Esther Povitsky Says ‘Alone Together’ Was Created From ‘Not Being Able to Get a Job’

Alone Together,” Freeform’s new half-hour comedy, has been four years in the making for stand-up comedians Esther Povitsky and Benji Aflalo.

The duo came up in the comedy scene together, training with improv groups like Second City and The Groundlings, and in 2014 they turned their platonic relationship into a short film after a friend told them that their “weird” relationship, which Povitsky calls “almost like siblings,” would make a good show. The two thought it was worth a try. Their short film was shared socially online, and eventually it led them to a meeting with The Lonely Island, which led to a sale to the cable network recommitting to trying their hand at comedy. (“Baby Daddy” ended in May 2017, but that same month “Black-ish” spinoff “Grown-ish” was ordered to accompany “Alone Together” on the schedule.)

“We sold it everywhere we pitched it, but we ended up choosing Freeform because they had nothing like us, and they really expressed that they really wanted us,” says Povitsky, who was on Variety’s 10 Comics To Watch list last year. “It felt like a cool opportunity to be in a space, as two stand-up comedians, to discover new land in the comedy world. We could get in on the ground floor, and that is a risk, but let’s take that risk.”

What felt less risky to Povitsky was creating the material for herself and her friend, with her friend. Already living in Los Angeles for half a dozen years and experiencing auditions that were “really few and far between” and never seemed to really fit who she was anyway, she saw great value in carving out a place for herself.

“It was born out of the reality of not being able to get a job but it became the thing I really wanted most,” Povitsky says. “And it also came from being a stand-up and realizing I do have something to say.”

Like their stand-up, “Alone Together” mines both Povitsky and Aflalo’s real lives for its storytelling. “It’s me but exaggerated,” Povitsky says of the character who shares her name. “We’re both short and the youngest siblings and have parents who don’t think we’re that special.”

When breaking stories, Povitsky says she was eager to say “Here is this thing that I’ve done” or “Here is this thing that I want to do” to include everything from episodes about camping out at a makeup pop up store for the latest trends in lipsticks to trying to date Benji’s brother (played by fellow stand-up Chris D’Elia).

“In real life I would not try that,” Povitsky says of dating Aflalo’s brother. “I know my place in life. That’s never going to be me. But in the show I’m a little more delusional, and I try to go for it.”

The show also breaks down the construct that men and women can’t just be platonic friends. Although other characters within the show constantly ask Povitsky and Aflalo’s characters why they aren’t dating each other, both are very confident in the fact that they really are just friends. The tension comes not between them because of “will they or won’t they” but from forces all around them as they struggle to find their place in the world — and find romantic partners they are actually interested in.

Povitsky booked a recurring role on the CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” while she was developing “Alone Together” and credits Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna, the showrunners of that deconstructed romcom, as an inspiration for her as she has moved along in the process of her own show.

“I try to absorb every part of it because I think they’re both so powerful and so good at what they do and motivating,” Povitsky says of Bloom and McKenna.

For them, Povitsky portrays a millennial working in a law firm — a character she admits is still “a version” of herself. But while she has fun with characters who are still just figuring things out, she doesn’t want to be pigeonholed, nor does she go so far as to say she or her new show has the definitive millennial voice.

“I want the show to be well-received. I want it to resonate with people [and] I hope people who get me find it and connect with it because there’s so much of me in it,” Povitsky says. “But I don’t ever think of things in terms of labels or boxes. For me, it’s always just been, ‘What’s true to me? What do I really think here?’ And that’s how things get written for ‘Alone Together.’”

“Alone Together” premieres Jan. 10 at 8:30pm on Freeform with a second season already ordered.

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