The Art of U Pivrnce

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This Prague pub is adorned with work by a famous Czech Cartoonist.

For some, newspapers are becoming a relic of the past, but the art within them remain alive not only in the confines of the pages, but the walls of one special pub. U Pivrnce in Prague’s Old Town celebrates the laughter and work of Petr Urban, an Olympic medalist and cartoonist whose work fills the halls of his sons pub.

The newly renovated indoor area makes for a convivial atmosphere with a showcase of art to keep your eyes glued to the wall and ceiling the entire evening.  Along with the newly decorated beer glass chandelier above some contemporary illustrations and timeless classics, U Pivrnce has stood the test of time and will continue to do so with Urban showing no signs of stopping.

“People go to this street to see the new wallpaper that is across the wall and dominates the restaurant.  We tried to be unique and we think we succeeded in doing so,” says Annie Urban, the wife of Petr.  The pub itself has been transformed into a comic book itself, with the walls adorned with new and old comics by Petr Urban.  The backsplash of yellow complements the colorful and playful illustrations, creating a welcoming and fun space for an evening of drinks and Czech food.

Along with the new renovations, U Pivrnce has released its own version of brandy burned from hops, called Pivovice.  A fruity brandy that is mainly referred to as Plum Brandy, this drink is produced mainly in Central and Eastern Europe, giving it an unofficial title as a national drink.  The restaurants version is sold under the alias “Pivrncova Pivovice”, decorated with the iconic red-striped t-shirt wearing character from Urban’s comics, Ruda Pivrnec.

To compliment the new drink is the release of Urban’s new book titled “The Longest Joke without words in the World”, a picture book full of over 150 jokes and illustrations from the master illustrator himself.  Who said picture books are for kids? Urban’s new book is a celebration of his iconic drawings and a simplistic delivery of his timeless humor that has captured the hearts and laughter of Czechs for years.

“We actually made the book because most customers did not understand the jokes in the deeper books and always had to translate them.  So, Petr Urban thought that he would create a book with the longest joke without words, but to make it funny. It was a big challenge, but he likes it.”

In fact, the driving force behind the release of the book was to reach a foreign audience who couldn’t understand Czech.  Instead of translating the jokes by words, Urban sough to express his sense of humor through pictures so everyone can understand and have a laugh.

Prior to opening U Pivrnce in 1993, Petr Urban pursued sports, specifically the speedy flat-sled Luger.  Urban comes from a family of athletes, as his father, Horst, was an Olympic Luger who represented the then Czechoslovakia. Wanting to continue his legacy, Urban followed in his father footsteps by competing in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics.  Despite his success in the world of sports representing his country on the ice, Urban wanted to connect with his countrymen and women more, this time on paper.

The fall of the Communist regime in 1989 would provide a window of opportunity for Urban and other illustrators to draw and publish cartoons freely, spawning a new genre of raunchy and, at times, explicit pieces with the goal of making people laugh. This would be the spark of comedy industry for Prague, replacing the pre-revolutionary frowns for some light-hearted jokes and smiles that would mark the beginning of a new phase for the Czech Republic.

This spark would go on to produce over 5 million copies of Urban’s illustrations in newspaper and books, solidifying his position as a Czech icon. Urban’s legendary comics place him with the likes of other Czech hero’s like Jaromír Jágr and Dominik Hašek, who competed in the 1998 Winter Olympics, giving the Czech Republic a gold medal in hockey. Petr Urban’s reach in both the world of sports and literature has created a dynamic space for the pub he owns and operates today.

With the walls used as a canvas, Urban has remembered his artistic legacy while inviting others to create one of their own. Decorated on the walls are past masterpieces like “Dobrý voják Švejk” and “The Tales from the Little Quarter”.  Downstairs is another piece of art itself with other handwritten jokes created by customers and Urban himself. In terms of the future, Urban’s newly released book may make an appearance along the walls of the restaurant in the years to come.

“We would like to make a lounge where “The Longest Joke” is incorporated, but it’s a question of three to five years,” says Annie Urban.

With the walls restored to their former glory, U Pivrnce has captured some of the best of Czech culture in the form of cartoons. From the lager beer and classic Czech dishes to the cartoons and laughter that has filled the halls, the pencil drawings continue to satisfy locals and visitors alike. Ruda Pivrnec, one of Urban’s iconic characters, may be 30 years old, but his colorful figure and attitude in cartoons continues to make Czech’s laugh today.

“It’s certainly a part of Czech culture, everyone knows his jokes”.

U Pivrnce is located on Maiselova 60/3, 110 00 Praha 1 – Staré Město-Josefov, Czechia


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