For Esther Povitsky, talking candidly to a room full of people she doesn’t know comes easily—sometimes even more easily than speaking to her loved ones.
“It felt like a natural fit for me to speak openly to a bunch of strangers,” the comedian says of her particularly self-deprecating brand of stand-up. “You’d be surprised how easy it is to do that rather than with friends or family.”
Povitsky, who is bringing her stand-up to Vancouver on Feb. 22, 2020 as part of Just For Laughs Northwest, focuses her bits on her own life—from her appearance (“In the Midwest I’m a seven out of 10; on the East Coast I’m a six; and then here in Southern California I’m a cocker spaniel”) to her social life (“I like to throw what I call food parties. That’s when you throw a party and you only invite food”). By poking fun at herself, she becomes more human, more relatable; it allows the audience to start to see themselves in her.
“I really like to be honest and always feel like I’m being my complete honest self with people so that their experience feels authentic,” she says via phone. “I’m not going out there just trying to get a silly laugh, I’m going out there to speak honestly and openly about who I am and how I really feel about things—and hope that people will, who knows, relate. Or maybe be enraged by me, you never know.”
Aside from stand-up, Povitsky also works as an actor, bringing her incredible comedic timing and breezy sincerity to the screen. She’s known for roles in television shows Alone Together (which she also co-created) and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend; most recently, viewers can watch her on Hulu’s Dollface, playing the aloof but endearing Izzy who steals just about every scene she’s in. “They both are very high-pressure and high-reward in their own way,” Povitsky says, comparing stand-up to acting. “With stand-up you get that instant gratification of laughter and the audience feedback, but with acting you get to work with other people and you make this tremendous product. You’re a small part of this big team that makes this really incredible product.”
At the end of the day, regardless of her medium, it all comes down to the same goal: laughter. For her, it’s more than just a job. “I feel like laughing is a release to me. Whether it’s external events in the world or my own inner thoughts, it’s hard to stay occupied or stay positive; nobody’s constantly having a good time 24/7,” she says. “So I think when I can be surprised with laughter throughout my day, it’s extremely valuable for me. Which is probably why I was so drawn to it as a career. Comedy and laughter serves me extremely well. It helps me with problems both externally and internally.” In her eyes, comedy’s value—like anything—ebbs and flows depending on who you’re talking to. And that’s true, certainly, but one could also argue that with so much bad news in the world these days, comedians are more necessary than ever.
Povitsky’s own sets don’t touch on current events, so she doesn’t worry about political correctness (“I’m almost too selfish for that; I really talk mostly about myself,” she jokes), but that’s important, too. It means for a few glorious moments, we can really forget everything outside the theatre’s walls. That’s her gift to us, and all she asks for in return are a few glorious laughs.