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Brooke Van Poppelen on Performing in Strange Places

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When it comes to comedy venues, Brooke Van Poppelen doesn’t discriminate. She’s performed on John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show, in a Chicago deli and, as part of IFC’s Comedy Drop web series, a New York City tattoo parlor. To find out how she’s able to elicit laughter in unexpected places, we asked Brooke questions about her difficult, slightly terrifying craft.

Aside from Comedy Drop, where was the strangest—or most interesting—place you’ve done stand up?
Well, I hate to brag but one time in Chicago my improv team performed in a deli to a few people eating hot beef sandwiches. Then there was the time I performed at a biker bar and the “stage” was standing on the bar Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure style. Luckily I didn’t knock anyone’s hog over.

Where was the first place you ever performed?
I tried stand up for the first time at the infamous Lyon’s Den open mic on Chicago’s North side in 2003. That open mic was the starting point for so many Chicago ex-pats who are all over television, film and radio now. It’s pretty awesome to think about sometimes. I fell offstage and onto my back because the heel of my vintage boot broke off. The host had to help peel me off the floor. I knew it could only go up from there.

Performing in front of crowds—especially ones not expecting comedy—has to be tough. Do you have any rituals to shake pre-show jitters?
I just throw myself into situations. The more I pre-judge and overthink the worse it gets. And here’s some sage advice — any time comedy is going to be competing with an unsuspecting person eating pancakes, you’re definitely going to lose. So, the most important thing you can do is try to be likable and confident. Inside you’re dying but you have to push through. Oh man. It hurts to think about. Comedy Drop was one of those moments.

How do you approach joke writing? Do you hunker down and write, or does inspiration need to find you first?
I am a mixed bag but I veer toward the personal because it’s less likely people will have similar material to you. I just try not to tell personal stories/ jokes about stuff that happens to everyone — like, “this one time I was tired and hungry. Can you guys believe that?!”

Is a joke ever fully “ready,” or is it always “in progress”?
It is always a work in progress. The hard part is admitting that it still needs work. The jokes that get a solid laugh are the hardest to work on because you”re like, eh– good enough. But why wouldn’t you want to take a solid laugh and turn it into a joke that makes people have a seizure from laughing so hard? I’m lazy.

What is the best piece of stand up advice you’ve ever heard?
People love to give you advice in this business. There’s a new list on BuzzFeed every day of “amazing advice from comedians” and it always rules. People like Amy Poehler and Louis C.K. are people I am going to listen to when they dish advice. They’re so good at it.

I was thinking I’d like to give some advice if that’s cool. And it’s something that I tell myself when I am auditioning and trying to get “next level” work to land. I think you have to dream big and visualize and fantasize that you are going to get that job or get that part every single time you go into something. You bring great energy to the table when you do. It’s learning to not care when you don’t get it and have a really quick recovery time from that. I used to get so crushed when I didn’t get something and would let that flavor my attitude while auditioning. I would bring an energy like “Why would they cast me? This role is too big for me and I never get anything anyway. This is what I get for dreaming. Dumb me. ” Ugh.

Get excited that you are asked to audition for anything, bring that vibe with you and then immediately let it go the minute it’s over.

What’s a joke that makes you laugh, or smile, every time?

There are so many jokes I love to hear from my comic friends. My favorite is when comedians actually shut the hell up and stop looking at their own notebook for a second because we know that so and so is about to launch into one of their best jokes. We all nudge each other like “here it comes!” That is commiserating at it’s best. I was performing on Greg Barris’ awesome show Heart of Darkness last week and while Jim Gaffigan makes me cry with laughter all the time, he told a joke about car service in NYC that made me spit out some of my drink. He expertly imitated how you call, don’t even say anything and the guy immediately says “5 minute” then hangs up. Jim is like “hello? are you even going to ask where I live? And somehow they still show up.” I lost it. It’s hilarious because it’s a really specific, geographic experience. Only in NY, right?

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

E.coli-class-

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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