It is an ingrained notion that comedians are entertaining and funny in their personal lives, too. However, in the majority of cases it is exactly the opposite. Some people are struggling with depression, others with alcohol or other demons. This is all too familiar also to genius imitator, Petr Jablonský. Because of unrequited love in his youth he thought of suicide, later on he drowned his sorrow in alcohol. And he confided in Luxury Prague Life, he wasn´t far from depression either, it has its roots in his childhood. But on the threshold of his forties, he doesn´t feel break ups so intensely any longer - and that´s despite the fact that recently his bride fled almost from the altar! Even so, one of our busiest imitators feels happy and content. He understands that one simply cannot have everything.
Petr, when we met last about three years ago, you have been freshly in love, you´ve been building a family house, planning to have a family. Have there been any changes?
The house is finished, it was granted final building approval, but I am no longer with that woman. Can you imagine; I gave her an engagement ring, we have even planned the date and place of our wedding, but in the end it didn´t take place.
It doesn´t happen very often that a woman would change her mind about a wedding at the last minute. What happened?
We have lived together in a new house that I was building for us for about three months. And my fiancée fell in love with my neighbour, my friend. She took off the ring and moved to his place. At first, I my view was completely fatalistic, as always, basically. But now it´s been almost two years back, and after all that time, I think that it should have been that way. They even got married now. Sometimes I meet her husband in our pub, we have a shot and a beer together and we are cool. Well, that´s life.
This year you will be 40. Do you mind the pressure of your surroundings to have children at certain age? There is still that prevailing opinion that if one is not married with children at this age, he must be weird somehow.
I surround myself by quite tolerant people who are moreover in a similar situation to mine. I think that this cannot be sharply defined. But it is true that people are very tied down by it. I´ve recently entertained at a performance and one guy from the audience said: "My Mum now planned my wedding and I am therefore going to get married, since I´m going to be thirty..." He spoke like this and I didn´t have the feeling that he would be doing it out of love, but simply because it is expected. I personally need the emotions, but so far I am unable to keep a relationship and lead it all the way up to a marriage. But I don´t despair.
The times now are such that relationships quickly break up, and nobody considers it to be a disgrace. You are also from a divorced family, but in those days it hadn´t been so common. Was the divorce of your parents difficult for you?
My parents parted ways when I was five years old; in a very friendly atmosphere and it didn´t affect me at all. At this age I didn´t fundamentally register that something would have changed. It is much harder on the child, I think, if the parents remain together just because of the kid. Children are not stupid, and they feel that all is not well between the father and the mother.
But when my Mummy found a new partner, it was not so rosy any longer. He was a choleric and applied the rule of “spare the rod and spoil the child”. Then they had two children together, my younger sisters. I remember that I was blamed for everything. My Mum took my part, but it didn´t help much. Since young age my stepfather kept telling me how clumsy I am and how I do everything wrong and how I will never make a living and such like. Finally, he ended up worse than me, but I won´t go into it any deeper now. ´God's mills...´ have taken care of it.
Once you told me that you wanted to commit suicide. Was it because of the relations in the family?
I was fifteen and everything just engulfed me. I was unhappy in school, where I had a feeling that I don´t belong there; nothing worked for me. And on top of that I was unlucky in love. Breaking up with my first love was the last straw. I came up with a plan that on New Year's Eve I would jump out of the window, precisely at midnight, at the time when people will have fireworks so that nobody would hear me fall. My Dad of course saw into my mind and offered that I can come to live with him. He literally cured me out of it all. He supported me and encouraged me, taught me to cook and to this day we have a nice relationship.
Nevertheless, you had a fatalistic view on all your subsequent breakups. One of them even set off a kind of alcohol-infused period...
Never before did I know that the mind can influence a man like this. I was physically quite sick. I felt absolute hopelessness, I was lost and afraid of performing in front of people. That is when I began to use alcohol as a crutch. I had if quite bad, I used to send desperate text messages all round, and my manager then interpreted it in a way that I am suicidal again. She sent me to a psychiatrist, but I did not want to put an end to my life, it was rather a desperate cry for help. The problem is that I am not a "confiding" type and alcohol gave me courage. It was a difficult period, I was not able to concentrate on anything. Not even my work which I love. Then I told myself that I will start again. Nowadays I don´t jump out of windows because of women.
How did your career start?
Actually, I have always wanted to be a theatre actor, already as a kid. But I have not been accepted to the conservatory, because I was told that my voice is hard to understand. That was a terrible blow for me and again I fatalistically thought that that´s the end of it.
