April Brucker! I can’t say that name without smiling—which is a good thing because April is kind, warm, a ball of energy and a comedian! Please join me in conversation with this wonderfully unique, amazingly determined woman! (There’s even a visit from one of her puppets!) And remember to watch April in Vegas … and always “go where it’s warm!”
Diane: Hi, April. I’m so excited to see you. It’s been way too long.
April: It was just yesterday that we both were at Antioch.
Diane: We were buddies.
April: You were my orientation buddy, and I knew I was going to like you because one, you were from New York. And second, you love Tarot cards as much as I do.
Diane: I forget that connection. I knew I was going to love you, because you are like no one else I’ve ever met. In all the best ways.
April: In all the best ways, thank you. Because, sometimes, when people are like, “You’re like no one else I’ve ever met,” it’s like …
Diane: I know. I’m making that clear from the start. One of the things that makes you incredibly unique is that you’re a ventriloquist!
A Special Visit!
April: Yes, and May wants to say hi for this interview. And May, tell Diane what you’ve been up to.
(May is one of April’s wonderful puppets who joined us in conversation!)
May: Well, excuse me, while April gets my props ready, because I’m a star. You see, Diane, I’m such a star, that I have an assistant.
April: Is that what I am now? I’m an assistant?
April: So tell Diane what you were doing for nine months in Vegas.
May: I was the special guest star in an all-female review.
April: Actually, May, we were the special guest stars.
May: No, I was.
April: No, we were.
May: Keep telling yourself that, April.
I helped write a book.
April: Yeah, that’s right, you helped me write my book.
May: It’s called Don’t Read My Lips. And I was the muse for the book, okay? I’m the star.
Diane: April and May, I’m going to have to stop you right here. This is so wonderful, but I’m not sure how it’s going to look on the page.
May: Yes, I’m not sure how it’s going to look on the page. Well, anyway, just say that I stopped in.
Diane: I will, I will. Tell us what you’ve been doing the last nine months, the two of you. You could speak for both of you, April?
April: Yeah, I can speak for the both of us. You know, she just wanted to come and say hi.
Diane: I’m sorry, May.
April: It’s okay. She’ll survive. With an ego that big, they always bounce back.
Diane: Ha! Yes!
April: The first thing we’ve been up to is, we wrote, I wrote, a how-to book on ventriloquism.
It’s called Don’t Read My Lips. It’s how to use ventriloquism, comedy, but also, just life, and the things that I’ve learned being in the business.
“I’m Part of a New Venue in Town and Launching a New Series Called April in Vegas”
I’m also keeping a blog called Miss April B, where I write about growing up in western Pennsylvania, in a town where football was king. I actually had abstinence education at school. Yes, my old high school had … the highest pregnancy rate in the area.
April: I knew some great people, I also knew some hot messes, and I feel like the only way to immortalize these people is to write. We’re all doing the best we can.
I’m part of a new venue in town and launching a new series called April in Vegas, which will come out this spring. I’m writing, producing, and hosting, and my puppets are in it.
April:I’m going to be streaming a lot of these live shows from a property called the English Hotel, a boutique hotel in the downtown arts district of Las Vegas.
The way Las Vegas works, is you have the Strip, which, hello, right? It’s adult Disneyland. Then you have Fremont Street, another area with hotels, like a mini-Strip.
Then the Arts District is the hipsters, and it’s up and coming Vegas. That’s where the English Hotel is. It’s a 74-room, upscale boutique hotel, featuring the Pepper Club, by four-time James Beard award-winning celebrity chef Todd English. Pepper is actually his dog, that’s how the restaurant got its name.
Diane: The show’s going to be livestreamed, so we don’t have to go to Vegas to see it?
April: Yeah, it’s going to be livestreamed weekly from the English Hotel. This place is unbelievable. It will blow you away. But from a creative standpoint, these people really nurture the people that work there, and you can’t say that for every property.
“Puppets Are Easy Children”
Diane: I was going to say, the world of comedy, is known for being notoriously unsupportive, in terms of venues.
April: It can be unsupportive, and there are some venues that I wouldn’t recommend to anybody. But there are some venues that are wonderful, that also nurture talent. To any person, whether they are a writer, or comedian act, or whatever, I would say, go where it’s warm.
Diane: I’ve also heard that in the comedy world, being a woman is a challenge.
April: Yeah, it’s sometimes a challenge.
I have a whole chapter in Don’t Read My Lips where I speak to women. There are a lot of agents and managers that protect their clients. They’ll go down with the ship. But one of the things I speak to women about is, unfortunately, not just in comedy, but show biz, you have a lot of people that say, “I’m an agent or a manager,” and they demand money in exchange for representation, which is not only unethical, but it’s illegal. You also get people who demand sex in exchange for representation, which is illegal and unethical.
