Esther Povitsky returns home for new Comedy Central special

  • Esther Povitsky attends the Hulu LA Press Party 2019 in Beverly Hills, Calif. Hulu/TNS — Phillip Faraone

Chicago Tribune
Published: 6/1/2020 4:39:42 PM

CHICAGO — It’s safe to say no one loves Westfield Old Orchard like former Johnny Rockets employee Esther Povitsky.

The third-generation Skokie native talks of wanting to marry at the shopping center — despite an unfortunate incident years ago at the Cold Stone Creamery that prompted her to throw her underwear out at Maggiano’s.

She recounts the story in her new Comedy Central special, Hot For My Name, which is scheduled to air at 10 p.m. Friday. It’s Povitsky’s first comedy special, and it serves as a love letter to her hometown. The hour-long episode jumps between clips of Povitsky performing jokes in clubs about her social media stalking habits, bedroom talk and need for attention and scenes of her hitting North Shore spots with her parents, Morrie and Mary.

“I really realized how much I love Skokie. I mean, I think I knew that before, but it really just reiterated it for me,” Povitsky told the Tribune by phone about filming the special. “It’s my favorite place in the world. I want to live there. I want to be the mayor of Skokie. I just love Skokie so much.”

The Dollface actress graduated from Niles North High School in 2006 and studied at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign before moving to Los Angeles in 2009 to pursue comedy. She said she visits Skokie several times a year and wants to move back — but she’s having trouble getting her fiance to sign on.

She said she has a plan for the perfect Skokie home — a “Skokie White House,” if you will — if she can get her dad to sign on. “I’ve actually spent most of this quarantine plotting out how to build a luxury shed in my parents’ backyard for me to live in,” she said. “And my dad already said that if I do that, if I try to build it, he’s going to call the police, so I have to figure that out.”

Here’s what you need to know about Povitsky and her special.

Why she chose to feature her parents in the special

“I’ll never forget the first time my college friend Jenna came to visit. You meet your college friends, and they get to know you so well, but they don’t know your parents because you don’t live with your parents anymore. I remember she came to my house and she sat there — and we were all talking about where we were going to go for dinner for 20 minutes — and Jenna just looked over at me, and she’s like, ‘I get it. I see why you’re the way you are,’” Povitsky said.

“I’ve always enjoyed that. To me, it’s always been a funny experience for people to know me and then meet my parents. So I wanted to find a way to share that with all these people that might already know me and my comedy, almost like, ‘OK, now let’s meet her parents, and let’s see why she’s like this.’ ”

Povitsky said it was a “little bit difficult” convincing her parents to participate. “They definitely were resistant,” she said. “And then I was like, ‘Well, I already sold this idea to Comedy Central so you can’t really say no.’”

How she determined where to shoot

“We really wanted this to feel real when you watch it. We don’t want it to feel like you’re watching set-ups and story lines. This is supposed to feel like you’re kind of just sitting in the kitchen at the kitchen table with me and my parents and you’re eavesdropping in on what would really be happening whether the camera was there or not,” Povitsky said.

She picked her favorite spots to film, places she’s visited for years. She’s shown eating dessert at the Dairy Star Ice Cream of Lincolnwood with her parents and visiting the Skokie Public Library with her father. She said she also filmed at Pita Inn and the Old Orchard mall, but not every scene made it into the special.

Amy Koester, learning experiences manager for the Skokie Public Library, said Povitsky filmed there in August 2019. Koester said high school and college students occasionally film short pieces in the library with permission. “I believe this is the first time that the library will be featured in a comedy special, and we’re excited to see what footage is included in Esther’s special,” Koester said in an email.

How she’s spent quarantine time

Povitsky, who co-created and starred in the Freeform series Alone Together, was gearing up to film season two of the Hulu series Dollface when she talked to the Tribune.

She said she has been tie dyeing, cooking and hosting her weekly podcast, Esther Club, during the coronavirus pandemic. “I would like to write a book, but right now I’m struggling to get through 10 minutes of yoga every morning, so I’ve got to figure out how to make myself do that,” she said.

What she wants viewers to take away from her special

“I really hope they relate and see their family in my family and see themselves in me,” Povitsky said. “It’s not like some research piece on why I am the way I am. It has that undertone, but it’s not. It’s not serious. Every scene is silly or self-deprecating or funny. Everything is meant to be funny, so I hope that people find that and enjoy it.”

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