Because standup with just a mic and a bottle of water is ~so~ 2006.
If you saw Fran Hoepfner on the street, you wouldn’t think she was a stand-up comedian. But her credentials are solid: A full-time Onion employee, Hoepfner penned a tale of assembling all her crushes in a private Facebook group that went viral—and Chicago Magazine named her the Best Rising Comic of 2016.
The 25-year-old from Mount Prospect, Illinois, studied creative writing with a concentration in playwriting at Kalamazoo College. Her advisor urged her to do something productive during the summer between her sophomore and junior years. Instead of taking a summer job at the local pool or waiting tables, she decided to enroll in writing classes at Chicago’s famed Second City.
The Second City, where some of the greats got their start, is undoubtedly the place to be if you’re an aspiring comedian. Famous alumni include comedy legends Dan Aykroyd, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, Bill Murray and Amy Poehler. In other words, everybody who’s anybody has set foot on the Second City stage.
When Hoepfner began taking comedy writing classes at The Second City, something just clicked. “I had always been a fan of comedy,” she says. “I watch comedy movies and I love SNL, but I didn’t really put two and two together.” Seeing the process behind how comedy is made helped her realize she not only loved consuming comedy, but creating it, as well.
Once returning to Southwest Michigan to finish school, she began writing and performing stand-up routines at a hunting bar located in, she says, the middle of nowhere. A bison’s head hung at the back of the stage where Hoepfner and her fellow performers, mostly lumberjack types, did standup.
It’s not surprising that Hoepfner struggled to find her place there. She and the men with whom she performed genuinely liked each other, but had a hard time laughing at each others’ jokes since they came from different places.
At the beginning of Hoepfner’s stand-up career about four years ago, most of her routines were similar to Amy Schumer’s: confessionals poking fun at the fact that her life is a huge mess.
“Now, I’m still talking about myself,” she admits, “but it’s always through the lens of another thing, be it through a movie or another idea I’ve had.” Instead of talking solely about the awkward experiences she and other millennials face, Hoepfner combines her love for pop culture and social media with her daily life experiences, creating a new way for millennials to enjoy standup and keeping her audience engaged.
One thing that makes Hoepfner stand out is her use of Microsoft PowerPoint to help the audience visualize her stand-up routines. She jokes that, while other comedians’ routines resemble something you’d see on Comedy Central, she feels like a rejected college TA trying to explain something to a class.
When I went to her show at Chicago’s Virgin Hotel, Hoepfner talked about a shared favorite topic: movies. She made a great point that all movies are part of a franchise in some way, and used images to show us exactly how they were all connected. Instead of rebooting the same superhero movies, she had a proposal: Make a movie based on the hit game Farm Heroes Saga. Hoepfner hilariously provided plots to the imagined movie and its sequels.
She admits that her routine isn’t necessarily cutting edge, but will always get a laugh from millennials. “I think the PowerPoints are always going to be funny to anyone from our generation because we had them all throughout elementary and middle school,” she explains. “To see that as a form manipulated now for timing out a joke will hopefully ring true [to audiences].”
“My methods in general have been a little different coming into this scene, and I still feel like an outsider,” she says. Outsider or not, Hoepfner has gained attention both locally and nationally. In addition to being named Chicago Magazine’s Best Rising Comic, she entertains those unable to see her performances in person with her online content.
Last year, Hoepfner’s quest for love went viral after she wrote about putting all her crushes into one Facebook group to see who would emerge the most dominant. Getting the idea from the Stanford Prison Experiment of ’71, Hoepfner wondered what would happen if all of her crushes were in “jail,” and what the group dynamic would be. Since she obviously couldn’t send them all to prison, she created the Facebook group—and found love! That’s right—Hoepfner reports her current partner is someone from the group.
Hoepfner urges aspiring comedians to be bold and create. “Make and do stuff,” she says. “I think a lot of people think they have to wait to be asked to do something and it’s not the case anymore at all. There are so many mediums for how to create and how to produce.”
“Bright-eyed and corn-fed” Hoepfner will perform in New York this month and has hopes of taking her routine to Los Angeles. But she admits her heart is in the Midwest. We can’t wait to see more work from this amazing artist as she starts producing her own shows in the future.
For information about Fran Hoepfner and where she’s performing next, check out her website.