I encourage women when they encounter this, not only to get out of there, but to go to the police. I know that reporting, and I say this is a MeToo person many times over, is very challenging, but the only way to change things is to report these people.
Also, the other thing that makes this business challenging is, I don’t know how mothers do this.
I don’t have children, except for puppets. And puppets are easy children, because they do what you want them to do. They don’t talk back to you, they don’t tell you that you’re wrong.
“We All Meet Crappy People, But You Can’t Let Those Crappy People Beat You Down”
Diane: They don’t stay out all night, right?
April:Exactly. They’re easy children. But I say to women, that, “Hey, if you’re going to have kids, or you want a full life, the cards are stacked against you, but this is how you do it.”
Diane: What do you have to say to older women?
April: What I’ve seen in the ventriloquism and comedy world is you are never too old to follow your dreams.
I started comedy once upon time. As I’ve gotten older, I feel like I’m funnier. I’m a better comedian, a better writer, because I have more life experience to draw from.
You can be the most talented person in the world, but you don’t have the perspective of somebody who’s raised three kids or have had to get rid of an abusive partner, or to choose themselves in situations.
Until you have those experiences, you don’t understand them and don’t bring those experiences to the table. But when you can bring those experiences to the table, your work will be that much richer.
Diane: You grew up in an area, that I would say, you probably felt different …
Diane: Which probably gave you to some of the tools and the strength to walk a very different path in life.
April: It did. One of the things I knew was that I was an outsider. Being an outsider made me want to write, and it made me want to perform.
I found the way out by being creative. And I remember, a lot of kids around me that were outsiders or whatever, they got sucked into some bad stuff, where thank goodness, I did not.
The thing is, we all meet crappy people, but you can’t let those crappy people beat you down.
“I Have My Great-Grandmother’s Sideways Irish Smile”
Diane: So how did you get into puppets?
April: Well, I got into puppets by accident. I was 13, in a town where everybody loved football. My family didn’t have cable. We had three channels.
Sometimes, because we had an antenna in the house, with the fuzzies, we would get Nickelodeon, and we would be able to see Rugrats. That was a victory.
My brother decided to play football. There was a channel that had all the sports, but you had to get cable. To get one channel, you had to get 50.
My dad calls the cable company to order cable, and he’s on the phone with them for an hour. He goes, “I only want one channel.” The guy tells him, “Mr. Brucker, in order to get one, you got to get 50.” “But I only want one.”
Finally, after an hour, we get cable. So fast forward one Friday night, after one of my brother’s games, because in Western Pennsylvania, Friday is high school, Saturday is JV, but also, college, in the afternoon. Then Sunday is pro, and then, Monday is professional wrestling.
Anyway, we’re watching our new cable, we’re watching the rest of the scores. My dad’s changing the channel, because he hates commercials, and a special about ventriloquism comes on.
We’re all trying to talk like the ventriloquist. I have my great-grandmother’s sideways Irish smile. Because of that smile, I was the only one that could do it. That Christmas, I got a Groucho Marx ventriloquist figure under the tree.
Diane: Who gave you that?
April: My mom.
Diane: Aw … Did you speak to her about your interest in ventriloquism, or …
April: My mom has always been able to read my mind. My mom, she’s my girl.
“I Sent My Tapes All Over the World and Ended Up on Public Access Stations in 36 States, Six Countries, and the World Wide Web”
Diane: What happened next?
April: From there, I started doing shows at local nursing homes.
Diane: Did you reach out to them yourself? Like, you’re 13.
April: I reached out to them myself, and they let me do it. My mom was like, “Okay, this will be great for April’s volunteer hours on her application for college.” My mom was all about us getting into top colleges.
There was a public access station down the road in the basement of the library. It was the police station, the magistrate, and public access. Every time I filmed something, I would walk through the hallway, where people would wait before being arraigned or arrested.
I had a show called to April Talk, where I interviewed local celebrities and politicians, and I did stuff with my puppets. I also did some sketch comedy.
I had April Rocks, where I interviewed bands, and then Story Time With April and Friends, where Sweetie Pie, my four-year-old clown puppet helped me read stories to children.
Diane: How old were you then, when this ran?
April: I was 18, high school.
Diane: So, from 13 to 18, you built this up slowly?
April: Yup, I built it up slowly. I sent my tapes all over the world and ended up on public access stations in 36 states, six countries, and the World Wide Web, when streaming was very new.
Diane: Did you know this was a career choice you wanted?
April: I knew I wanted to do this with my life. My mom wanted me to do this with my life, but being a mom, she wanted a backup plan.
When I got into NYU, that was the tipping point for everybody. So I ended up moving to New York, going to NYU, and just following it.
“Rejection Is a Great Teacher. Sometimes It’s Them, But Sometimes It’s You … Go Back to the Drawing Board. Then You Can Retool It, and It Can Work.”
