While she might not be a household name yet, Brooke Van Poppelen is a prominent member of New York’s local comedy scene performing stand-up and hosting gigs on the regular. On top of that, she’s earned writing credits on MTV’s “Girl Code” and screen time on “@Midnight,” “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” and more. So joke’s on you, New York, if you’re just hearing of her now.
In other words: she’s here, she’s funny, and she’s back on your TV.
Van Poppelen returned this month as co-host of truTV’s “Hack My Life” Season 2, where she explores the many #lifehacks that have infiltrated our modern existence with co-host Kevin Pereira. Does baby powder really remove sand from your feet? Which burns faster in a pinch: potato chips or Doritos? Van Poppelen and Pereira are here to help us out.
“I had a really enthusiastic audition, and it was really funny ‘cause I don’t book anything,” Van Poppelen told The Huffington Post of the job. “So it was like, ‘Whoa, I booked a TV hosting gig?'” She had worked on the blogging side of truTV for some years, making the transition to being in front of the camera even more sweet. The move was a natural fit. “As a stand-up, I think it’s the go-to sort of thing that you get called in for,” she continued, “because of the nature of what we do as comedians. We tend to make good host candidates.”
And while the show is her first TV hosting spot, the 12-year veteran of the comedy scene has found that her experience onstage has helped on the small screen. “It’s been great to be a comedian and have chops in terms of trying to write jokes on my toes […] sometimes the world of life hacks, they’re very confusing. There are a lot of moving pieces and parts.” And getting to play off Pereira is a natural fit. “The banter with Kevin, especially when the producers and the production just let us fly off the handle, we really go kind of crazy,” Van Poppelen said, before continuing, “Now, some of that stuff doesn’t make it to TV.” As for the stuff that does? You just have to wait and see.
While talking with Van Poppelen, we learned some valuable insights from her experiences making it in the comedy world. Here are four of our favorite pieces of advice for new acts on the scene.
1. Don’t stress about being an overnight sensation.
“The hardest thing in my young years was that my mind was there and my writing, but my stage persona … for anyone, it just takes a bit to carve out what your voice is. I am, believe it or not, actually pretty shy,” Van Poppelen explained. A rocky start isn’t unusual for those starting out, who just see polished, experienced performers onstage. Hit up those open mics and sure enough, you’ll be on your way to honing your presence.
2. Try comedy forms outside of your main squeeze.
Van Poppelen has 12 years of comedy under her belt, starting out in Chicago at Improv Olympics and Second City doing improv and sketch. While writing was her first passion, she dabbled in different kinds of comedy before sticking with stand-up. “I was doing stand-up, improv, sketch and theater. That was a pretty magical time, it was just really taking a crash course in just being on stage, period,” she said.
“I think just getting your feet wet with improv, if you’re not sure what to do is a great first step,” she continued. “You might not continue being an improviser, but I think it shakes you out of your comfort zone, and gives you the courage to try stand-up.”
3. If you need a break from stand-up/improv/sketch, take one.
When asked what kept her going in New York’s famously tough comedy scene, Van Poppelen had an answer right away. “When stand-up feels like I’m banging my head against the wall, I’m the person who’s not afraid to go into my overall — this is a dorky phrase, but basically a toolbox of all skills I have,” she said. “In the sense that it’s like, alright, if stand-up’s causing me frustration, maybe I’m gonna focus on a one-woman show and make that be my passion, or I’m gonna really really delve into writing … So I think I’ve always been smart in the sense that I’ve stayed working, I’ve stayed present, but I’ve shifted my disciplines.” Then you can take your experiences and channel them into your stand-up, coming back to the mic with a refreshed, new attitude.
4. Get out of town.
The high-pressure nature of the big U.S. comedy cities can take its toll on a budding comic. “You forget that you’re even good,” Van Poppelen said. “Advice to anyone that’s burned out: leave New York for a little bit. Get some shows on the road; everyone will think you’re amazing. Then come back to New York with that confidence.” Needing to take a break isn’t a deal breaker for your career, either. “Don’t forget you can go away for a little bit and do what makes you happy. I guess people think that if they even miss one night that they’re going to be forgotten forever,” Van Poppelen said. “It’s just not true.”
”Hack My Life” airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on truTV.
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