By Katie McFadden
Each September, she’s at the front of the Poseidon’s Parade, keeping things moving past the judging stand as mermaid hype-woman extraordinaire, but it’s not just on the boardwalk where she’s keeping things organized and putting other’s talents on display. The Bettina Show has come to Rockaway and hostess, Bettina Hornung, is busy bringing some big talent to a local stage. On Wednesday, March 15, she kicked it all off with her first low-key comedy show at The Rose Den, which turned out a packed house that was full of laughs.
The big turnout for her big night wasn’t a surprise, as it wasn’t Bettina’s first rodeo. Hornung herself began getting into comedy after her father passed way in 2009. “It was an outlet for me. I don’t know how to handle stress. I make jokes out of everything and that’s how I get through. My brother saw this class at Governor’s Comedy Club, so he bought me the class and I did it and did two shows at Governor’s for our midterm and final. I started doing open mics and I liked it, but I didn’t like how repetitive it was, and I realized I’m more of a host. I like to sit back and watch the show.”
While living in Long Beach and working at The Cabana, Hornung began hosting comedy shows. “I was packing the house at Cabana and the Jetty. I did a few charity events for cystic fibrosis, and we raised thousands of dollars. We did other events like a dating auction around Valentine’s Day and comedy shows in between. It was fun,” she said.
Hornung eventually moved back to Rockaway but had taken a break from hosting shows. “Covid hit and I was doing video clips online and losing my mind being behind four walls and I said, I gotta get back into this,” she said. She started pitching ideas to a few local businesses to host a comedy or talent show, but to no avail. That was until The Rose Den opened on Beach 116th in November. “The owner, Katharine Varno, pushed it out of me. I begged her every time I was there, saying just give me your slowest night. She’s the only one that gave me a chance. Us women need to stick together,” Hornung said.
Varno gave her March 15 to show what she can do, and Hornung got to work recruiting some of the comedians she met along the way in Long Island, and some of Rockaway’s comedic locals. Varno would serve as the bartender, Mikal Hameed would provide the sound equipment, her brother Michael, “The Ocean King” Hornung, would DJ, and a friend, Adrian of A’s Food Empire, would bring a sample menu of items like empanadas and Rasta Pasta to keep bellies full of delicious eats, while the comedians kept them full of laughter. Last Wednesday, it all came together.
Bettina packed the house. On Varno’s busiest night since opening four months ago, it was standing room only at The Rose Den for The Bettina Show’s first comedy night. Bettina herself served as hostess for the evening, setting the ground rules, including no heckling, and hyping up each comedian as they took the stage at the front of the bar. Locals kicked off the show, with Owen Loof, the Best Dressed Man in Rockaway, opening with some tame comedy that all could enjoy, plus a little something extra for the locals, giving shoutouts and roasting some neighbors in the room. He was followed by Enchantress Shane Kulman, who spiced things up a bit, reflecting on her days as an exotic dancer and some of the famous faces she met along the way. They were followed by some comedians Bettina has met along the way, including Travis Grant, Hugh Murray, Steve Rocco Parillo and Herbie Gill, who all had many in the audience laughing ‘til their faces hurt, throughout the night.
The debut of The Bettina Show was a hit. “It went better than I thought. I was so nervous. I threw this together and the pressure was on because she gave me one night, so I had to prove it,” Hornung said. “But I was really happy with it. We packed the house and had a dance party after. It was amazing and I’m ready for the next show.”
Hornung brought it, and Varno invited her to do it all again next month. On Wednesday, April 12, Hornung is hosting her next low-key comedy show. Some comedians have already agreed to come back like Steve Rocco Parillo and Herbie Gill, plus some others will be in the mix, such as Mike Keegan, Johnny McDonald and Mike Touhey. “We’re hoping for some more Rockaway locals too,” Hornung said.
These comedy shows are all leading up to Bettina’s dream of hosting a talent showcase sometime in May or June, so locals can show off their best. “We’re going to welcome all comedians, spoken word, everything from magic to dance, rapping, singing, jugglers, everything and anything. If people want to display food, that’s a talent. I’m a good hype man and I want to hype up everyone’s talents,” she said. More details will be announced at a later date, but if anyone is interested, they can reach out to Bettina by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram @bettinashow, where she’ll be posting updates about future shows.
“We’re doing big things. I love bringing more to Rockaway. I feel like Rockaway is about to blow up with all this cool stuff and now I’m a part of it,” Hornung said. “I don’t just lead the parade anymore, now I got my own show.”
In the meantime, reserve those tables at The Rose Den for April 12, as they’ll go quick! For reservations, send a direct message to The Rose Den on Instagram @therosedennyc