Brooke Van Poppelen, stand-up comedian and costar of TruTv's Hack My Life television series, knows a lot about trying new things. It's kind of her whole job. I was lucky enough to chat with Brooke about the new season of Hack My Life, her awesome web series, and the business of being a woman in comedy. She was sweet as could be, and had tons of smart things to say — all while being in Hawaii. Who has the iron willpower to interview while they're in Hawaii? Wonder Woman. Also, Brooke Van Poppelen, who is basically the same person.
Do you have a favorite outrageous hack?
I mean, they all evoke different emotions [laughs]. Some are so ridiculous. Some are awesome. Some are frustrating, but because they’re so stupid they end up being really fun. It’s interesting when you’re trying stuff out in real time. You don’t know what’s going to happen. This season, we made a hot tub out of a dumpster. I had a mental breakdown while we climbed into that, but I was laughing so hard. I was like, “I think we crossed the line!”
Are there any Hack My Life hacks you’ve actually started using in your own life?
I’m a big fan of anything involving cooking. I have my own segment where I teach people how to make food with absolutely no effort. That stuff is really fun, but I am actually a foodie, so me making toaster grilled cheese is like — I don't even eat white bread! So this season we did things like how to take three ingredients and make it into a delicious dressing just by shaking it in a jar. Anything like that gets me excited. I love serving people drinks and making food, so anything in the kitchen makes me excited. I especially love the hack of freezing grapes so when you chill wine it doesn't’t get watered down.
Aside from your work on Hack My Life, you also have your own web series. Was the process for writing your own show different from writing for other shows, like Girl Code?
Absolutely! Writing my own web series is the ultimate indulgence. My co-star and co-writer Giulia and I have done a lot of stuff for other people, and it is so fun to unabashedly be ourselves. We’re writing this — this is our time and our money. We can be the people we want to be, and we are both writing for ourselves for the first time, so I feel like it was really an appropriate thing for us to do this together. I love stand-up comedy and short form jokes, but I also love narrative writing and acting out scripted content, so it’s a very different skill set. Narrative is where we both really feel our passion lies, and we felt like this would be a good gateway to show people we could write funny scripted content. It’s the most fun I've ever had because I feel like all my bizarre life skills came together — I love making my own stuff.
What advice do you have for women trying to get their start in comedy and TV writing that you wish someone had given you?
Laser focus is great, but I think you really have to diversify. Make sure you’re taking improv classes. Make sure you’re learning how to do commercial auditioning. Write your spec script if you have that talent — it opens up a world of possibility, because if people know you’re a funny chick, they’re gonna wanna know what you've got. Some people are robotic maniacs with a specific medium, but for me, and I think a lot of other people, if you have a lot of things going on, your career is really full and diverse and interesting. I think having such a varied career gives you more opportunities. There are so many outlets, especially for female comedians. So just find your thing and be true to yourself.
Being a female comic, you are often the “only one in the room.” Do you feel pressure to represent All The Ladies in comedy?
I mean, I worked in Guy Code. So I was technically the female voice in the room when we would sit and brainstorm with all the male writers and cast members. And we’d get in these crazy arguments and I would have to weigh in with the perspective like, “NoNoNo! That isn’t how it is for all girls — please know I don’t speak for all women, but . . .” [laughs] I feel like there were a lot of learning moments. It was honestly really rewarding — I feel lucky in the sense that representing my gender was a dream scenario because we had a lot of Deep Talk as a group.
Female comedians do have a hard time being heard, but it was important for me to realize that sometimes it was hard to be heard because of big personalities, not because people didn’t want to hear me.
Are there any ladies you are loving right now?
Giulia Rozzi is the total package: an amazing comic, storyteller, actress, writer, and TV personality. We have collaborated on live shows, scripts, pitches, and our web series, Seeing Other People. Charla Lauriston bowls me over with her cool and assertive stage presence. Sara Schaefer is so inspirational when it comes to getting amazing projects off the ground. Joselyn Hughes is such an amazing comic, and now author! Her book, DIY Dammit, comes out this November. I adore Amber Nelson. She is one of the most ballsy, genius comics in NYC. I can't breathe from laughing so hard when she does one of her characters, or rants like a lunatic during her stand-up. You have to see her live.