Poppy Champlin has problems. Girlfriend problems. Luckily, she’s got a plan to remedy that.
“I have an ex in Provincetown that I’m scared to see,” she says from her home in Rhode Island. “I have one here that I’m trying to break up with. I need to have a different girlfriend every night when I’m in P’town. Maybe I’ll start some sort of game: who’s dating Poppy tonight?”
Champlin returns to Provincetown for her 20th year to perform “The Funny Side of the Street,” during which she’ll meld written bits with improv, from Friday, Oct. 8 though Saturday, Oct. 16 at the Post Office Café and Cabaret.
“You’re always writing, so you always have ideas that you want to try out,” she says. “In P’town, because it’s eight shows in a row, you bring a notebook of the new stuff. And you don’t put it all in one night: you pepper it in. A lot of the jokes will be written on site. My goal is always to engage the audience. I hate it when it’s just me doing all the work. I want them to help.”
It’s hard to engage during a pandemic with people masked up, Champlin admits. “It’s really brutal,” she says. “The first time I encountered that, it was so scary it almost made me cry.” When she can’t see the audience’s expressions, she assumes they “hate” her, she says.
It’d be hard to hate Champlin. Her stories are hilarious and her observations on the mark. Champlin also uses her killer voice for emphasis and song. She’s got four tunes that anchor “The Funny Side of the Street,” a show that mixes “pandemic crap, a little political crap, definitely relationship and sex stuff, and food stuff.”
Champlin graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a B.F.A. After studying at the Second City Training Center, she moved to L.A. to continue her stand-up and acting career. Winner of “America’s Funniest Real Woman” on the Joan Rivers Show, she has appeared on Showtime, LOGO, Comics Unleashed, Comedy Central, VH-1, HBO, and Oprah. Champlin is a producer of The Queer Queens of Qomedy, with which she travels the country.
Champlin left L.A. in 2011 to return to Rhode Island, to her father’s “rundown shack in the woods.” She bought out her brother, who left a bunch of tools there. She used those tools to fix up the house and, when the pandemic struck and her traveling ceased, she decided to build raised beds for her garden. After she started talking about building beds (“I have been caught with a carrot in bed — it was a long time ago”), someone wanted to buy one. She’s been making things from wood ever since, and she found a new amusement: nut cracking.
“When winter came, I started making nutcrackers for some reason,” she says. Champlin gave them as gifts last Christmas. Her friends were so impressed that she’s now making them to sell. “Instead of traveling this year and finding jobs,” she says, “I just made nutcrackers to make enough money to survive.”
Doesn’t stand-up comedy provide an audience that carpentry doesn’t? “Well, the nutcrackers, they talk to me,” Champlin quips.
She has found another side job, however, that involves a microphone: auctioneer. It’s a great way to help support nonprofits. “People keep bidding because they want to hear more jokes,” she says. “It’s a free show.”
Now she’s back to real life, and back to Provincetown, where she can start misbehaving, in a sober way.
“When I was still drinking and drugging, I had three girlfriends in the same week, and slept with all of them the same day,” Champlin says. “I think two were in a relationship, so that was dangerous. I was actually facilitating their breakup. That’s good: ‘facilitating their breakup.’ I should use that.”
The event: Poppy Champlin, “The Funny Side of the Street”
The time: Friday, Oct. 8 at 4:30 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 9 at 9 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 10 through Saturday, Oct. 16 at 8:30 p.m.
The place: The Post Office Café and Cabaret, 303 Commercial St., Provincetown
The cost: $25 at postofficecafe.net