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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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

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

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
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Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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