North Shore native and rising star comic Esther Povitsky is writing the script for her own funny-face success story.
Anyone complaining that Hollywood has no room for female comics has clearly never heard of Esther Povitsky. With no job, no safety net and no real interest in college, the Skokie native dropped out of the University of Illinois after both her parents lost their jobs during the recession. “Suddenly, this world with security and safety no longer existed, so I figured I may as well do what I want to,” the bubbly 31-year-old recalls.
Armed with a searing wit and a few iO Chicago classes, she drove with a friend to Los Angeles and basically showed up at the Comedy Store for open mics night after night. “I’d get onstage and stream-of-consciousness my life. I might talk about my yeast infection, which could be funny, or it could make people feel grossed out,” she says. She didn’t care. For four years, she’d take the stage multiple times a night, seven days a week, honing her jokes and ultimately landing gigs on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Key & Peele, and a recurrent role as Maya on The CW’s critically acclaimed Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. But, missing home, she determined to achieve her goal of gaining steady work on television or pack it in. So she wrote Alone Together, a buddy sitcom about her real-life platonic friendship with co-star Benji Aflalo, and Disney’s Freeform picked up two seasons in 2018. “It’s not like I walked into town and someone handed me—a half-Jewish, 5-foot-1 girl from Skokie—a TV show. I made that happen.”
Now, Povitsky is playing goofy, desperate-to-fit-in Isabel Grossman Levine, aka Izzy, on Hulu’s surreal new comedy Dollface, which debuts Nov. 15. “I relate to Izzy so much,” the petite brunette insists. “I grew up with an older sister who was too cool for me, so I definitely have it built in that I want to be part of what the popular girls are doing.” Working on a show starring 2 Broke Girls alum Kat Dennings that’s produced by Hollywood A-lister Margot Robbie, any other actor would believe she’d arrived. But not the ambitious Povitsky. “What is the point of being 2,000 miles away from my family if I’m not going to be doing everything I can?” she asks.
Busy though she is, Povitsky comes home every other month: When she’s not prepping for a stand-up special on Comedy Central (airing in 2020) or recording her beauty podcast Glowing Up, expect to find this suburban soul trolling the racks of the nearest retail outlet in Skokie. “I really just love a good day at Old Orchard Mall,” she says. “And I’m a big eater. Everyone has to try Pita Inn—it’s truly the best Med restaurant of all time.”