Good afternoon, YouthMundees! At YouthMundus, we aim to not only be a platform for music, film and global change, but for the artists and global changemakers who create them. Our Artist Spotlight series aims to create a space for discovery of new, budding global talent, while simultaneously offering you an exclusive glimpse into their creative process. In this week’s edition, we’re extremely ecstatic to feature Rachel Ruecker, an emerging actor, writer, and stand-up comedian based out of New York City!
When asked the role art plays in her life now, Rachel Ruecker had a comical, seemingly memorized, logline of her career: “My most recent artistic identit(ies) are: actor, writer, and comedian.”And when asked to expand upon those identities, particularly on how her childhood influenced them, it became quickly apparent how funny Rachel was: “I come by way of Beautiful British Columbia, Canada. It’s a small suburb of Vancouver. It’s north of Seattle, for those not well-versed in Canadian Geography,” she paused for a moment, then: “which is a nice way of saying Americans.”
"I did high school theatre and caught that bug, as you do, and sort of stumbled my way into NYU Tisch, as you also do. I hesitate to say I came from a broken home because for all intents and purposes I really had a lovely childhood, but there was occasional tumult, the climax of which was my father’s untimely death when I was 13.""Being Canadian and ‘half an orphan,’ as I often joke, has definitely been hugely influential on my artistic trajectory. Right off the bat, I think Canadians are just funny. Like, you have to admit it, it’s a thing. If you look at the sort of really seminal comedians in the 20th century and some of the early SNL gang, they’re all Canadian you know, like, Lorne himself, Martin Short, Dan Ackroyd, Steve Martin, Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Norm Macdonald, John Candy, Catherine O’Hara, all these great, great comic actors and I don’t think it’s some coincidence that they — we — are all Canadian."As for the dad stuff, the classic equation in comedy is tragedy (plus time) and I definitely am a firm believer in that.However, Rachel’s childhood was still a central piece to the artist she had grown up to be, even inspiring a piece she currently produces and performs:”When I was little, I remember being very attuned to like whatever was going on in my house because when you’re little people don’t like to tell you things because they think you’re too young. So, instead, you sort of have to figure it out for yourself, like piecing a puzzle together. I wrote a show my senior year called “tragedy + time” that’s about me piecing together my life, trying to understand and make sense of it all.I also think a huge amount of my work is influenced by romantic comedies which were totally a major form of escapism for me growing up and continue to be, and “tragedy + time” is really sort of a testament to it. It’s a testament to growing up Canadian, to loving movies, music, pop culture, and romantic comedies. It’s about wanting my life to be a romantic comedy so badly and then just having to endure the universe throw curveball, after curveball. My dad dying sort of serves as “the ultimate curveball”, the ultimate heartbreak.It’s also funny though, I swear! I reproduced a new version of it at the PIT last January and I look forward to more performances of it in the future!
What is the connection between your art and social justice? What inspires you and your creative process?
I’m very into signs and serendipity and things working out magically because of how much I loved romcoms growing up. I love When Harry Met Sally and 13 Going on 30, which are in a lot of ways fairytales, the latter especially, and I think they really made me believe in love and life and laughter. Oh, god... I sound like a bad “Live, Love, Laugh” poster your mom would have in her living room, but my point still stands.I love the whole ooey-gooey-cheesy-love-conquers-all stuff. I’m just trying to write my own version of the fairytale. A fairytale where things don’t work out and where things get messy and where the main character doesn’t live alone in some beautiful apartment in the West Village and work for some Fashion magazine and have a walk-in closet and shop at Bloomingdale's. My romcom is the 5th-floor-walk-up-work-as-an-intern-for practically-nothing-and-shop-at-Marshalls edition.
I think by virtue of being a woman pursuing comedy I am committing a political act. I think being unapologetically myself as a woman onstage is scary to people and merely standing in front of people using my voice and telling my stories is an act of resistance.All the times I’ve thought I was crazy or not good enough for no reason other than because I felt like I had to be small and unobtrusive and not get in the way just because I was a woman have really fueled me as an artist..And because I’m a white cis woman from an upper middle class family in suburban Canada, I talk about privilege all the time in my stand-up. It’s often on my mind and pushes me to find new ways to contribute.
What inspired you to pursue acting and stand-up comedy? What were the challenges you overcame in this?
I always loved being the center of attention growing up and playing house and all of that, as you do. And my parents were funny people, without a doubt. My mom and I watched “Gilmore Girls” together and that was a huge inspiration for me. She also showed me George Carlin when I was probably way, way too young to be shown George Carlin.
I don’t remember ever deciding to pursue acting and comedy, it just sort of happened one day and now it’s my whole life. I think a huge aspect of me getting into theatre was the community of it and I got into high school theatre right around the time my dad died, so it sort of helped replace the family structure I was missing. That sounds so sad but it’s really not I don’t think. It’s really helped me.
In terms of challenges I think in trying to make a life as an artist, the biggest one is just this constant contradictory cycle of saying to yourself:“I believe in myself and it’s going to happen for me,” and then getting crippling imposter syndrome that forces you to question everything. It can be really hard to navigate sometimes.
What’s been the most rewarding part of being an artist for you? Do you have any future artists? I really love stories. And laughter. And people. And making people laugh with my stories. Stand-up is really like the most basic form of storytelling and it’s also I would argue the most democratic because literally anyone can stand up and talk. You don’t need a camera or costume or fancy equipment. You just need to have a voice and something to say. My advice would be that once you realize what it is that makes you feel alive artistically, don’t stop.
My mom once told me to “do what makes your heart sing,” and I think just passing along that wisdom is the best advice I have. Plus, in Mamma Mia! Rosie once said to Sophie to “do what makes your soul shine” which is basically the same thing, so there’s two iconic women giving the same advice and who am I do try to do any better than that?
Do you have any advice on how we can do our part in supporting emerging international artists?
Be their friend, see their stuff. It can be super frustrating and overwhelming to be here as a person who’s not American when all of your friends and connections are, especially on a limited visa.”
There are so many little things that my friends don’t ever have to worry about in terms of little logistical minutia and paperwork and phone calls to advising offices and lawyers that just cause me to expend and waste energy, time, and money that I could be putting towards writing or submitting that writing to festivals and grants. So just keep that in mind I guess. But really, just come see their shows. Or marry them. Kidding!!
😂 Did Rachel make you laugh as much as she made us? 😂 Be sure to follow her Twitter to keep up with her upcoming shows and projects!