, but that whole part of the process made it even more apparent that those are the kinds of projects I want to be a part of, where there are multiple people doing what they do best, coming together to work on this one thing.”
Everything about the collaborative nature had Van Delft fully intrigued, but above everything else, she was really looking forward to putting together powerful and exciting artwork. With the cover of Prince’s Around The World in a Day in mind,where references from the songs on the record are embedded in the art, Van Delft wanted to package her own album in something that blended her undying love of the enigmatic iconic and her admiration of Peter Max’s bright color art. Enter Jake Nicolella.
Before meeting Nicolella at a book launch party for The Moth awhile back, Van Delft was enamored with the artwork he created for the book’s cover. So fast forward a little while, and when the prospect of what she had in mind for the album’s cover came into play, Van Delft knew just who she wanted to have at the helm, and thankfully, it all worked out.
“I reached out to Jake about doing the cover art, and thankfully, he was interested in doing it, so the art is his style, and there are references in the images to the jokes on the album, like a Llama, and a taco raining tears,” says Van Delft. “Working with everyone on this was just so amazing, and I can’t wait to do something like this again.”
It was not an easy road for Van Delft to get through the process of doing this album, but just as it’s gone her entire life, she persevered and moved forward, never letting the anxiety and second-guessing win her over. She’ll fully admit that while still terrified to some degree to move on to the next thing, the fear of dying without accomplishing what she wants to accomplish drives her even further.
At the end of the day, even if this album winds up being a flop, Van Delft knows that it will all be okay. She’ll just have to move on and make the next thing even better.
“Where I’m at now, I’m still anxious, and always a little terrified, but I always know that it’s going to be okay when I come out the other side, and that’s a little bit more comfort than I’ve ever had in my life,” says Van Delft. “Even if the worst happens, and this album is a steaming piece of shit, I’m still going to be okay. Nothing bad is going to happen, it’s just going to be a shitty album.”