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.”

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