Diane: In the acting school?
April: Yeah. Tisch.
Diane: Wow, so what was that like? Because I don’t think they have many ventriloquists.
April: I think I may have been their only ventriloquist to ever come through there.
I had one bad teacher my first year, who told me I would never have a creative career of any sort, that this wasn’t for me.
She was a very unfulfilled personality, but it also made me stronger, because it made me realize, one, this is what I wanted to do with my life, and two, I had to go towards places where I was welcome.
My second year at Tisch, I found people that were welcoming and had a lot of wonderful teachers, who not only encouraged me to perform, as an actor, but to keep up the work as a ventriloquist and create my own work. One of my favorite teachers, probably one of the best Shakespeare teachers I ever had, Ted Zirkowski said to me, “Listen, April, you’re not a legit actor, and that’s okay. You’re something else entirely, and that’s what’s going to break you in, and you’re probably going to have a more exciting career than anyone in here.”
Diane: As writers there’s a lot of rejection, but as a live performer, in the moment. What’s that like, when you do something and it doesn’t land?
April: Sometimes life is on your side, and sometimes it’s not. But here’s the thing, as a writer, and as a performer, you’re faced with rejection.
Rejection is a great teacher. Sometimes it’s them, but sometimes it’s you. Sometimes you’re like, “Okay, this didn’t land, but how can I tweak it, so it does land?”
Going back to the drawing board. Then you can retool it, and it can work.
“Negative People Will Wear Your Health Down”
Diane: Do you get discouraged?
April: When I was younger, I did, everybody does. But I wouldn’t say that I get discouraged now, because the answers for me are always in the work.
Part of the reason I decided to go to grad school was I had reached this threshold, a ceiling.
I had done everything that I wanted to do, and I found myself alone. I thought I was going to get married, that didn’t happen. I had a dispute with my landlord. My life had just burned down to the ground.
I was waking up after this really crazy time in my life. And I had also had some health stuff.
I had been diagnosed with the early stages of cervical cancer.
But I’m healthy now. I just had to get away from the idiot that I was with, because negative people will wear your health down, and I’m sure some of your readers have experienced that too. That’s another lesson age can teach you.
Anyway, I was discovering my voice as an artist and political activist, and I thought, “If I ever get tired of creating, I want to help people who write and perform their own work.” Because there weren’t many people like me in the academic world. I was also falling more in love with writing, and I’m like, “I don’t know if I want to act forever, but …”
I had always written. As a matter of fact, I wrote a book before going to grad school. I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl, also on Amazon.
“When the Worst Happens, When Your Worst Fears Come True, You’re Not Afraid of Your Worst Fears Anymore”
My first mentor at Antioch, Erin Aubry Kaplan, had also come from a performing background and was somebody with a dual career. Opportunities started happening for me, to have my work read and to do a one-woman show called The Lady and President Tramp, where I talked about going to the RNC in 2016 with Donald J. Tramp, as the spokespuppet, for STAT, Stand Together Against Trump.
Diane: I knew this about you all along, but the readers are discovering that you follow your dreams, as unconventional as they may be, and as unsupported as they may be by the wider society.
You have this inner strength and just believe in yourself. Am I onto something here?
April: Well, here’s the thing. I had a lot of crazy experiences when I was younger.
One thing about traumatic and crazy experiences is they give you strength. When the worst happens, when your worst fears come true, you’re not afraid of your worst fears anymore. It’s a gift. So what they did was they made me stronger.
I remember, the first time I thought, “I’m never going to find love,” or, “I’m going to get my heart broken.” And I remember, I got into a relationship with an abusive man, who made me choose between him and the puppets. And he killed my self-esteem.
He was physically violent. It was a nightmare to be with him, until finally, I decided, “I’m going to choose my puppets,” and I left.
I remember, he made my life a nightmare after I left, too. And he told me that I was never going to do anything with myself. And part of me wanted to prove him wrong.
The worst had happened. It helped me move forward.
“One Thing Age Teaches You Is You Do Not Fight for Things That Do Not Want You”
I’d had this apartment in New York, with this landlord that was never a nice guy. I had it for almost a decade and my next major fear was he was going to kick me out.
He wanted people out so he could hike the rent. It happened. I was in court with him.
I thought, “You know what? I’ve been fighting to keep something that doesn’t want me for years. The worst has happened, here I am.”
The bad days give you strength. And really and truly, there are some people that don’t have bad days. Okay?
“They’re on a hill, eating noodle salad,” like Jack Nicholson says in As Good as It Gets. I used to want to be one of them when I was younger.
But the flip side is that I don’t want to be one of them now, because they wouldn’t know how to handle a bad day. Whereas I do.
Diane: I love that. Once your worst nightmares come true, you’re not afraid of them anymore, because … You’ve been there, done that, survived. You could do it again.
