Brooke Van Poppelen makes her stand-up debut tonight on Comedy Central’s John Oliver’s “New York Stand-Up Show.” She recently stopped by to talk about the debut, MTV and how she got into the business.
Q – You’re making your stand-up debut this Friday, August 23rd, on John Oliver’s “New York Stand-Up Show” on Comedy Central. Congrats on that. Will you be that person who watches yourself and says, ‘I should’ve done this joke over that?’”
A - Thank you! I will be in the woods in Vermont when it airs so I won't get to scrutinize my choices (those pants!) in real time. It felt fantastic in the moment and that's what counts. It's easy once you have hindsight to feel like you could have done something better but like geez. Relax, Brooke! Have fun and be excited about the choices you made. It was such a fun, FUN taping. John Oliver blows me away and I feel lucky to be part of what I can, an "elite force of comedy" otherwise known as Season 4. We would so totally get along with Seal Team 6 I bet.
Q - How did you go about deciding which material to do on television?
A - As far as the jokes in my set, I've been performing for 10 years so choosing material was a little tough. I figured the best course was some old favorites mixed with a few really new ones to keep me on my toes and excited. Also, my jokes have been parent tested. My folks love my material so if it's good enough for Mark and Kathleen Van Poppelen, it's good enough for you, America!
Q – What specific moment made you want to go into comedy in the first place?
A - I think my first ever call to action was when The Upright Citizens Brigade first aired on Comedy Central. I learned that you could take their Improv classes. I really researched it and started to make plans to move to NYC for the summer to do it up! Then I realized I had $37 in checking. Soooooo, I stayed put for a few years in the Detroit area and decided Chicago was more my speed and went there to take classes at IO and study with The Second City instead. I eventually ended up in NYC and performing at UCB Theater so it worked out! My life doesn't have forks in the road so much as it has those bendy, loopy straws. Shit eventually gets where I want it to be.
(Photo by Seth Olenick)
Q – You’re also involved with MTV’s “Girl Code” as a writer and producer and have contributed to other MTV series like “Guy Code,” “Failosophy,” and “Nikki and Sara Live.” How did this relationship with MTV come about?
A - MTV has been a great home for me. It really feels like a big family and I love the shows and talent they are developing as of late. Nikki and Sara (how about those funny broads, huh??) gave me my first television writing job and the work with MTV has kept going for the past two years. The "Code" world is an amazing team to be a part of - it just keeps growing and I'm proud of the shows I work on. I'm also going to be an author for the “Girl Code” book and if asked, I would definitely help design Girl Code action figurines. Or a “Girl Code” lunch box. Or a “Girl Code” training toilet. Start 'em young!
Q – You’re tasked to write new material on a regular basis. Describe your writing process for finding and writing material for both television and stand-up.
A - You have to learn how to organize your ideas which is not an easy task for someone who regularly forgets to take showers. I remember looking at mountains of my notebooks and not knowing how to make sense of them. I bought three binders and labeled them "stand-up," "sketches" and "scripts/essay ideas." I tore the pages out of my notebooks and organized them into binders then locked them in a cabinet and did nothing about it - except feel smug because I managed to file a few things. But now I am a lot less analog and I use Google Docs like a normal goddamn person. But I've learned that every weird thought I've jotted down in a notebook that doesn't make it onstage can still find a home. You just have to try and find the right vehicle for it.
Q – Do you find yourself favoring one format over the other, such as writing over stand-up and vice versa?
A - One hand washes the other. That's a saying right? The hand that rocks the cradle? I don't think I would have had the guts to push forward with writing if I had not had the guts to try stand-up and see that my thoughts make people laugh. Stand up is invaluable for finding your voice. My material all comes from real things that happen to me so when life slows down and doesn't deliver hilarious little nuggets, scripts and sketches are a lovely, fictional retreat for me. I also have a lot of fun working in a big group like I do for “Girl Code.” Riffing and writing with/for funny people helps dredge great material out of me that I maybe didn't realize was good. So I don't think I love one more than the other, I just think for me, writing will help me have a longer shelf life in terms of having a career in comedy.
Jason Tanamor is the Editor of Zoiks! Online. He also is the author of the novels, The Extraordinary Life of Shady Gray, Hello Lesbian! and Anonymous. Visit him at www.tanamor.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.