Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Instead of writing, I have spent the last two weeks promoting myself. I apologize for this, but I am actually trying to be a competitor for this ECNY awards thingy instead of curling up into a ball and hiding. Believe it or not, competition makes me squirm. It's only fun when you know you've got it in the bag......

I am a 2 time spelling bee champion, so you would think that the amassed confidence from the 4th and 5th grades would have carried over into adult life, but no. I am also a State Champion Cheerleader---- 2 years in a row...maybe 3, I lost track---we were that awesome at cheerleading. I have the medals to prove it along with assorted trophies and severely fucked up knees. But did that "bring it on" confidence carry over into comedy? Not an ounce of it.

I have a real quitter attitude. My brother and I both suffer from this character flaw and since we can relate to one another about this, we have somehow justified quitting as part of who we are. Our parents have grown numb to it by now, both of us dropping out of sports and extracurricular activities that we excelled at, long ago. The minute college got tough, we both bailed. Good jobs with great benefits? Eh. We quit 'em.

When we sit back and reflect on why we do this, we both agree that it feels gross to have the spotlight on us----neither of us enjoy pressure and basically we don't want the responsibility of living up to a standard of any sort. As much as we are both talented people, we have convinced ourselves that being competitive is about as lame as it gets for a human, and that there is nothing more embarrassing than someone who is impassioned. Yuck. You just look like that much more of a douche when you fail.

It was 6th grade when I chose being cool over being special at something. I was the incumbent spelling bee champion and as we all know, a great deal of self-awareness develops between 4th grade and 6th grade. My acute talent for perfect spelling was something that made me stand out and everyone celebrated with me.

Going into 6th grade though, people acted differently. It was the first time I really noticed alot of judgement coming from my peers. I was one of those kids that teetered between brainy nerds and smart mouth cool kids. I loved both groups but at that age, lines are drawn. You are either one or the other and I was horrified that I was about to be put on the spot and revealed for the brainy nerd I was because of my spelling prowess.

The day of the spelling bee came and my cool friends begrudgingly took their place in line, rolling their eyes, laughing and mocking everything and everyone. My spelling buddies were feverishly looking over flashcards, cramming before we began. I stood there not knowing what to do and became flushed with anxiety.

My teachers who had presented me with the engraved dictionaries in previous years looked at me with pride and confidence; a hopeful who could maybe go on to be a regional champion.

Now, I would love to build up the story and paint a picture where with each passing round of spelling, I once again eek ahead of the group. The nerds cheer for me and the cool kids are glaring and getting ready to jump me in the parking lot after school when on the last round it's down to me and a super geek, I buckle under the pressure and spell something wrong by accident, thus having put up a good fight, but also still being able to pass as a cool kid.

No, I bounced outta there on the first round. The special-ed kids were still spelling words correctly. Ironically the word given to me was "trophy" and I misspelled it like a cocky little jack ass. I didn't want any drama, so I immediately failed on purpose. "Trophy. T-R-O-P-H..........IE. Trophy. I'm outta here." I got ready to be embraced by the "in-crowd", but it didn't go down like that.

I will never, ever forget the look on my teacher's faces. The whole faculty for that fact, was shocked and disappointed. My classmates, even the cool ones were giving me looks like, "So not cool, Brooke." I remember sitting there for the rest of the spelling bee in a daze, silently spelling words at twice the pace of people still contending. I had wanted to define myself that day and I certainly did. L-O-S-E-R.

People believed so much in my talent that they were mad at me for failing them. My friends avoided eye contact with me and I got pulled aside after school by 3 seperate teachers who shunned me. They knew I had botched it up on purpose and they told my mother about the debacle when she came to pick me up after school. I had no idea being cool came with so many ramifications.

I have done some idiotic things in my day like when I wanted to quit cheerleading and my parents wouldn't let me, so I decided to be the worst cheerleader ever. I was always purposely a beat behind everyone, clownishly smacking into my teammates and dropping stunts much to the delight of, you got it, the highschool cool crowd clustered in the bleachers. They thought I was hilarious and instead of quitting, I got kicked off the team by a coach who couldn't understand where her 2 time state champion had disappeared to.

Even though that was shameful and embarrassing to my parents, it still did not match the perplexed look on my mother's face when she picked me up from school after throwing the spelling bee. She knew she was in for a bumpy road with me.

It makes sense that I am a comedian. I almost feel like it is my punishment for quitting so many things in the past. I have spent 6 years in the school of comedy hard knocks and here I am, once again excelling at something that this time around requires alot of failure to get good.

Right about now would be the time where I quit, or throw the competition, or do something dramatic to wriggle out of the spotlight next week as I stand a 6 to 1 chance of losing.... yes, that is how I look at it, I never said I was a positive person.

I am just proud that I can finally face the noise---win or lose, both prospects are terrifying, but most terrifying is that I'm not going to interfere this time.

Oh man, I am even going to post a link where you can vote for me. (now i am really putting myself out there. gulp.)Vote for Brooke Van Poppelen as an "Emerging Comic" of NYC here: http://www.ecnyawards.com/


Mo Diggs said...

I am far from a quitter but I come from a family of quitters. If they lose the remote they give up. Meanwhile I will fight moles underground if it means I get my remote!

Katie cat said...

Congrats! and I hear you on the knees thing! I too, was not a fan of cheerleading and danced as well but eventually quit because of the pressure. It's entertaining to look back on - the competition, the bitches, the make up and the outfits... ha ha.

Ian said...

The Scripps Howard Collegiate Dictionary with your name stamped in gold? I totally have a couple of those too.