• Golden Globe Awards

Winners Circle 2022: “Hacks” (Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy)

The 79th Golden Globe Awards marked two wins for the HBO Max series Hacks, notably for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy, as well as lead actress Jean Smart who took the honors for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy. Her co-star, Hannah Einbinder, also received a nomination in the same category. 
Veteran actress Smart stars as Deborah Vance, a Las Vegas comedienne who is set on a collision course with an up-and-coming comedy writer, Ava Daniels (Einbinder), a millennial newbie on the circuit who’s hired to punch up the aging comedy queen’s fatigued Vegas act.   
Hacks shines a light on two women at opposite ends of their career trajectory as well as their life’s journey, whose viewpoints, unsurprisingly, reflect that disparity. And despite the generational divide, they both learn a lot from each other. Vance’s old school comedy must catch up to Daniels’ #MeToo and woke sensibility, and likewise, the eager apprentice realizes there is much wisdom to be gleaned from her older counterpart. 
The challenge in writing a series about a standup comic is that the writers have to write jokes that are good enough to be in a standup routine while maintaining the general storyline. 
Writer Jen Statsky says, “It’s definitely a challenge and we always want it to feel authentic, but so much of this show is about the lives of these women and these characters offstage. And so, while the standup is of course incredibly important and sets up who Deborah Vance is, and what she does, and what she’s so good at, it’s a lot more about what happens offstage.”
Executive producer, Michael Schur adds, “The real fun of it is the divide between the two comedians. Those moments where the two of them and their comedic sensibilities clash are more important, I think, and funnier than Deborah Vance’s act when she’s on stage. Because that’s just not what the show’s about at all, it’s about the two women, and how those gears grind somewhat unpleasantly at times.”
Vance’s style of comedy is reminiscent of iconic trailblazers Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers. Smart says, “I’m certainly a fan of a lot of female comics. I guess I borrow things from other comediennes unconsciously and certainly, anywhere from Elayne Boosler or Phyllis Diller to Sam Kinison. But I haven’t based it on anyone. I just go with my gut instinct and the writing is so good that it usually works out.”
The subject matter is familiar to Einbinder whose father is comedy writer Chad Einbinder, and her mother, Laraine Newman, is one of the original cast members of Saturday Night Live. Hannah is a standup comic in her own right. She says, “Standup comedy is an unmasterable craft. I take a swing at it up there and I try my best. I bomb and sometimes I do well. You can never be a perfect standup comedian.”
The show’s success rests largely on the chemistry between the two leads. Their characters come to butt heads on a regular basis, but offscreen they have become fast friends. Smart says, “Hannah is hilarious. It’s been a real pleasure working with her.” Einbinder returns the compliment. “I’ve proposed several times, but she keeps saying, ‘I’m married!’”