‘"Hacks" Creators Discuss Whether Deborah Vance Was Inspired by Joan Rivers


Shortly after "Hacks" premiered, a popular fan theory emerged suggesting that Jean Smart's character, Deborah Vance, was modeled after the late Joan Rivers. Both are older female comedians with long careers in the spotlight, including brief stints as late-night TV hosts. TheWrap spoke with "Hacks" co-creators Paul W. Downs, Lucia Aniello, and Jen Statsky just hours after the show received 15 Emmy nominations, asking if Smart’s Las Vegas comedian, Deborah Vance, was based on anyone specific

These are female stand-ups who didn't receive the recognition that many of their white male counterparts did. And, of course, Jean brought a lot of herself to the role, making it something very unique."

"She’s an amalgamation of a lot of people," said Downs, who also stars in the show as Deborah and Ava’s (Hannah Einbinder) manager. "She started as a stage act with her then partner, similar to Nichols and May, so there's some Elaine May in there. She had a famous sitcom and a very public divorce, much like Lucille Ball. We also incorporated elements of Phyllis Diller, Joan Rivers, Elayne Boosler, Rita Rudner, and Paula Poundstone.


"Vance is a very successful comedian with a long-term residency. She’s clearly talented and knows how to tell a joke, but her material has become stale and could use a refresh. It feels like she’s just going through the motions. So, it was like aiming for a very small target."

Statsky mentioned that the most challenging part of the show to write was Vance’s stand-up material, describing it as "a very small target for us to hit."

"We really wanted to get it right and make it feel real and authentic, which is a challenge. But we also needed to meet this specific target with her material,"


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