Irreverent, relevant, and very funny. Hacks on HBO Max is a bright comedy about an up-and-coming young comedy writer, Ava, being forcibly paired with an old-school Las Vegas standup comedian, Debbie Vance. Their antics and dramatics level up from caddy to joyfully entertaining.
It’s Funnier That Way
Ava is a messy writer who lost her development deal in Hollywood because of a poorly worded tweet. Debbie is an almost has-been who has spent most of the latter part of her career playing Vegas. When her dates may get cut from the schedule Ava and Debbie’s mutual agent pair them up as an unlikely comedy duo. It doesn’t go very well. At least at first.
Debbie is clearly based on the likes of Joann Rivers and other pioneering female standups. Her boldness on stage came from a need to be louder than everyone around her. Ava is early Gen Z and moves with a hefty chip on her shoulder that the world has already wronged her. The drama and comedy both come from the generational divide and their wildly different world views.
Can She Win?
Household and business staff orbit around Debbie to keep her brand and life afloat. Ava works to fit in while not blending in. Observing Debbie’s life and eccentricities, Ava recognizes what is missing in her comedy. The season builds to a fight for Debbie’s Vegas show that ends up changing her perspective on comedy.
The performances in Hacks from all actors are sharp and witty. It seems as though all characters around Debbie have learned from her brand of sarcasm and humor. Jean Smart is perfection as Debbie Vance. She carries the class of her age but is as crass and loud as any standup. She is unapologetic and will speak her mind. Smart plays Vance with precision to hit each and every beat of emotional and comedic value.
Hannah Einbinder plays Ava. A relative newcomer, Einbinder holds her own against Smart. She plays Ava with many Gen Z tropes, but Debbie sees right through it all.
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This show is a gem. There is a lot to love about how the show tackles entertainment from a fresh perspective by focusing on a veteran of the business. This show doesn’t work to tell you that show business is easy and effortless, but rather proves the work that even a Vegas act has to put up to keep audiences coming back for more. Debbie isn’t an icon because she is perfect, but because she is honest. This honesty makes the show feel more real and far more relatable. If you are going to make a show about a comedian, it better be funny and this show is really funny.
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