Grace Helbig on Her New E! Show, Emojis, and the Challenge of Creating Something That Doesn’t Suck

Photo: JB Lacroix/WireImage

Before The Grace Helbig Show premieres on E!, you’re probably going to want to get to know Grace Helbig. Helbig is kind of secret-famous: To the millions of people who’ve been watching her it’s Grace videos on YouTube, Helbig is already a superstar, the fan-deemed “internet’s awkward older sister.” But if the idea of a YouTube celebrity doesn’t resonate with you, hers is a name you might not know — yet. So, with Helbig’s talk show premiering tonight, Vulture spoke with her about moving to TV, emoji, #brands, and trying not to suck.

The premiere of your TV show is coming up soon. How are you feeling right now?
It is the wonderful combination of delight and pure stress and anxiety, which is kind of what I thrive off of at this point.

For your YouTube show, you had to do everything yourself; but then the plus side of that is, you get to do everything yourself. Has it been hard for you to work with a huge team?
It’s been interesting because as a YouTuber, by design, you wear all of the hats. You are the CEO to the PA of your own brand and production company. So you really rely on yourself for everything. It’s been an exercise in relinquishing control in working on a team. Quite possibly the coolest part of being given a TV show has been the process of hiring people that I’ve been friends with or worked with in the past that I think are so wonderful, but because of the entertainment-industry-gatekeeper scenario haven’t had as much of a chance to work as much. 

That’s really what it’s all about: nepotism.
Yes, I finally understand Girls! It’s really cool.

Was there anything you always wanted to be able to do on your YouTube show that you can finally do now that you’ll be on TV? 
I love YouTube, and it’s been a hobby of mine for so long and it continues to be. But it’s a very small scale. And I’ve always wondered what could or would happen if there was money involved, and people that have access to talents that I can’t provide by myself. What would it look like? So the show is a huge opportunity to experiment with things I haven’t seen on TV before, things I would be jealous if I wasn’t a part of. I’m interested to find out if intimacy can be maintained in mainstream. And I think we can do that. 

Do you feel like moving from the internet to TV is a step up, or are you not a believer in that platform hierarchy?
I feel like there’s becoming this huge democratization of the media space. With the Netflixes and Hulus, content is content, period. And people will consume if they want to consume it, period. So this is just an opportunity for me, and for me to create an experiment with new content for an existing and new audience to consume. I feel like that’s a win-win. There is a tendency to think about a hierarchy, but I know for myself, if I think about things in those terms, I limit myself. Or when TV networks think in those terms, they limit themselves. 

Or you find TV shows want to seem like they “get” the internet, so you’ll get these awkward things like sponsored hashtags in the corner of the screen.
I don’t want this show to feel like “This is an internet television show!” Not at all. I want it to appeal to me as a human being, which is a human who consumes the internet and television at the same time. This isn’t an internet talk show on TV; it’s not a TV show about the internet. It’s simply a show that a girl that grew up with internet is fascinated by experimenting with, that includes, I guess, things that you’re used to on television and things you’re used to on the internet in a beautiful sandwich.

On your YouTube channel and in your book, you give a lot of advice. Have you received any really good (or terrible) advice as you embark on your new show? 
I got to interview lots of TV hosts, like Larry King and Joel McHale, where they gave me advice on hosting. And Larry King, he is a character, but he gave me some of the most authentic nuggets of advice. So pure and genuine, you could tell he really stood by them. One is that the only thing he knows is what he doesn’t know. And my catchphrase in my videos is “I don’t know,” because I don’t know everything, and I think curiosity is more interesting than pure, definitive knowledge. So I just felt really validated hearing this seasoned vet of TV hosts giving me this advice!

Do you have any dream guests?
It’s the Rock. It started as a joke. But I think he’s really hilarious and silly, and that’s my ideal personality combo for a guest. The more I talk through the idea of him being on the show, the more I want him to be on the show. He’s great on social media, he seems to understand the value of utilizing social media and staying true to his personality. He seems to come from a sincere point of view. He is becoming No. 1 in my mind.

You refer to your brand a lot, and it’s interesting to hear from someone who doesn’t find that word off-putting. People can be pretty sensitive around the idea of having a brand, as if it’s kind of the opposite of being authentic. Have you always been comfortable with that word?
Even my comfort level always has a level of awkwardness to it. But for me, it gives me clarity in navigating myself through this industry. I’ve always used Andy Cohen and Chris Hardwick as real career trajectory role models. And Chris developed the Nerdist brand very clearly: He’s got a very defined brand, he knows his audience. And it’s easy to talk about and share. I think it’s important to just know your perspective on the world, so I think it’s really valuable to anyone who wants to build a career to know how they want to do that in terms of point of view and voice.

Speaking of your voice: What emoji do you use the most?
I use the Old Man face. The bald guy, gray hair on the side of his head.

In what context is he relevant? 
In every context! It’s the dumbest-looking one. I feel like it can stand for any emotion at all. I leave it to the other person to figure it out. Which is great for them. 

I read this story the other day about how no one uses punctuation on Twitter anymore. Do you properly punctuate your tweets and texts?
I know when I’m sending a professional email if I actually go back through and capitalize letters. Like this business-type person will clearly think less of me if I don’t capitalize the I. 

Are you a text or email overanalyzer in your personal life? If you’re flirting with someone, do you obsess over how your texts sound?
I think in the early stages of any friendships or relationships, you’re in this world where we analyze what our profiles and icons and texts say about us. We’re all looking at ourselves from the third point of view. I am very much like that. I’ll read back through conversational text messages to see if everything made sense. Especially if I’m trying to flirt with someone through text messages, which usually ends awfully.

Any particularly bad text-flirting experiences?
It’s really hard if people don’t understand sarcasm. And one of my friends needs emoji and exclamation points in my texts to her to know that we’re all good. With a period, she thinks you’re pissed off. 

I think the worst is if you accidentally text something to a person that you meant to text about them to someone else.
I fortunately have never done that, but I’ve seen enough screen caps on Tumblr of text message conversations to feel very embarrassed for those situations. I can see how it would go awry very quickly. I’ve sent messages to my parents that I’ve meant to sent to friends. Nothing incriminating, but you do have that moment when your heart falls into your vagina. 

Anything else you want us to know about you or the show?
I’m just very excited to make something that hopefully doesn’t suck. 

I like that you’re aiming high.
I think that’s a good place to put the bar, for my life.

Grace Helbig on Her New E! Show