In the second season of HBO Max’s “Hacks,” Hannah Einbinder, who plays Ava Daniels, the young, self-satisfied joke writer of Jean Smart’s well-known Vegas comic Deborah Vance, found herself on an unusually pressured night shoot. In the scene, Deborah, who enjoys making Ava squirm, instead makes her cry with a gesture of consistent generosity.
“It was early in the morning, as Sinatra-san says,” says the 27-year-old. “It was really rewarding in the end. But there was something to it. And, man, I don’t have much stamina. That was tough for me.”
Along with her deadpan performance, fleeting micro-reactions, and easygoing 20-year-old physicality, it’s also arguable that her recent foray into acting — Einbinder is a working stand-up comic in real life — is part of what makes her Take up it with Ava and feel inhabited, naturalistic. As for her dry comedic timing, Einbinder, daughter of “SNL” Laraine Newman, points to her upbringing. “It’s in my blood,” she says. “The way you got approval in my house got a lot of laughs. It was like our love language.”
You auditioned for just over a year when “Hacks” came along. How nervous were you about applying for the role?
To be honest, this audition was more important to me than most. The quality of the material struck me that I had never experienced before. But I had never gotten a call back for anything before. I thought it would be like the rest. My approach from start to finish was to have fun with the material. I haven’t really told anyone about this [the audition]. It just felt like another part of my day.
One could imagine spending a day in a room full of Zoomers in baggy vintage t-shirts and black Dr. Martens has spent.
Actually it was quite the opposite. A lot of really gorgeous, beautiful actresses surrounded me and I looked around like, “Oh, s—. I don’t have a chance.”
The creators of “Hacks” said you impressed them by vaping in the middle of a scene of all things. How did you come up with this special improvisation?
There was a moment in the scene where I thought there might be some sort of comedic element going after the line itself. Then I imagined someone smoking. Sort of an inhale-exhale moment, like a rim shot to underline the line. I thought, “Why not?” So that morning I went out and bought a vape.
They loved it so much that Ava’s vaping was included in the series. Discuss your first day as a co-lead newbie to the incomparable Jean Smart.
I was just petrified, scared. I felt like I had to do my best not to get fired because they would realize that was a big mistake. I mean that honestly. I kept thinking that until we were done [Season 1]. Then I thought, “Okay.”[Deep sigh of relief]”It’s going to be way too expensive to do it again. I’m clear.” It had nothing to do with the conditions or circumstances. [“Hacks” co-creators Paul W. Downs, Jen Statsky and Lucia Aniello] have been so supportive from the start. It’s just in my wiring to catastrophe.
Has Deborah Vance’s struggle to stay relevant as she gets older got you thinking about your own future in stand-up?
I can tell you that I will always write my own material. If I ever thought, “Oh, I should find a writer,” then I’ll probably stop doing comedy.
Stop? Why stop?
I’ve seen many of my heroes become angry old men pointing fingers at things they don’t understand. I hope never to be like that. The world moves so fast I guess I won’t help but be left behind. When I feel that this has happened, I will respectfully say goodbye. I do not want [stay in comedy] to get people to look at me or for money or any of the things that make someone do it. I feel lucky to be able to do other things in the performance space.
Does being an Emmy-nominated actor on a critically acclaimed series change the crowds that come to your stand-up shows?
Well, it’s changed the crowd in it nowisone. [Laughs]
How does an audience react to your material?
That’s something I’m constantly trying to pursue. The material I now make on the go was polished before I got any “hacks”. When I try to slip new things on, I can hear the difference. So I was fortunate to get a close reading of my stuff. Tonight I’m going to do a workshop on some very raw new material I just wrote. I just go up with these ideas and rip them out. I assume things are going badly. All comics bomb. It’s just part of it. I think the first five minutes that you’re up there, they’re like, “Oh my god, that’s my favorite person,” and then it fades away. You know?
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/awards/story/2022-08-10/hannah-einbinder-hacks-standup-comedy Hannah Einbinder does standup, and knows she’s going to bomb