Brooke Van Poppelen is a comic, actress, writer, and host. She’s appeared on The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, @Midnight, and John Oliver’s New York Stand Up Show on Comedy Central, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on CBS, IFC’s Comedy Drop, and the upcoming first season of Night Train hosted by Wyatt Cenac for NBC’s Seeso. She has appeared as a guest on ABC’s The View and Dr. Oz and as a talking head and panelist on multiple MTV, truTV and VH1 shows. Van Poppelen has worked as a writer and producer for several seasons of Girl Code and Guy Code and many other MTV shows. We had the chance to catch up with her as we gear up for season 3 of her truTV show Hack My Life.
And as a precursor, her dog was around which lead to the first question…
At what point in your life did your stuff animals turn into real animals?
Let’s see. I got Whinny over two and a half years ago. I’ve been straight up stalking animals for a full two years at pet finder. I joke about it, but it’s legit. I would stay in on Friday nights and act as if it were Tinder. I would see what dog were in the profiles. I would wait until the right one would come alone. It’s a big decision when you decide to adopt an animal. It worked out, and I adopted her with a boyfriend at the time. Now I’m a single mother, but it’s OK.
I’m glad you got the dog. I’m glad the dog got you.
Brooke you may live in LA now, but it still feels as if you lived in New York because every day I get in the subway, and I get to see you and your surprised face, and part of this awesome TruTV campaign not just the network, but also your show. The ads are hilarious. You are literally everywhere in New York City these days.
I’m so sad I haven’t been able to see it. My friends have been really sweet, and I asked to please send me photos of yourself standing next to me. Also, the ones that are graffitied upon, and messed with. Send those as well because they are so hilarious to me. I’ve gotten some cool ones. There’s this one where someone drew a bizarre alien standing next to me holding my hand. It’s very creative.
[Laughter] I have to find that one. Occasionally you see the mustache.
I’ll send you them. They’ve gone beyond. There’s only one so far that has a big space between my teeth, and a mustache. The others have been really creative. I like when they take the eyes off of another poster, and put them over yours. It’s really freaky.
Yea. It’s an exit to the gift shop 24/7 here in New York City. You know the drill. If they’re gonna take action, they’re gonna go all out. No doubt about that.
It’s great. Honestly, it’s just a high compliment. It’s a sign that you’ve made it, and you’re doing something right with your life. When you’re being defaced on some signs in Manhattan.
Well I’m glad you brought up Life because you’ve been hacking it here. It’s the third season of Hack my Life right? You like that segway. Best one of the day.
That segway was so smooth Mark.
That’s the old radio guy leaking out there I apologize.
Its season three of Hack My Life and you and Kevin have gone above and beyond here. What’s so magical about Hack My Life is obviously when you discover something new that you’ve never been aware of. Also, how many hackers there are in this life. You can hack for life. You can take this to season 25 if you guys wanted too.
I think the insane part is that everybody in the internet keep creating these shortcuts and fix-it’s to solve their problems. Than yea. As long as they keep pumping it out than we’ll source it and give it a shot. That’s for certain. It is mind-boggling how many have cycled through the show.
The other great thing I love is when you get a great random shot of you two doing something like it’s an action. Like you two are holding balloons and have interesting look on your faces. You guys look as if you’re starting to do something with them, but we don’t know what. It’s a guess of what this could possibly be leading to.
I know. Usually there is a look of trepidation on Kevin and my faces because more often than not something would either splash on us, blow up, or backfire. We’ve been trained to be mostly afraid of all the hacks that we do
What is something about Kevin that has grown on you? Everybody has their kick of thing, but you grow to love it after you spend so much time with somebody.
Oh, I know! The thing about Kevin is that we have a pretty easy friendship from day one. He is a very thoughtful, sweet guy. He always checks in, and asks how you are doing. It’s not like you get to work and ignore each other. We definitely know a lot about each other’s lives. We certainly have went through some changes since we’ve met. We met about three years ago. We’ve been through some moves, break-ups, travels, and all that stuff. He’s honestly a really good friend. I think Kevin is really wonderful that way. He is super super thoughtful.
He definitely is the best.
You hung out with him not to long ago so you know.
I went to his glorified mancave, and it was ridiculously, incredibly…
Oh, his production studios?
Yea, it was undeniably awesome.
