“Hacks” star Hannah Einbinder is preparing for the show’s second season and still processing its slew of Emmy nominations, but told TheWrap that taping her own stand-up special is a dream she hopes to make a reality sometime soon.
With her drop-dead funny performance in “Hacks” as as Ava Daniels — the brash 25-year-old assistant to aging Las Vegas comedienne Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) — and her ongoing career as a standup comic, it’s surprising Einbinder hasn’t had her pick of streaming services offering her specials.
“Hacks” is Einbinder’s first major on-screen role. The daughter of “Saturday Night Live” inaugural cast member Laraine Newman broke out during the 2019 Just for Laughs comedy festival, and both Vulture and NPR called her one of the top standout performers. In May, Einbinder set a record as the youngest comic to do a stand-up routine on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
“That’s my total dream,” Einbinder tells TheWrap when asked about a stand-up special on Netflix or another streaming service. “In terms of my writing process, it takes me a really long time to write because I just have pretty terrible writer’s block most of the year, so I definitely want to take my time to make sure that I’m doing something that’s super thoughtful,” she added. “But yes, stand-up is my first love and a special is absolutely something I hope to do in my time here on Earth… come on, Netflix, you know me, you know me from HBO!”
It’s not just being in some show on HBO Max that has Einbinder getting noticed, of course — she is nominated for a best supporting actress Emmy for the role of Ava, and “Hacks” has 15 overall nominations including Smart’s nomination for best lead actress in a comedy.
Einbinder spoke with TheWrap about her reactions to the nominations and also gave her thoughts on cancel culture, the importance of representation in comedy (like her character Ava, Einbinder openly identifies as bisexual) and her biggest comedic influences. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
TheWrap: Firstly tell us your reaction to the Emmy nominations.
Einbender: “It’s incredible, it’s a thrill. And, you know, the recognition is so nice because as someone who witnessed a ton of hard work on this project, and a lot of heart and soul, it’s nice to feel that, you know, other people were moved as I was.”
Why is the LGBTQ representation in comedy and specifically in “Hacks” so important?
In terms of ‘Hacks,’ you know, I was really blessed to have been given great material by our writers, some of whom are queer people, and most of whom are women. You know, that that was such a blessing. And I, in terms of “Hacks,” completely owe it to the writers and the creators of this show.
I think our writers with Ava, what I think they attempted and it feels like a success to me is simply normalization for the audience. It is communicated to the audience that Ava dates men and women and it’s very clear and it is accepted, and it is not dwelled upon in a way that makes it a big deal. I think the way in which we present these elements of a person on-screen is super important. It’s super nice to meet a character who has realized that as a part of themselves and it is like I said, normalized, because then the viewer, they then accept in that same way.
How does your own identity as an LGBTQ comedian factor into your comedy?
In terms of my own comedy, I think that I’m conscious about what I am saying on stage at all times, because of just sort of a baseline respect for the form that I have. I think it is a disservice to crowds and to comedy as a whole to not be thoughtful in general. And also, it doesn’t really occur to me to go to any place that seems punch-down-y. My specific brand of stand-up, what I’m trying to do is really just to articulate my perspective and my experience, and that never involves putting anyone else down.
I think that it happens because sometimes comedians who make these jokes, they don’t understand that the reason it’s important to be thoughtful is because when you make jokes about marginalized people that is, first of all, the most unoriginal thing you could ever do, but also, the bar is so much higher. You know, we laugh at ourselves constantly, but our standards are high, because we’ve heard all of the very surface level basic jokes. It is certainly not that we can’t take jokes but rather that we have a higher standard. So that’s something that I’m constantly thinking about.
Who are your biggest influences comedically?
When I think of some of my earliest influences, I guess my early comedic influences came from movies. I would say a lot of Mel Brooks, movies, you know, Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor and “Blazing Saddles.” I think Jim Carrey was huge just in his physicality and the way that he communicated using his body.
I think in terms of stand-up, some of my favorite people are just anyone who kind of breaks the form. Maria Bamford is someone, and Sarah Silverman, who is like, such a hero. And I think also Steve Martin is someone who to me was doing alternative comedy at a time where we were coming out of very strict suit and tie “Tonight Show” appearances — that also have their value, but it was just nice. I love people who are changing it up. Bo Burnham is a huge influence. I really just love when people go outside of the box really in any way creatively.
What are your thoughts on “cancel culture” and its influence on the comedy scene in recent years?
I try to shed all forms of binary thinking in my life around everything; I don’t think that the world is black and white. So it’s a case by case basis. You know, you see people getting ‘canceled’ and they’re actual criminals.
Do I think that we are just in changing our standards? Absolutely. I think it’s vital, I think, for our comedy or drama, and frankly, morally. Changing our standards, improving our standards for one another is progress and it’s great.
And, I think that online discourse very quickly slips into a public stoning in the streets like the Middle Ages, and I think we’re much better than that. I don’t think anyone will ever grow or learn from being told that they are an irredeemable bad person. And again, it’s a case by case basis, so of course, it really does depend.
In terms of how I view conflict resolution, collaborative conversations and love is the way to really get through to people. Depending on who you are, you may or may not have that patience, and that is valid and it is certainly a privilege for me to have the bandwidth to have loving, calm interactions with people on various things, if, you know, someone is saying something that is offensive or wrong to me or my community. That’s important to know, the standards are not across the board for everyone, in terms of this discourse and people have a right to their feelings. But I just think that it’s I just think that the ‘us and them’ thing, it can’t really serve us in the long run.