DID YOU READ

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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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.