Cyberspace star breaks into TV on E! network
Grace Helbig loves working from home.
Home is where your stuff is. Where there’s no boss on your back. Where, if you’re Grace Helbig, you can blend the creative solitude that propels you with entertaining millions of your closest chums.
Now Helbig — whose YouTube channel, “It’s Grace,” is the repository of her comic videos playing to more than 2 million subscribers — is branching out. Without leaving home.
Home for “The Grace Helbig Show” (premiering on E! Entertainment on Friday at 10:30 p.m. EDT) is an L.A. residence from which this half- hour talk- and- whatever TV show will originate while also serving as home base for its staff and crew, all of whom will also be on view.
“I think the process is as interesting as the outcome,” Helbig said last week on a visit to New York. “The Internet medium is so personal and so intimate, and I want to bring that intimacy to television.”
Thus will Helbig arrive as a television pioneer, having landed this mainstream TV gig thanks to her end run around the media gauntlet, launched instead by her homegrown Internet initiative.
She says her show will feature “Internet personalities, celebrities, my friends and family coming over and having a silly time.” Her first guests: actress-comedian Aisha Tyler, best friend and fellow YouTuber Mamrie Hart and musician-actor DJ Flula.
Beyond that, plans are sparse: “I don’t want to overthink it.”
A lanky blonde with an endearing streak of geek who’s 29 but could pass for a decade younger, Helbig is too smart to overthink her options.
Growing up in New Jersey, where she made good grades, liked athletics and preferred her own company to the social scene, she never stopped to think that her budding interest in comedy might be hampered by her aversion to the limelight.
Then, living in New York after college, she gritted her teeth and took an improv class. She loved it.
“The concept of saying yes is a fundamental principal of improv. That philosophy extends to so many facets of life!” She said yes to Web videos. “I was fascinated by them, because I was an introvert by nature, and being able to create something by yourself at home really appealed to me — a performance piece, but without the direct judgment of eyeballs looking at you while you look back at them. I just didn’t know you could make a career out of it.”
Of course, pretty much no one knew. But because it was creative and fun, Helbig began making video blogs with her roommate about their daily lives. Their quirky take on quotidian affairs clicked with the My Damn Channel website, which in 2008 brought her aboard.
This newfound income enabled her to quit her waitress job and throw herself full-time into comedy. From home.
With increasing success with her videos, she bolted from My Damn Channel at the end of 2013 for YouTube, where she could be her own independent producer. Her subscribers took the leap with her.
Since then, Helbig has stayed busy. Along with “It’s Grace,” she authored a self-help handbook for her millennial flock, “Grace’s Guide: The Art of Pretending to Be a Grownup.” She hosts a podcast, “Not Too Deep with Grace Helbig.” And she has just finished a project with fellow YouTube star Hannah Hart: a reboot of Sid and Marty Krofft’s ’70s superhero spoof “Electra Woman and Dyna Girl.”
With her new TV show, she plans to reaffirm her tight relationship with fans. A star of the interactive social-media age, Helbig observes the new paradigm of, in essence, “friending” her public as it “friends” her back.
But doesn’t this level of availability fly in the face of her claim that she’s an introvert?
“What I mean is, I gather my energy and channel it into creative endeavors best when I’m by myself,” she explains. “I socialize and have friends, but then I need to go home and recharge.”
This demands equilibrium, a balance in her life she also wrestles to maintain as a public figure who shies away from overexposing herself.
“I need to keep certain things private to feel rational and sane,” she says. “It scares me that there’s so much oversharing in social media. You don’t have to divulge your entire life! I’m a Libra, so I’m constantly checking in with myself to find that right balance, to keep some things for myself.”
Which is how it will go for Grace Helbig, cyberspace star, as she breaks into TV.
She begins with an eight-episode season. And then? “I’m just gonna try until it doesn’t feel good anymore, and then try something else,” she says, defiantly home free. “This whole Internet thing was just me trying things and seeing what stuck.”