Esther Povitsky is shifting her priorities when it comes to making comedy
One of the benefits of being a comedian is knowing how to find the funny in any situation, no matter how tragic. But when a pandemic hits the world and brings Hollywood to a standstill, even professionals are at a loss for words. So what do they do in the midst of such uncertainty? If you’re comedian and actress Esther Povitsky, you go with the flow, tie-dye clothes, and play a crap ton of video games.
Povitsky, whose Comedy Central special Hot For My Name is out now, tells HelloGiggles that she was in a very different frame of mind when the pandemic first hit America in January. The 32-year-old, known for past projects like Freeform’s Alone Together and The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, had just released Dollface, a Hulu comedy series about female friendship; she was also in the midst of shooting her special and touring. “I was gearing up to build up a new hour-long act, and I was excited to go over it slowly and take my time and really find the new evolution of my voice would be,” she recalls.
Yet due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, activities like touring had to come to a halt for Povitsky and other comedians. As a result, she’s been taking a step back from her art, instead focusing on checking in with friends and family and trying out new hobbies.
“I’m not at home like, ‘What can I write?’” she explains. “I’m kind of more focused on, ‘Okay, I’m going to cook now.’ ‘I’m going to make a bunch of tie-dye with some of my friends and sell some of it.’ ‘I’m going to play video games.’ I’ve just been going with it.”
This doesn’t mean Povitsky isn’t still thinking of her future in comedy and how the landscape will look post-pandemic, however. “It could go so many ways,” she muses. “A lot fewer people could see comedy and it could be harder to get shows and harder to get on stage. Or it could be the opposite—it could be that everyone feels really safe and they’re desperate to go see local performances.”
“I don’t know which way it will go,” she adds, “and I’m kind of hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. I hope that it comes back and that it’s safe and it’s really fun. But I’m also trying to prepare that I might not get back on stage for a really long time.”
Even if comedy clubs do re-open soon, Povitsky doesn’t want to be one of the first performers to go back on stage; she’s worried about getting her audience (or her parents, when she’s eventually able to visit them) sick. “I don’t want to take any chances. I’ll probably be one of the last comedians to come back,” she says.
In the meantime, she’s flexing her comedic muscles through her podcast, Esther Club (out on Apple Podcasts and YouTube every Tuesday) and other tools available at home. “I have a Patreon where I do live streams almost every day that’s for people who are down to hear whatever I have to say or personal stuff,” Povitsky says. “And I’m finding that I use that as a really good sounding board for myself. It’s actually really similar to an open mic for me. It’s a new version of expressing myself where I can go to find new ideas.”
Making changes like these, she adds, has helped her become more flexible with how she approaches her career. “I think I’m really open to whatever, and I’m not judging myself,” she says. She suggests that other comedians experiencing uncertainty these days, especially those new to the scene, do the same.
“I think now is just the time to realize that you have to be even more creative than you were before,” Povitsky explains. “A comedian who is trying to find their voice, they do need those open mics; they’re really important. And now you have to find your voice in a different way, and I think that could be through Instagram Stories, YouTube vlogs, and people on TikTok.”
“There are so many opportunities for creating funny things and expressing yourself online that there really is no excuse,” she continues. “Embarrass yourself and fail. Post something that sucks, and try again. ”
In addition to practicing low-pressure comedy and playing video games, Povitsky’s been focused on riding the high of her comedy special debut, which discusses her relationship with her parents and is set in her hometown of Skokie, Illinois. She hopes that others enjoy the show as much as she enjoyed making it. “I hope there are misfits out there that relate to the things I say, and to the scenes that I’ve shot with my parents,” she says. “It’s a good watch if you’re missing your family.”
The comedian can certainly speak to that; she’s eagerly looking forward to being able to see her parents again post-quarantine. “I haven’t seen my own family in months and I’m excited to rewatch my special and be reminded of what life was like before,” Povitsky says. But until that day comes and she can return to both her parents and comedy in full force, she’ll keep making the most of her time at home. And while pandemic life may be challenging, we don’t doubt she’ll come out of it with plenty of new ideas to show off—while wearing a tie-dye T-shirt she made herself.