Poppy Champlin was looking for a fellow female comic with charm, talent, charisma—and a car.
Though her ride fell through when another stand-up had to bail on her show, Rhode Island’s Poppy will make it to San Francisco, even if she has to bus it, she said, for the Queer Queens of Comedy, which she will bring to the Rrazz Room in Hotel Nikko at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 29.
Along with Poppy will be Heather Gold and Kira Soltanovich. The Queer Queens of Comedy has been a successful vehicle for the longtime comic. Poppy said she learned back in the ’80s that you gotta have a gimmick—and she’s been producing stand-up showcases in a dual effort to build her reputation and garner stage time.
I had to chide her, though, for not being active on Twitter.
Corey Andrew: Poppy, why aren’t you tweeting?
Poppy: Because…I am going to start, that’s why! Creating is beginning. I just got this young woman to start helping me do that.
Corey: It’s become a great tool for comedians, but it’s also something you have to stay up on. You can’t just tweet once every three weeks.
Poppy: That is true.
Corey: At what point did you tire of people saying, ‘Poppycock!’ to you?
Poppy: Poppycock? Never! Not enough people say it.
Corey: I know you have a joke about your parents being hippies and naming you Poppy, but is it for reals?
Poppy: Yeah, Poppy really is my name. Yeah, I smoked pot with my parents but not often ’cause who would really do that? My aunt was Patricia and they called her Patty and that was her nickname. She called herself Poppy because she didn’t say Patty, so that’s how that came about.
Corey: How did you decide to put the Queer Queens of Comedy together? What was the brainchild?
Poppy: Necessity is the mother of invention. If you’re gonna be a comedian, you gotta keep getting gigs. I actually had become more of a gay comedian, not by choice…sort of by choice. Everybody needs a niche. When I came out in 2000, I found it was so much easier to be open. I tend to talk a lot about sex. If you can get a good, funny, sexual joke—I’m not dirty—but those sex jokes, people go nuts over. There was a sexual joke right there.
You can’t do too many, but you certainly can build and build, and you’re sort of in this sexual arena. People just lose their brains, and I enjoy watching people lose their brains. I try to mix it up so I’m not too heavy into sexual and make it topical. Anyway, the question was, how did I get this show together? I needed to be able to sell out my own theatres, and I didn’t have a name. I wasn’t on Letterman; I wasn’t on Leno. I still wanted to sell out big theatres. How about if I bring two other people who don’t really have names? That’s how it began. The name alone is sort of doing it. I bring in great comedians.
Corey: This show is on a Sunday afternoon which is not traditional comedy time. So what kind of challenge does that bring?
Poppy: I love that. I love matinees. Lesbians love matinees. They will come out for a matinee because it’s a school night. You might as well get your show in in the afternoon. Put a little buzz on early so you can sober up for bed.
Corey: I hadn’t thought of it that way. That’s a good plan. Aside from looking for a convenient ride into town, what else do you look for in acts to perform with this show?
Poppy: I do like to mix up the styles. I’m mixing it up so much on this one; Kira is not even gay. This is a first Queer Queen that I’ve put on that’s not even queer.
Corey: I noticed in some of her material she talks about a husband.
Poppy: I’ve lost my mind on this one, and that’s OK! It’s a matinee, so anything goes. Kira is gonna bring a lot of cache to this show. She has become a regular on ‘The Tonight Show’ with Jay Leno. She has that wacky photo booth thing.
Corey: Yeah, exactly.
Poppy: He brought her out on stage, and she was gorgeous, and she was wearing shoes that were like 2-feet-high. I don’t know why I put her on there.
Corey: I guess you could say she’s the eye candy.
Poppy: She’s the eye candy. She’s the cache.
Corey: What was your first time on stage like?
Poppy: Really? OK, my first time on stage was high school. That was in a play. I was great! I was in ‘Tom Sawyer,’ and I was Tom Sawyer. Oh, my God, I was so good. I was so into it. Me and Huck Finn were in the graveyard and throwing a dead cat around our head or something. And we got so scared because Injun Joe was coming, and I started shaking Huck Finn, and I actually shook him so hard he had to punch me and say, ‘Knock it off.’ I got a little carried away. I was a method actor. In college, I got the funny roles. I did this ‘fish shtick’ in this oceanography cabaret. People were laughing, crying. I thought, ‘This can possibly be a life career choice. And use my theatre degree?’ That was it.
Corey: Was it an open mic when you did comedy first?
Poppy: My first contest, I had my fish shtick I was killing with, and I placed like fourth. I went to New York with it, and people were like, ‘What are you doing? It’s stupid. It’s puns. We’re not in your cabaret in your college. We’re out in the world. You gotta tell jokes.’ I had to go home and write jokes in New York in my little room across from Penn Station, with hookers and junkies. I didn’t last long in New York. I came back to Rhode Island. I kept pushing and never quit. Because I couldn’t get stage time in Boston, I started booking shows in Rhode Island. I’m doing the same thing now I did in 1984. I was booking shows myself so I could get on stage. That’s the same thing I’m doing now. To get stage time and a good paycheck, I’ll produce a major show.
For more information on the Queer Queens of Comedy show, visit therrazzroom.com
Corey Andrew has been interviewing comedians and writing about comedy for the last decade and a half. In 2011, he published the book, “Laugh Lines: Conversations with Comedians.” Corey was a writer and performer with Midwest sketch troupe, The NonProphets, before moving to the Bay Area with his family a few years ago. If you have ideas for future columns about comedy, you can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him at twitter.com/coreywrites.