What do they say about New York City: There are eight million stories, and sometimes it seems as though eight million of the people telling them think they’re comedians? No, that’s not it. It is a fact, though, that America’s biggest city is also its biggest comedy mecca. Hollywood may be Hollywood, but New York City is where comedians are born funny, become funny or arrive to thrust their funny upon us. I think we should meet some of these people. This is a recurring feature, a mini-profile of newcomers, up-and-comers and overcomers of New York’s vibrant comedy scene. It’s called Meet Me In New York.
Selena Coppock (photographed above by Anya Garrett) is a wicked blonde Bostonian who wrote the book for modern blondes. In fact, her essay collection, “The New Rules For Blondes,” came out in 2013 from HarperCollins. Coppock also got ink from The New York Times by parodying the grey lady with her popular Twitter and Instagram accounts that mock the NYT wedding section, @NYTVows (Twitter; Instagram). She also has told stories for RISK! and The Moth, served as a creative consultant for TV Land’s Younger, and co-starred in the second season of Amazon’s 1980s comedy, Red Oaks.
You can see the ’80s vibe on the cover of her first stand-up comedy album, Seen Better Days, which just came out this week and already topped the iTunes comedy charts!
Arrival Date: September 2006
Arrived From: Boston, MA.
When and where did you start performing comedy? What was your first time onstage like?
“I started back with improv, a type of comedy that I now mostly loathe (sorry, haters). I was in an improv troupe in college and after college I moved to Chicago and studied at ImprovOlympic but was battling a pretty wicked depression, so I headed back to Boston to try and turn things around. I was doing improv in Boston for a while but I was very frustrated with the politics, power dynamics of that world, so I tried stand-up at a variety show sort of on a lark. From there, I found the Comedy Studio and hung out there, learned so much from watching Rick Jenkins and how he ran the room, tips he gave comedians. The Studio is really where I started out and I feel lucky to have had those years there.”
What was your best credit when you moved here?
“Honestly, I didn’t really have one. The two years that I was doing stand-up in Boston, I was somewhat clueless. Things have changed a lot since then, but back in 2005/2006, there weren’t many open mics in Boston and I didn’t quite understand how hard you had to hustle and that, especially early on, you’ve got to get up every night. So I moved here feeling like, “I do stand-up!” and very quickly I was like, “oh wait, no—I have been doing a slow-motion, sorta half-assed version of this thing and now it’s time to hustle harder.”
Why did you pick NYC instead of Los Angeles or anywhere else?
“I work in publishing by day and there are so many publishing jobs in NYC, so it made sense for me as far as how I could pay my bills. I had the guts to leave Boston because I was laid off from a publishing job and I had a moment feeling like, OK I can make a major change right now. Rather than reading articles online about stand-up comedy and all the cool shows happening at UCB and Rififi, I can go there and BE in that scene. My sweet then-boss and friend Anathea was the person who made me see that and she ALSO moved to NYC around that time and now we do this thing where if something magical happens or an exciting opportunity comes our way, we’ll text each other, “Holy shit I live in New York City!””
How is this scene better/worse/different from the scene you moved from?
“Boston was a perfect place to start and I’m so glad that I started there, but back in that era there just weren’t enough mics and shows to really hustle. Now there are a TON of spots and shows and the scene has blossomed so much, but moving to New York in late 2006 helped me find my voice because I could get up so much more often, play for so many different types of crowds. For writing, honing your craft, learning the ropes of stand-up comedy, you just can’t beat NYC.”
How long did it take you to get your first paid gig in New York after moving here?
“Oh man I can’t even recall. It’s never been about money for me—I used to work 7 days a week between a full-time job as a book editor and a weekend job as a professional tour guide. Then stand-up most nights (I can sleep when I’m dead!). So I’ve never really monitored the money aspect of stand-up. I mean, sure I like getting a nice check when I get booked on a private gig here or headline there, but if I think back on the first time getting paid, it was probably a drink ticket and $10 for a show in a bar basement and that’s fine by me.”
Can you describe an “only in New York” experience from living here?
“Last summer I was walking down in the Lower East Side late on a Saturday night near the Delancey stop—it was super hot and there were a lot of people around. As I got closer to the subway I could hear that a brawl was about to start—two women were screaming at each other, a crowd has started to form. Stuff like that really worries me. You could feel the tension—it felt like something really awful was about to happen and outta nowhere, this dog rolls up—literally rolls up on a skateboard. The dog is in a little Yankees hat is wearing tiny sneakers and he just CRUISES into the middle of melee and makes the whole fight stop and everybody focus on him, then the tension dissipates and everyone just sorta moves on. The next day I found out that this dog is an NYC celebrity and he cruises around in a hat and sneakers all over.”
What tip would you give any comedian who moves here?
“Spend your nights running all over town—explore different mics, different types of rooms, introduce yourself to people. I used to read Time Out NY and I’d just pick shows to attend at random—try to meet people, hear different comedians and introduce myself to them. Also, when you get settled, run a show in a small venue. It will teach you a lot about comedy and producing and also enable you to meet lots of comedians. Don’t be too cool to take classes, either. In my first few years I took a few sketch classes and multiple storytelling classes at UCB and through those I met other comedians, formed a sketch group, connected with collaborators, made friends.”
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
“Probably still in NYC, doing a lot more essay writing, working on turning my New York Times parody account (@NYTVows) into a small, gift-y book. Also, ideally, married to a heavyset teamster.”
Until then, you can check out Coppock at the monthly variety show she co-hosts and produces with Lauren Maul called BITCHCRAFT. Their next show is Jan. 10, 2018 (7 p.m. Wednesday) at Sid Gold’s Request Room (West 26th Street by Seventh Avenue).
Which NYC comedian would you like to see me style and profile next for Meet Me In New York? Send your nominations to: thecomicscomic AT gmail DOT com