YouTube comedy sensation Grace Helbig: ‘You don’t have to be cruel to be funny’

The E! chatshow host and comedian talks vloggers, beauty pageants and Amy Schumer.

Grace Helbig
Good Grace The comedian has 2.8 million YouTube subscribers. Image Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic

If the name Grace Helbig has thus far passed you by, you certainly aren’t of the YouTube generation. Comedian Helbig is one of its genuine success stories.

Best known as host and creator of It’sGrace on YouTube and her own talk show on E!, the New Jersey comic rose to fame after starting a vlog in 2007.

Now, with 2.8 million subscribers to her YouTube channel over 170 million hits on her posts and a couple of books under her belt, there’s no stopping the 30-year-old, who once aspired to be Miss Teen New Jersey.

Speaking to Loaded during a signing tour for new book Grace & Style, Helbig is thrilled with how her deadpan style is being received on both sides of the Atlantic.

“The surprising thing I’ve found between the US and here are similarities with the people who seem to like my work,” she explains.

“As much as I appreciate that make up can change your face, I think it’s hilarious to spend so much time doing it”

“The people who seem to follow my content in books or online are all generally kind, sarcastic, intelligent and sweet. What I notice more about the UK is that there’s more sarcasm and deadpan humour, which is wonderful for me because that’s what I love.”

Grace Helbig Loaded
"The art of pretending you have it" Grace onstage at Stream Con in NYC. Image Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Stream

On first glance, you could well be duped into thinking Helbig is another Zoella or Tanya Burr, contenting herself by uploading the best ways to do a fishtail plait or discussing the contents of her handbag.

Helbig’s good looks could make you instantly dismiss her as a beauty vlogger – not that she’d consider that a dismissal, insisting: “I truly and genuinely love the beauty guru side of YouTube. I get lost in the Zoella side of YouTube and it’s so fun. I love comedy at the same time.”

However, she adds:”As much as I appreciate that make up can change your face, I think it’s hilarious to spend so much time doing it.”

The truth is that Helbig’s comedy is so sharp that many don’t sense she’s being ironic. Her new book dedicates two pages to vacuous red-carpet poses, as well as promoting sweatpants as style and modelling your hair on Animal from The Muppets.

“It’s clear to see I’m a style icon,” she writes. “Remember, you can’t spell ‘icon’ without ‘con’.”

Although Helbig praises Zoella, she’s massively taking the piss out of vloggers, drawing inspiration from them on many levels. And it’s brilliant.

Still, for Helbig, there’s a fine line between being funny and mean.

“I always try to come from a silly point of view rather than anything mean,” she says, “I don’t think being mean is necessary.”

Now fronting The Grace Helbig Show on the ever-popular home of the Kardashians, E!, she’s been touted as a possible new Joan Rivers for the network.

But Helbig doesn’t think she’s quite cutting enough to fill the designer shoes of the late great Joan on Fashion Police.

“Joan Rivers was a master and to be made fun of by Joan Rivers was an honour,” she admits.

“I think my sense of humour differs in that I never want to make fun of anyone directly and I never want to put anyone down. I don’t think you necessarily have to be cruel to be funny. I try to stay away from the negative judgements.”

“I think it’s really wonderful that people like Amy Poehler and Tina Fey and Amy Schumer are having success using their points of view on the world”

Female comedians are having more than a bit of a moment thanks to comics such as Amy Schumer and Rebel Wilson in recent years. Seeing women who have it all have a voice in the entertainment industry inspires Helbig.

“There are a lot of strong female voices that are happening in comedy right now, which is wonderful,” she says, “It’s hard to answer what it’s like to be a female in comedy, as I really just consider myself as a voice in comedy firstly.”

She continues: “I think it’s really wonderful that people like Amy Poehler, Tina Fey and Amy Schumer are having success using their points of view on the world to guide them through entertainment.

“For someone like me, I look at them and see physically beautiful and intelligent women who are also smart, funny and savvy businesswomen. They are the whole package, and it’s wonderful because it’s inspiring to someone like me who wants to do what they’re doing.”

Grace Helbig’s Grace & Style – The Art of Pretending You Have It is out now.

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Loaded’s entertainment editor Jennifer O’Brien is an award-winning journalist who has written extensively about popular culture as a national newspaper columnist and author. Follow her on Twitter at @Jen_OBrien1

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