Spotlight: Rule-Breaking Blonde Selena Coppock
Selena Coppock is a comedian, actress, and writer whose Boston roots run deep. A Weston native, she performed on one of ImprovBoston’s earliest house teams (Project D) and began stand up by telling jokes in bars and VFW halls across Massachusetts. Once she settled in New York, she further honed her stand up act and became well known around the city for her high-energy stage presence and anecdotes of personal misadventure. She produces a quarterly show with her pal Laurel Maul, Bitchcraft, that involves many costume changes and showcases talents ranging from standup and storytelling to music to characters. Her brainchild Twitter and Instagram parody account, @NYTVows expertly satirizes the Grey Lady’s Vows column and has received coverage from Salon and the Times itself. She was seen on season 2 of Amazon’s RED OAKS, contributed to TVLand’s Younger, and Harper Collins published her book of essays The New Rules for Blondes in 2013. Her debut album Seen Better Days was released last month and quickly hit #1 on the iTunes comedy charts. Selena took time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions about preparing to record an album, pursuing comedy professionally, and achieving balance in a hectic industry.
WICF Daily: Why did you choose to record a stand up album at this point in your career?
Selena Coppock: To be honest, a few years back I found myself chatting with a comedian who was only a few years into standup and she said that she was recording an album and it made me feel like, “Selena, why aren’t you doing that? If a newbie is doing it, you are more than qualified to do it” which, perhaps, sounds like a pretty mean-spirited answer. Ha. But I’m just not a person who has always been super obsessed with fame or advancement or goals—I’ve just been figuring it out, having fun, plodding along—but these rights of passage never really occurred to me. So an album is probably long overdue for me. I got a bee in my bonnet about it, then I became friends with Shonali Bhowmik who runs Little Lamb Recordings with Jason Lam (they are in a fantastic band called Tigers and Monkeys). It was really after Trump’s Presidential victory that I decided I wanted to go for it—I needed a healthy, creative outlet. And that’s the long silver lining that came out of this election—it made me get off my duff and record a standup album.
WICF: How did you pull together the set that was ultimately recorded? Did you go through old notebooks, or run the set at local shows or on the road?
Selena: I was originally supposed to record the album at Union Hall in Brooklyn in late April 2017. Just a few before the recording, they had a fire so we had to cancel, reschedule, and ultimately switch venues and dates. So I recorded the album in late July at The Duplex (Christopher Street in the West Village). I can’t recommend The Duplex enough—they are amazing, professional, lovely to artist. But back to your question! The set that I have on SEEN BETTER DAYS is a compilation of my favorite jokes. When I headline (often at the “Chicks Are Funny” show at assorted Funny Bones—a show founded by two wonderful, hilarious ladies—Pam Werts and Anna Phillips and now run by the amazing Erin Harkes—I usually do 45+ minutes and it’s much of what is on this album. For longer sets, I usually lump my jokes into chunks (to help with memorization) and tell a few storytelling pieces, so I pulled together those pieces—yes, some from old Word docs, notebooks, but also, as you say, some from running longer sets. The New York comedy community is so lovely and lots of people gave me long sets to work on chunks of material, get old closers back on their feet.
WICF: How do you balance writing and performing stand up with your other creative pursuits?
Selena: It’s a lot, but I’ve always loved being busy. I find that I have the most energy and ideas from having a structured schedule. I work 9-6 Monday through Friday as a Managing Editor in a publishing house in NYC—I manage 4 Editors and an Associate Editor and we have quite a workload. So I try to brainstorm and write on the subway, on my lunch break, on the weekends. I wrote my entire book on weekends and at night (so I HATE publishing types who bang the drum of “you MUST attend an overpriced writer’s retreat”—NO, writing is NOT just for the idle rich). As I have gotten older in comedy I have become more discerning about what projects are a good use of my time and I’ve tried to set boundaries. When you’re young in comedy, you tend to say “yes” to everything that comes your way—and you should! But as you get older, there is power and advancement in saying “no” and only doing things that are useful and inspiring to you. For something like @NYTVows, I write tweets or post Instagrams from that account whenever I am inspired to do so—sometimes, 2-3x per day, other times, not for a few days. You can decide what works for you.
WICF: What advice do you have for women pursuing comedy professionally?
Selena: Women are the vast minority in comedy, so for some ladies, the knee-jerk reaction to being the odd woman out is to seek to be the LONE woman out. Don’t do that. If you DO do that, don’t beat yourself up for it (my mantra is, be gentle with your sweet self), but stop doing that. See other women as your collaborators, not your competitors. Create what you love, whether that’s a podcast about candles (my DREAM podcast) or a webseries about breakups or a blog about hockey movies – just create something that you genuinely, earnestly love and maybe that will lead to larger, more profitable opportunities but also, maybe it won’t but you’re doing something that you truly love and feel passionate about. Make friends within the community – so much of what I have gotten in comedy (road gigs, headlining gigs, writing opportunities) I have gotten through friends referring me. And you can’t force that stuff–you just meet people organically, collaborate, bellyache, hustle with them – those are your people – that is your class. It reminds me of a lovely saying by the massively talented and kind comedian Tom Shillue: “A lot of comics are restless – they want to network with the pros who they perceive as ‘one level up’ from them. Those guys can’t help you much. It’s your peers that will help you. Forget the dog-eat-dog stuff; like it’s just you and your jokes against the world. That used to work, but not anymore. Make friends with people who make you laugh, produce shows together, build an audience together. Don’t worry about trying to climb your way up the comedy scene, just hold hands with your friends and you’ll all rise up like a balloon, laughing along the way.”
I think about this quotation weekly, if not daily. It’s so beautiful and so simple.
WICF: How can people keep up with your work / where can they find you online?
Selena: All of my stuff lives on my newly-designed website, www.selenacoppock.com. Also I tweet and Insta at @selenacoppock on those respective platforms. I’m currently in the thick of Bachelor madness (I write recaps on my blog, This is probably TMI, but… cause I aint too proud to blogspot). And finally, my labor of love is @NYTVows, on Twitter and Instagram, where I pose as The Grey Lady and mock weddings, WASPS, and cash bar.