The Jester Interview:
York-based stand-up comedian April Brucker is following in the footsteps
of Jeff Dunham in keeping ventriloquism contemporary with her character,
May, who never hesitates to flirt with audiences and make shameless
passes at guys she deems ďhot.Ē [for a sample, check out her appearance
on the Rachel Ray show
Brucker, who grew up in Pittsburgh and began doing stand-up in New York
in 2004, is not only a ventriloquist, with a repertoire of
self-deprecating stand-up that draws on her past addictions and
tumultuous love life. She has also appeared in online shorts and shows
including The Ricky Star Show and on DailyComedy.com. And as Jester
found out in this interview, her take-no-prisoners stage personality can
overflow into the real world as she got into some static with another
patron in the diner during the chat. But we donít judge -- and donít
forget, one of Bruckerís regular gigs is leading an open mike night for
aspiring comics at the unlikely venue of Maui Taco on 5th Avenue near
the Empire State Building.
Jester: How often are you out performing?
April Brucker: Just about every night. Iím an ex-addict and my
substance is no longer booze, pills or food. Itís now stage time. Iím
addicted to getting on stage. Sometimes I get up anywhere from three to
six times a week. I will go anywhere for stage time. People always ask
me where I do shows and I say, ĎAnywhere they give my white ass a
stage,í which is the truth, the honest-to-god truth. Iím [often] at
Sheba Masonís room at Joe Franklinís. I always love doing Shebaís shows.
Sheís the hardest worker in stand-up. Sheís one of them. She doesnít get
the street cred she deserves. Iíve moved to guest spots at the
Underground Lounge, which means Iím moving up on the ladder because Iíve
done some television. I go anywhere they will give my white ass a stage,
anytime, whether I fly gracefully or tank like a dead fish.
J: What lengths of time do you usually get?
AB: It depends. Iím at the point in my comedy career where Iím no longer
at Ďbitchí level where I have to bring [an audience] or bark, but Iím
not on Letterman, obviously. Iím in the middle level. Because Iím very
visibly on the radar, Iím on for guest spots or to emcee. That actually
makes me have to fight harder for stage time, because Iím not bringing
or barking which guarantees stage time, and Iím not on Letterman, so I
canít demand it. So I get whatever time I can get. Iíve done a
half-hour, Iíve done an hour, Iíve done five minutes -- usually in the
city itís five to seven minutes, but on special occasions I do a
half-hour or hour. I can go all night. Whether or not it will be good is
a different story.
J: How did you get into doing stand-up?
AB: I screwed up everything else in my life.
J: Did you have any performing background?
AB: Iíve been acting since I was 13 and as for the ventriloquism, I got
into that by accident.
J: How did that happen?
AB: I was watching an Edgar Bergen TV special and I was with my family.
They were all trying to talk like him and I was the only one who could
do it. So my mom gave me a dummy for Christmas and off I went. I started
doing shows for Alzheimerís patients which was pretty funny because they
thought my dummy was real. Then I did a show for kids. I opened for
David Newell who was Mr. McFeely on Mister Rogersí Neighborhood. I used
to do a bunch of shows around my hometown. I was in all of my school
plays and had a TV show on the public access station, so I was something
else in my town. Everybody thought that I was a star.
So I came to New York and I wasnít a star. I was the farthest thing from
a star. I was put on academic probation my first year at NYUís drama
program. I was kicked out of the studio that I was in. My roommate hated
me. I had roommate problems. I couldnít get a date. I was struggling
real hard with my weight. I was depressed and wanted to leave school and
leave New York. I had nothing going for me. It seemed like all the girls
in my classes were either really big sluts or goody two-shoes. I didnít
like the big sluts because they were just big sluts and no one likes a
big slut. But I didnít like the goody two-shoes because they were just
annoying. So I didnít fit, didnít have any friends. I tried smoking. I
I was walking home one night from somewhere and it was raining and
someone barked me into a comedy show that was free for students and I
thought I could get out of the rain. People always told me I should try
stand-up and I saw it and thought I would do it. So now thatís where Iím
at. I didnít leave New York. Thatís how I got into it. It was all an
accident. Stand-up is not an art form you choose. It chooses you.
J: How did you create Mayís character?
AB: May is based on two people. One is a girl I didnít like in high
school. She was real nasty to me and real shallow and I always wanted to
deck her, but I figured Iíd get suspended from school if I did. The
other is based on a friend of mine who was always out to marry a rich
doctor. That was her plan. We used to have this little clique called
ďThe Erins.Ē She was a cheerleader and I love her. Everybody loved Erin.
Thatís who May is also based on. I just put those two together. The
parts of May that I love are Erin, but the really shallow parts are the
girl that I hated. May is so the opposite of me. Even at the height of
my partying and drinking, I was never a party animal. Iíd have a drink
to get to sleep. I never drank to -- maybe to loosen me up with a guy,
but it was never ĎHey, letís party, letís go to the club, the VIP room,
and meet a rich guy.í That wasnít me. I wasnít the shallow type.
May is so the opposite of who I am. Iím very angry and insightful. May
is very oblivious. Sheís very happy and will do anything to get to the
top. I just give up. Screw it. Ö If Everest gets too cold, I go down.
May will get her sugar daddy to give her a ride. Thatís the difference.
And she always has sugar daddies. I donít. May is the girl that would
never date the guys April does, because my guys are broke, homeless,
have drug problems. Mayís guys donít have drug problems because theyíre
old. They have money. The only [young] guys she likes are rappers
because they donít live as long as dirty old men.
J: Do you always use May in your stand-up?
AB: It depends. Some places like the ventriloquism and some places donít
want it. Some places say theyíre strictly stand-up. Thatís fine. Other
places say the ventriloquism is so cool and they need it. I can do both.
I enjoy doing both. People ask if I like one more than the other and the
answer is no. Sometimes I love my partner, and sometimes I love being
me, by myself, because when Iím by myself, I can tell a story or just
talk. I can be April and donít have to depend on a prop. When people say
Iím just a prop comic, thatís not true because I can do a regular set of
stand-up. But on the other hand, that little puppet can save my ass. I
was doing a show in Jersey where I was tanking until I brought her out.
Iíve done several shows where they havenít liked April but theyíve loved
May. That little puppet has always had my back. Sheís my partner.
J: How do you write your stand-up?
AB: I write what I feel and I write what my experiences are. I write
about being a failure when it comes to guys. I always date the wrong
kind of guys. I write about the fact that Iíve had some adventures. I
write about some of my adventures on the road. I write about my world
view. I hate born-again Christians with a passion. I hate evangelicals.
I hate Republicans. Thereís a place in hell for all of them. Iím very
liberal. Iím very pro-gay rights. I have friends from every background.
I have a bunch of gay friends. A lot of my friends have had colorful
adventures. And I write about how I feel. How I feel is things are
obvious to me that I donít feel are obvious to the rest of the world.
Those are my best jokes.
J: Do you have a ĎScared Straightí message for kids?
AB: Because of my past? (laughs) Just ĎScared Straightí -- or ĎLadies,
get scared straight, because when a woman says she loves you, she means