By Samantha Samel
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The modern blonde has a reputation. More so than brunettes, blondes seem to be arbitrarily categorized – whether as dumb, ditzy, or wild. Tired of fighting to disprove such illogical associations, (blonde) Brooklyn-based writer and comedian Selena Coppock decided to reclaim the blonde identity. In her book “The New Rules for Blondes: Highlights From A Fair-Haired Life” (IT Books; on-sale: April 23, 2013), Coppock offers blondes a humorous guide to undermining stereotypes and becoming both self-aware and self-assured.
Complete with memoirs of her own hilarious mishaps – involving hair, heels, and dating – Coppock’s book is both fun and informative, whether or not you’reof the golden-haired persuasion. To celebrate the release of her book, Coppock will appear at Littlefield in Gowanus on Tuesday, April 23. The evening will consist of a launch party and a reading, which promises to invite laughter (Coppock has a background in standup comedy).
Brooklyn Eagle checked in with the author, who reveals to us the serious undertones of her humorous material. She talks about the comedians who have most inspired her and tells us about some of her favorite Brooklyn spots for writing and performing.
After establishing your career as a comedian and writer of short pieces, what inspired you to publish a book?
I thought it would be a great way to get my writing and voice out there to an even larger audience and to have something concrete. I love standup and storytelling, but it can feel a bit ephemeral and fleeting—an amazing live show happens and it’s a shared experience between the audience and the performers and then it’s over. So I was really thrilled to work on a book because it’s much more permanent—for generations to come, people can read about the time my best friend I used our fake IDs to buy margaritas and then ate chicken Cesar salads and, as a result, I nearly had a major “digestive accident” on public transportation! What a legacy!
Your book is obviously humorous…but you can you tell us a bit about the more serious message you’re trying to deliver here?
I’m really glad you asked that because you’re exactly right—the book is fun and informational, but at its core it’s a book trying to encourage self-love. Girls and women are socialized to be really hard on themselves and each other--we get a lot of grief for how we look or what shape we are and many of us internalize those toxic messages without even knowing that we are. With “The New Rules for Blondes” obviously I’m talking about blondeness, but I’m also encouraging the reader to embrace the fact that she is smart and spunky and unique, and who cares what other people think. I’ve been told that my (awesome, voluminous) hair makes me look like white trash and a mafia wife (separate incidents), and this book is how I am retaking power from the haters. You might think my hair is big and trashy, but big hair makes me happy and I love myself enough to rock it with confidence.
Do you ever worry that you are crossing the line into bad taste?...Or do you find that crossing the line is often necessary for successful comedy?
That’s a toughie. I know that audiences and readers have personal hot-button issues that they simply will not laugh at, and I think that’s totally understandable and fine. But as a comedian, I think that NO topic should be off limits—everything can be fodder for a joke or a story as long as it’s done with imagination and thoughtfulness. But I don’t think that “crossing the line” is required for successful comedy—I know plenty of completely clean comedians who are absolutely hilarious and who don’t touch contentious issues with a ten foot pole. I know other comedians who go for the jugular with controversial topics and some of them are great and intelligent, others are horrible. As a writer or performer you have to do what feels right for you and set your own boundaries.
When writing and performing, are there any subjects that you avoid entirely for fear of offending your audience?
I find that being somewhat light and playful is how I am most comfortable onstage and in my writing, so I’m fortunate that I don’t think I offend a ton of people. But I’ve been known to get a touch preachy when it comes to issues of traditional marriage rituals (and my dislike for much of the wedding industrial complex: blood diamond rings, bachelorette parties, assorted showers, weddings, spending money on chair covers) and I think I have alienated people with that type of talk (I’ve probably alienated most of the readers of this very interview!), so sometimes I just keep my mouth shut about those things. In standup, you learn to read the audience pretty quickly and hone in on what they seem to enjoy.
What are some of your favorite Brooklyn venues – whether you’re performing or an audience member?
I absolutely adore Littlefield, where my book launch party is happening on April 23rd (everyone should come!) and where my friend Marianne Ways runs an amazing standup show every Monday night—Night Train with Wyatt Cenac. I also love Union Hall both as a chill out joint and as a fantastic venue—that basement is just so intimate and warm. Caroline Creaghead’s Sunday night show there is always delightful. I’ve had the pleasure of performing at a standup show that took place at Hank’s Saloon once and it was really neat—I genuinely love performing standup in a venue where you feel like a bar fight could erupt at any moment. And finally, it’s not a venue but it’s a fantastic place: Double Windsor (Prospect Park West & 16th Street) is one of my favorite watering holes in all of Brooklyn.
Would you say that your surroundings – whether your neighborhood or Brooklyn/New York at large – often inspire your work?
Definitely. I write a lot of my material from observing and taking a nugget of an idea, then fleshing it out and I find that there are so many great bars, restaurants, and coffee shops in Brooklyn where you can do just that. I’m also a bit of a Luddite, so while working on my book I did a fair amount of printing and hard copy marking. Since my book is comprised of essays, I could print out a few essays and then tote them to a bar to sip a beer or wine while I punched up some of the text or cleaned things up. I did that a lot at Double Windsor and Five Leaves (in Greenpoint). Also, a lot while riding the F train. I was tempted to thank the MTA in the Acknowledgements section of my book because their delays gave me AMPLE time to work on my book while in transit.
Do you have any favorite comedians – specifically comedic writers – who inspire you?
I’m a fan of everything that David Cross and Bob Odenkirk do and I’m still so inspired by Mr. Show. There have been plenty of great sketch shows over the years, but their practice of making each sketch blend into the next into the next and circle back by the end of the episode was an is still absolutely brilliant! Of course I adore Monty Python for that same reason. Sketch comedy is one hundred times harder when each sketch has to flow into the next—it just blows my mind. I especially respect Bob and David because they really succeeded in comedy on their own terms—those are the types of people who inspire me.
The comedians and writers who believe in their talent and face rejection but just keep on plugging—the workhorses. I adore Chuck Klosterman’s writing and his footnote asides (a style that I favor as well) and I’m a big fan of Amelie Gillette’s writing. When she was writing The Hater I was addicted to that column. That kind of boldness and sort of “here are my opinions and I don’t give a rat’s ass if you like them or me” is so refreshing and awesome.
* * *
Coppock will appear at Littlefield in Gowanus for a reading and book launch party on Tuesday, April 23. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the reading will begin at 8 p.m. Littlefield is located at 622 Degraw St. in Gowanus.
Selena Coppock is a Brooklyn-based comedian, storyteller, and writer. She has studied both improv and sketch comedy extensively. Selena has earned spots in a multitude of comedy festivals across country and her storytelling abilities have been showcased at shows including RISK! (live and show and podcast) and The Moth Story Slam (where she tied for first place with her "After Hours" story in March 2011). Her writing has been featured on TheFrisky,McSweeny’s and she can be seen online on RooftopComedy, College Humor, PMSports, and elsewhere.
* * *