Splitsider

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

This Week In Web Videos: 'Esther with Hot Chicks'

Esther Povitsky doesn’t give a fuck, and that’s why I think she’ll be very famous. Let me explain. You see fame, at least as I see it, so often tends to lie just beyond the grasp of even the most talented people if those people fall prey to charting their upward progress like an investment analyst. Making it BIG requires constant attention and work, of course, but it also takes a person able to create a marketable body of work while remaining true to their art—the thing that got eyeballs on them in the first place. That means being able to say “no” to offers you’re uncomfortable with even if it they’re flashy. It also means feeling secure enough with your style to bring to life the weird inner sanctums of your mind without really caring about what the suits say. Not…giving a fuck. And the irony is: that sort of thinking often brings about massive fame. Maybe Esther with Hot Chicks– created by Esther Povitsky, directed by Doug Lussenhop, and produced by Annelise Hewitt—will catapult Povitsky and maybe it won’t, but the impulses that drove her to make it—and the way she interviews—tell me we’ll be seeing her on a much larger stage sometime soon.

How did you get your start in comedy?

Esther: I started doing comedy just by taking sketch and improv classes at Second City and then at iO Chicago when I was in high school and then when I moved to college, I started doing standup because I didn’t get into any of the sketch or improv groups in my college and I thought, “What is something I can do by myself that is still related to comedy?” Then I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to do that full time at any capacity in my college town and that’s when I ate way too many cookies one night and decided to quit college.

Where did you go to school?

Esther: The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne. I’m from Skokie, IL. So then I thought, well I can’t just quit college and move back home, that’d be sad. But I had a friend who lived out in LA, so I decided to move out there and started doing standup, and from that I became a part of the community and sort of became friends with all of them because you’re all performing at the same places. When you’re alone in a city that just means the world, seeing all these same people. Doing open mics is so difficult but I had nowhere else to turn to. From doing standup I started doing internet videos and then podcasting. When I moved to LA, something that I noticed was that it was just filled with these gorgeous, model looking girls who had all been the prettiest girls in their town and were now competing kind of to see who was the hottest. The hot girls in my hometown didn’t want anything to do with me because they had their shit together but all the hot girls here in LA were different. They see everything as a weird opportunity to get famous so they’ll do anything. As a short, nerdy Jewish girl, these were the girls that I looked up to all the time. They were like Barbie dolls to me and I just wanted to dress them up and play with them. So when I started seeing them at these bars in LA, I just wanted to go over and take a picture because they’re kind of like celebrities. That’s where my blog came from, but after a while it started to feel a little stalker-ish to me, and I had sort of this vanity project of Esther with Hot Chicks the web series and that’s what this stupid thing is.

How did you go about getting this made by MTV?

Esther: I had a previously pretty good relationship with MTV because I had worked on a reality pilot with them but then when they tested the show they found out that guys really like me but girls didn’t and then the president of MTV basically told me that I wasn’t enough of a “girl’s girl,” so that didn’t happen. But I think that because everyone at the network was so familiar with me, when I came to pitch something digitally to them they were like, “Sure, I guess Esther earned it.” We put her through 2 reality pilots, we forced her into have a fake boyfriend, let’s cut her a break and let her do her little passion project that’s creeping us all out. So that’s when I went to NYC and just pitched the idea and it wasn’t really even that much of a pitch, I was kind of just like “Ok, so I kind of just want to interview hot chicks” and they said ok and eventually got back to me and decided to do it. Like I said, I think it’s because of the two previous failed pilots.

What’s the reception been like so far?

Esther: I think that it’s pretty good. My mom thinks that it’s too goofy and doesn’t get it, so that sucks. It’s produced by Abso Lutely who do all the Tim and Eric stuff. That was never what I thought it was going to be, but once I saw that’s what it was, I was very happy and I think that it makes it very unique and gives it a fun flavor. I think that people are liking it. YouTube comments are always making me think I need to get plastic surgery but besides that I like it, so who cares.

What’s next for you?

Esther: I guess the main goal is just finding hotter and hotter chicks to talk to.

Are you still doing standup?

Esther: Yeah I’m actually in Sacramento right now headlining. I plan on touring and all the other usual standup stuff, but just not right now.

And standup is your main job right now?

Esther: Yeah definitely. Standup is where it started.

Can you tell me about the two failed MTV reality pilots?

Esther: The first one was just a reality show about my life as a young comedian and there’s actually a semi-bad quality version of it that I uploaded to YouTube. I had just submitted this tape for another MTV show that they were doing called Connected where they gave five girls a video camera and cuts of each episode were all of the different videos from these five girls. I submitted because my friend told me I should but my standup was also really taking off and I didn’t really want to just take the first offer that was handed to me so I said “no.” Then the next day the production company called me and said, “What if we just did a show with Esther?” and that still made me feel really weird, I was like “Someone is going to rape me, I do not trust anyone.” And then they kept at it and just kept sweetening the deal and I had nothing going on so I eventually accepted it. We just shot for a week, and they did a lot of set ups just following me around as I did comedy. Then we tested the show and it didn’t test well with women so we re-piloted the entire show and they added one of my male comic friends to the show as my love interest and it was really weird. He’s real gross and I’d never be into him. He’s a handsome guy, I just couldn’t do it, it just felt very incestual to me. So they added a love interest and more of my female friends but then ultimately decided that I wasn’t enough of a girl’s girl. I also have another web series coming out soon called Hope and Randy that’s just about a young couple. It’s through Makers Studios but I’m not sure when that’s coming out.

What advice do you have for people looking to break into the digital comedy space?

Esther: My advice would be to just put out what you make even if it’s not perfect. Even though I am really grateful to work with MTV on this, it was a pretty long process and I do sometimes think “Why didn’t I just put out stuff myself?”

Here are your three reasons to watch.

1. Adaptation
2. Weirdness
3. Self-deprecation

Episode #1: Esther with Cailin Russo

Even the most experienced entertainment professionals have trouble adapting web properties to screen (Shit My Dad Says much?), so the fact that Esther with Hot Chicks made the blog to web series turn so seamlessly is impressive.

Episode #2: Esther with Elicia Perkins

It's not surprising that the production company behind Tim and Eric are behind this series, and that’s because it’s so quirky good.

Episode #3: Esther with Hanna Beth

Self-deprecation is a pillar of comedy, but few do it as effectively or as endearingly as Povitsky.

Luke Kelly-Clyne writes for CollegeHumor and lives in New York. Tweet him @LKellyClyne.