April: So I found this great place in Queens. I moved in there, I had these crazy roommates, and they gave me more creative fodder, but it also allowed me to save money to do grad school, to do this program.
Diane: You were fighting for something that didn’t want you.
I don’t think you do that anymore.
April: No, I don’t. That’s one thing age teaches you is, you do not fight for things that do not want you. I remember, when I moved to this other apartment in Queens, my health improved. I was able to take steps towards being bicoastal, and working in Las Vegas with Clinton Billups, who has been a game changer. I was able to do grad school.
“I Have Been Everything, from a Chicken, a Pink Gorilla, a Piece of Pizza, a Birthday Cake, a Duck, a Hot Dog, and an M&M”
I was able to be a resident act in Las Vegas, I was able to get a master’s, and I’ve had life beyond my wildest dreams, but it’s in my own way, it’s on my own terms.
And you know what? Had I stayed in New York, or had I stayed in that apartment, I wouldn’t have had that. Bad days teach you that there’s always something better around the corner.
Diane: Can you just share some of your jobs?
April:I have had every crazy job you can imagine. And I’ve written about all of them.
I’ve been a professional ventriloquist, a standup comedian. As a singing telegram-er in New York, I have been everything, from a chicken, a pink gorilla, a piece of pizza, a birthday cake, a duck, a hot dog, and an M&M.
I sang for Betsey Johnson.
Diane: What were you for Betsey Johnson?
April: I was a pink gorilla for her. I was Wonder Woman on the set of Law & Order for Mariska Hargitay.
April: She’s a wonderful person.
Diane: I love her.
April: Yes, and you should, everybody should love Mariska. Kelly Gish, Remember the season where she was pregnant? Well, they wrote her pregnancy into the script.
Diane: Yes, yes, I do, I do. Yes.
April: Yeah. Her little boy is a, he’s a superhero expert. I passed his test.
Diane: Look at you.
April: Yes. I sang for the head of the NHL.
I was a birthday cake. Then I was also a birthday cake for the head distributor of Barnes and Noble, and they helped get my book distributed, I Came, I Saw, I Sang. Any job can help you out. You just got to be smart.
“She’s Determined and Goes after Her Goals. If She Were a Man, You Would Say That She Takes Charge.”
Diane: Well, that’s one thing, you are very smart at this.
April: Oh, thank you.
Diane: It sometimes has a bad name, but networking. You see opportunities, places, and people.
April: A lot of women get shamed out of networking, “Oh my gosh, she’s just so ambitious, and what is wrong with her?” And, unfortunately, you’ll hear it from other women.
April: “Oh, she’d succeed at all costs. she’d run over her own mother.” No. She’s determined and goes after her goals. If she were a man, you would say that she takes charge.
This is the double standard that needs to die.
Diane: I couldn’t agree more!
So … You also do this thing with a towel?
April: Yes, I towel. I did that on Videos After Dark, with Bob Saget, on ABC. I got to appear alongside him before he passed, a very nice man.
Diane: That’s what I hear.
So … you’re naked under there?
April: Naked or wearing pasties. I did it for nine months in Vegas where I dropped the towel, and I bedazzled, burlesque style.
Diane: Oh, look at you. How did that feel?
April:I actually have performed standup comedy and ventriloquism naked at nudist colonies.
Diane: Not just the guests were naked, but you had to be naked, too?
April: Well, sometimes, the guests and I were naked, and then, sometimes, I was just naked. It depended on where, but one show, the first time I did the towel jokes live, I was nervous as hell. I was performing at the Improv in Boston at the longest running naked comedy show on the East Coast.
Diane: I’ve never heard of such a thing. You live long enough, right?
April: Oh, yes. So the comedians were naked. The audience was clothed.
“They Tell You That When You Get Stage Fright to Picture Your Audience Naked. I Didn’t Have to Imagine.”
They had gone to dinner. She dug this girl. She gets backstage, gets naked, tells the joke. And it’s like, “Well, now, it’s only the first day, but baby, you saw me naked,” and the whole place, a round of applause.
I’m just, “Marry her now.” Anyway, I just thought after that, “Wow, that really took a lot of ovaries.”
She was naked, and some people in the audience were naked. They tell you that when you get stage fright to picture your audience naked. I didn’t have to imagine. My stage fright disappeared, and I had one of the best times I ever did on stage.
Diane: Oh, that’s wonderful. That’s great. So, April, anything else you want to share with us?
I have a calendar, visit me online, subscribe to my YouTube channel, April Brucker Comedy, and …
Diane: Wonderful. I’m sure people will want to learn a lot more about you after reading this!
And you heard her, WomanPause readers! Find April online!
As always, I’d love to hear from you! Write a comment or send me an email with your thoughts!
See you soon!
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