Then I accidentally came across an advertisement that a cabaret in the centre of Prague is enrolling artist of all kinds. So, I called the phone number and with the voice of the then President, Václav Havel, I left a message on the answering machine that I would like to offer my services. In five minutes, a man called back to come and have a look. I went there and it was a shock! There were two made-up guys. It was actually a cabaret, where people went to see drag shows. But in addition, there was also a magician with a dancer. It is true that guys who were homosexual, were in the majority. In the end I enjoyed working there and I spent a year there.
One day my manager, Halina Němcová, came there and she offered to work with me. Then we sent a cassette with a recording of the voices into TV and they contacted us. I still remember how that made me happy. I called my father and he wrote the first text for me. It was quite long but they kept it and didn´t cut out anything. The cooperation between me and my manager has now been going on for nearly twenty years.
When did you discover you had this talent?
Still at school. I imitated female teachers too. With one classmate we founded a duo - Jokers. We had a teacher for Czech - and when I think about it - she was such an inspiration that I began to imitate female voices. Thanks to her I learned to imitate former Minister Petra Buzková. They were similar and both also equally didn´t like it.
You said that you were not accepted at the conservatory. What did you study then?
I always just about got a pass mark. Therefore, there was nothing else for it but for my Mum to get me into a vocational school. I nearly became a butcher. But I got a worse grade from behaviour; a two, and that was that. In the end I became a salesman of domestic goods. But this didn´t go well with me being so impractical. When I broke a few glasses, this profession was over for me, too. All the time I had to pay for some damage.
But in the end, you got into the theatre as well as film. Do you like it when people want to be photographed with you and want an autograph, or do you get nervous?
I like it and it makes me nervous. Of course, you can get too much of a good thing. I like to have company, but I am a kind of extrovert introvert. I don´t actually know why I´m doing this work. (laughter) I am also quite shy. When someone praises me, I would prefer not to be there. When the performance is over, I like to hide away somewhere. Somewhere where I can be by myself.
Is there more pressure on comedians to be funny even when they are not working, too? Everybody usually thinks that you must be entertaining 24 hours a day. Do you mind that?
One cannot function like a jukebox - when you push, something falls out. So, if after filming I go to a bar and immediately in-between the doors someone stops me and demands me to imitate Klaus without even saying hello, I politely explain that I would now like to have a drink and a break. However, the reaction is mostly incomprehensible to me: "Not for free, but you will do it for money!" or "see how conceited he is!" I think this is so unfair. Everyone needs to rest. Nobody demands that a decorator would paint a bar in his free time while having a dinner.
And what are you like when not working?
When you have something to look forward to, you can do everything with a smile. But otherwise I, too, have moods, like anybody else.
What if you are not sometimes in the best of moods, and yet you have to go to work and be funny?
You need to be a pro. Once I went to act to a theatre an hour after I buried my dog. This can happen and there is nothing you can do about it. This is what I was taught by my "teachers", František Polák and my manager, Halina. However, these situations must then be followed by some rest and relaxation. Although I am professional, I am not a machine.
Can this professions be done until ´retirement´?
I will say it this way - it can be done even quite poorly for quite long time. It is also about the fact that the voice box is also only a muscle. I can be a top athlete, then just an athlete. Each muscle gets weaker with age. One has to be reasonable and get to know when there is still the quality in the imitation.
Which voice did you train the last time?
Václav Klaus Jr.
You have any interesting event, as is said among actors, from some shoot?
I have one saucy from a performance. My manager was contacted by one businessman, asking how much would I charge if I spent a night with his wife and imitated the voices of various celebrities, such as Václav Klaus or Bolek Polívka. She said that we don´t have an estimate for that one.
And did your partners wanted you sometimes to imitate the voice of some sexy actor?
Usually not. Those that were interested in me used to forbid me to.
What does it look like when Petr Jablonský is in love?
I would like to give myself away. I am active, happy and glad that I am in love. I want the same pleasure to be felt by her, too. I need some anchor, and when I have it, I can achieve things about which I thought that I couldn´t manage them. I would literally do anything in the world for her. And I have a kind of habit - I like buying women jewellery and boots. I am able to spend a packet on it. It is true that I get attached too much, which is perhaps not quite good. But being in love is also certainly reflected in my work, too.
And don´t you tie down the women too much? Are you also jealous?
I of course am aware of that. I have probably been a bit more jealous than behoves. The older I get the more tolerant I am. I think freedom and tolerance are one of the most important values in life. My life motto is "live and let live".
Do you need love in your life?
I can do without it. In a relationship I am faithful and committed, but when my fiancée left me I lived a freer life, and it was not that bad. (laughter)
But then you come home and nobody is waiting for you…
I have two dogs, great neighbours...
Sorry, for example the one who stole your fiancée... (laughter)
That was witty from you, you scored a point there. But he is a great guy, too, and you cannot command love. If we´d had a child and it happened after we got married, it would be worse. This what actually a good thing.