I think that is what was also very surprising and impressive too. I know he is a producer, but to actually see the lair where stuff is. It’s like the nerve center of attack. This is no joke. It’s a legit production studio. He’s even got interns! People love him so much. People are like ‘can I just sort mail? Anything for you Kevin.’ It’s really funny.
If you were to construct your own lair out there in LA, what would be in it? When we walk in what greets us in the front door?
I feel like I would want to have a bunch of cool LP’s and a record player. You would have a fun listen, and sample music. Maybe even a DJ in the corner, but not like a douchey night club way. Like a listening station in the corner. There would also probably be food involved with anything I was doing. I’ve worked for hospitality for so long. If I had a lair I probably would have a really killer *lumber oaka (8:52) expresso machine. I probably be wanting to make pastries and coffee for people. I hope I would have a little sound stage, booth, green screen. God I wish I could afford really nice equipment one of these days, but I would love to have a little production studios myself.
Well you’re on your way.
There would also be really great sort of mix-matched garage sell type, antique store furniture, weird paintings, a bunch of good garage sell art around. Also, some friends hanging out. Definitely food. I don’t know is that a woman cave?
Absolutely. I think it’s your cave. It doesn’t matter who did it.
I’ll be happy living in a store. I always wanted to be a vintage store owner, and being surrounded by cool clothes and merchandise things.
That sounds like your cave. No doubt about it. I feel like you’ll be selling tickets to this place, and people are going to be lining up. Now, Brooke I want to ask you about comedy and everything that you are doing with stand-up because I don’t want that to be lost in the sauce. You have the people that know you from Hack My Life, but then you have this other audience who knows you just from stand-up, or maybe your writing, and acting. You’re all over the place. When you perform now, and you do stand-up has it changed at all because of the different facets of your career now? Have you engaged your audience, and you could cater your set that night to the people you know are surrounding you that night.
Like completely outside of the show you are asking?
Yea, if you’re just going to do a show.
Yea, I’m adaptable because I don’t have one solid true line with my stand-up. I don’t have a character or anything like that. I could really read a room, and if it’s a little bit goofier, younger, and a little more bush-wicky. They kind of like the ironic stuff, not the sincere stuff much. So, it’s like ‘maybe I’ll work on the kind of goofier and more detached sort of bit’ which are still a part of my persona as a whole. Sometimes your like ‘oh maybe this is a better audience to work out the kinks of my show.’ For example, when I’m in the Midwest surrounded by people my age and do 9-5 and have families. You just think really different on how you want to entertain them, and I really get a kick out of connecting with them on being Midwestern and having jokes on family and great jokes on dating. It just depends, you can just read a vibe in a crowd sometimes. Tell that they want to hear more about their life reflected back to them versus rooms that are a little more difficult and hip. I don’t mean this in a way to sound negative, but sometimes in a really young, cool crowd. They haven’t really dug deep, and thought things about themselves. So when I’m self-defacing it can actually be uncomfortable. I’m really comfortable with who I am, and I feel like sometimes it’s really shocking or not of interest to really young audience members. Like 21 year-olds, they are super PC still, and I believe in political-correctness to a point, but there also a sphere of what you might say about yourself or someone else, and they would just clam up. So, yea it’s interesting.
So with that said. Do you think that there is a limit to comedy? Is there a line that can’t be crossed or shouldn’t be crossed? Or, do you think there should be limitations to comedy as long as it’s funny?
I think the question you have to ask yourself is if you are an authority to speak on it. I think there is a little misconception that just because you are a comedian you can say anything you want. If it’s not your experience to speak about than shut the fuck up a little bit. Like especially when it’s really touchy subjects. Like when men insisting they have the best rape joke. Like really, have you been raped? Has anyone in your family ever been raped? Why do you think you are in such an awesome authority to talk about this. It’s just so few people can just get away with it being sincere and funny. It’s sometimes like they want to get away with whatever they can get away with as opposed to maybe dig deeper into the topic. They want to touch it because it’s a hot issue, not because they care and want people to feel comradery, healed, or really feel funny. I feel like there is such an obsession with people feeling like they could get away with whatever they want too. I just feel strongly you know. Not saying you can’t, I’m just saying don’t be surprised when people think you fucking suck.
Yea. I’m not saying you can’t. Just don’t get mad at the audience. There are just some topics that you’re just like ‘oh cool, tell me more white guy who doesn’t experience this.’
