Thrillist: It was super weird to get your text message coming from another Esther. I feel like I don't meet many other Esthers.
Esther Povitsky: I just realized how weird that would be if I got that message. I would be so freaked out.
When did you first realize that you could make jokes about the name Esther?
Povitsky: Probably not really until I started doing stand-up, because growing up I was always really insecure about it, I didn't like it; it was an old lady name. Every time I met someone, they would tell me about their grandmother named Esther. I feel like every time I saw a movie, Esther depicted someone who is not attractive and lame, and I just felt really ashamed of it for a long time. It wasn't until I started doing stand-up and got a little bit more confident I was able to just attack it head on and start talking about it and making jokes about it. It ended up working out well for me and it's something now that I'm so proud of. Like I love my name now. I'm just so happy with it.
I didn't grow up with any other Esthers.
Povitsky: Me either.
But it's sort of nice because in classrooms you weren't with a million other Sarahs or Laurens.
Povitsky: What's your middle name?
Povitsky: That's really pretty. Mine is Lauren.
I'm so sorry, I feel like I just insulted your middle name.
Povitsky: No, not at all. Are you kidding? I would fantasize that that was my first name forever. No, don't even. So why did you get this name?
It's my great-grandmother's.
Povitsky: For me it's my grandmother. So that makes sense.
That's sort of how you get the name I think, unless it's a biblical thing.
Povitsky: Right, yeah. I feel like I don't know any Esthers. It's such an interesting name because it really does shape your identity. Automatically, out the gate, you're not like everyone else, you have a name no one's heard of. It already has an association with old people. It does shape who you are, which is crazy to think because it's such a simple thing, but there's no way this name hasn't shaped me to be who I am. It's such an integral part of me I feel like.
Has the "Esther-pretty" joke from the pilot been in your act for a while now?
Povitsky: Yeah, so that was a joke I've been doing for a long time now and when we were improvising the scene, Jim O'Heir just said, "Tell me a joke." I didn't even know what to do and that was the one that came to mind, which is kind of crazy to me. But, yeah, that was the one that came to mind even though I don't think I'd done it for a long time. It's true, people in movies and on TV the pretty person isn't named Esther, they're just not. It's not a name that our culture associates with youth or beauty or any of the good stuff. When people know my name, and then they meet me they are like, "Oh, you're like young. Oh." [That] kind of inspired it: People are surprised that I'm pretty because I'm an Esther, so that's kind of where it came from.
Was there a writing process for the joke or did it just pop into your head because of all these things?
Povitsky: I think when I started stand-up I was just really encouraged to get up on stage and talk about myself: What's true to you? What makes you who you are? Not a joke about airline peanuts, but a joke about who you are that only you could tell on stage, nobody could take it from you, it was your truth. So I just got up on stage and that was one of the things that I talked about, because it's about my name and that's my identity and it's not a common name and there weren't any other stand-up comedians with that name. So I felt like that was a good area for me. And, like I said, my name has shaped me to be who I am so strongly that it just felt like the exact right area for a stand-up comedian especially when starting out who is really honing in on their voice.