Hacks it’s been this spring’s sleeper series, the jaded but heartfelt show we didn’t know we needed: a jagged buddy comedy about the generation gap between two comedians. Along the way, HBO Max’s dramaturgy touched on the underbelly of comedy culture: the misogyny that for decades shaped and limited women’s careers, the question of who gets to be the joke, and how humor once tense becomes shtick.
The brilliant thing is, he did it while doing the Smartaissance. Immediately after your winning participation in Easttown Mare, Hacks offered 69 years Jean Smart a well deserved starring role on a television show, in a world where women over 50 are still relegated to the roles of long-suffering mother or, worse, cheeky grandmother.
“There is so much going on now, with the rewriting of women’s narratives in popular culture, and I feel like people are finally caught up to Jean Smart, “he says Paul W. Downs via Zoom from Mexico, where you are on vacation (between Zoom calls) with Lucia Aniello, your lifelong partner. Aniello and Downs create Hacks with Jen Statsky. The trio met on the New York improv scene and worked together in the writers room at Wide city, where they helped conjure up a gleefully anarchic and unapologetic feminist comedy about two best friends in their twenties. Hacks it’s less dated, but revolves around an equally odd couple.
A comedy trailblazer who nearly became the first late-night TV host, Smart’s Deborah Vance has become an eye-catching Las Vegas fixture. He endlessly recycles his old self-deprecating routines to pay for his lavish desert lifestyle, until he collides with 25-year-old comedy writer Ava Daniels who shares excessively (Hannah binders), who encourages her to forge a more authentic act out of the trauma she has been repressing all these years. “A line was cut in one episode about how much the world has changed in the last 15 minutes,” says Aniello. “Things have changed enough recently that people want to hear [women’s truth]. “
Hacks He walks the tightrope between comedy and pathos, and his first season culminates with an ending that brought as much emotional upheaval on set as it was on screen. The funeral scene that brings Deborah and Ava back together was an integral part of the season’s arc, which harks back to the original pitch. The idea was that Deborah would say that she does not do funerals, but that she would ultimately decide to present herself in the service of Ava’s father, entertaining the mourners like an olive branch to Ava.
Smart’s own husband of nearly 34 years, actor Richard Gilliland, died just before the scene was filmed. “It was very unexpected and then we had this week to shoot an episode about pain, which was really deep and difficult,” says Downs. “He took time off and we didn’t expect him to be back for a long time. We didn’t want to adjust anything that she didn’t want to adjust. “But Smart came back when he told me VF colleague Sonia Saraiya last month. In some ways, he said, filming the episode was “a good distraction.” The show dedicated to the end of Gilliland.
Aniello still marvels at Smart’s willingness to take on any challenge thrown at him. “Often there was something we said, ‘Oh, we can change that to make it easier for you.’ And she would give us a kind of look, like, I don’t need anything to be easy on me, I’ll do what the script says, “says Aniello. Smart even wanted to do his own stunts, like when Deborah tries to run Ava over with her Rolls-Royce or gets into a helicopter. “She is honestly Tom cruise“Level committed to his stunts, and I’m being very serious,” Aniello continues. “If we told him we wanted him to tie himself to the side of a plane and make it take off, I guarantee that he would.”
Hacks Fast forward to the moment when Deborah finally breaks loose on stage. Her Las Vegas casino is putting her to the pasture, and Ava is helping her write a final set that will serve as an awkward cultural reckoning, to the Hannah gadsby‘s Nanette. “We really wanted to explore that kind of internalized misogyny that made or encouraged women to be self-critical, and not just women, but any artist or comedian who is on the sidelines,” Downs tells me. “And we hope that Ava’s character helps Deborah [understand], You don’t have to make yourself small to make them laugh! You can hit back and a lot of them are still going to laugh. “
But the show’s writers made the decision not to show viewers Deborah’s unrestricted standing performance. Instead, the idea was to “focus on the off-stage moments of these women’s lives. We really wanted to do a show about why these women tell these jokes, “says Downs.” We really wanted, for example, her performance at the funeral to be the performance you see: she’s exposed and she’s herself, but she’s naturally funny. “