Right. I’m glad you said it that way because if it’s something that’s intense, and you haven’t had a personal experience with it. I don’t want to say it’s not your right to joke about it. Well I guess I am saying that. Yea. I agree with you. The truth is always the funniest to me, and if that’s someone’s way to get through something that they’ve been through. That’s one thing. Maybe you’re a great joke writer, and you wrote what you think is a funny joke, but you never actually did it than maybe it’s not yours to tell. If you’re that good at writing jokes, than right that joke about a different subject.
Totally, and I think that’s the problem. The comedian brain can’t help itself sometimes, and the way you write doesn’t necessarily reflect what’s going on in your soul, your heart, or your experiences. So, I think sometimes comedians feel like there’s no difference between that. Like, ‘my smartest brain thought this,’ and it’s just a play on words that is such so careless sometimes. When you hear somethings of course my brain immediately thinks of a really inappropriate pun because we’re work people who have been trained to really try and be sharp, witty, and topical. Than your like, ‘well that’s never going to see the light of day.’ Maybe that’s the difference between me and some other people. Here’s the thing, there are audiences who want to hear stuff like that, but they’re not my audiences. If it’s a super inappropriate, hateful, out-of-touch thing. I don’t want people to think that’s awesome. You know.
You could do whatever you want, but I’ve said and done things in my comedy career to test the waters, and you kind of grow pass it and grow up. You’re like, ‘oh man I use to say this joke and I’m kind of embarrassed about that.’ At some point you have to decide what you want your mission statement to be with your comedy. I’m not saying you have to be perfect, but at some point you have to check in and figure out if you want to create comradery and have a cathartic experience with your audience, or are you trying to just poke and offend with no greater message.
Right. Well that’s the difference between the best, and someone that probably isn’t going to be around that long.
I mean sure. That’s not to say that I enjoy some really saucy jokes. Some people can really get away with it, and you’re just OK. The way they put it. It’s just an intangible, but the thing is that every comedian is going to try and see if they have that intangible, and in the meantime a bunch of them fail and find out that we don’t. [Laughter] You know.
[Laughter] Right. Thank you for that, that’s a great insight, and thanks for being so open and honest about that.
I want to spin it back to the show. I do love the show. Hack My Life is so great. It’s great that you made it to Season 3, and it just kicked off. Tease us with a little bit of stuff that’s coming our way, and what we can expect from you and Kevin going forward here.
Totally. Well I think it’s cool that we did a longer season that usual, and did a few extra episodes which is great. Good for the fans. We have completed more special episodes on top of that too. So, there is about to be a wall of brand new Hack My Life content airing through the Winter and Spring. There’s a segment this year where we more particularly ask people who love hack, who have some of their own inventions actually be on the show with us, and we interview them and have them show us stuff. It was really endearing to meet people, and have them be on the show with their enthusiasm for inventing and coming up with hacks. It was really fun. It runs the gambit from brilliant to straight up bizarre. There are a couple of abject failures in the mix, and then other people that you’re just like ‘wow I hope this is like a product or idea that really takes off.’ So it was just really fun to meet other enthusiastic adventurers and hackers.
Absolutely, and for everyone who’s reading this. The hacktion history. You could go on the website and there’s some great stuff. Including some fanny pack action, which I can safely say I definitely rocked and was not ashamed. I was like, ‘guys nothing beats hands free.’ If you could be hands free I’m going to beat you in the street fight because I’m not holding something.
Anything I don’t have to put my purse down or wonder where it is. I have literally started to *20:10. It’s so annoying what if you want to go roller-skating. I went to David Bowie roller-skating a week ago.
Yes you did! Please tell me about this.
[Laughter] I don’t want to keep track of a purse. Use fanny pack alright. When you go roller-skating you put on a fanny pack my friend that’s just how it goes.
[Laughter] I love it. Maybe that could be something you sell at you merchandise table.
Oh my God! That’s actually…My God you may have given me a great idea. If I ever have merchandise.
Do it! I’ll be there for the ribbon cutting, and I’ll buy the first bag.
Alright Brooke well thank you as always for the time. I love picking your brain, and when you’re back at New York City hopefully we can hang out in person again. Congrats on the show, season 3, and everything else that will be coming our way from you in the comedy stage. Really appreciate it.
Thank you so much Mark, it’s always nice talking to you.