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Hannah Einbinder on How Stopping Adderall Helped Her Comedy, the “True” Queer Representation on ‘Hacks’

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Hacks star Hannah Einbinder is opening up about how the significant impact that starting and stopping the ADHD medication Adderall had on her comedic abilities, and how, until very recently and despite accumulating multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, she dealt with imposter syndrome.

The 28-year-old comedian reflected on her life and career during a recording of The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast at Chapman University’s film school, from which she graduated in 2017.

“[This is] probably the number one worst group of people to be anti this thing, too,” Einbinder joked with the crowd, “but I had a bad experience with Adderall.” She shared that she has ADHD and took a “high prescription of Adderall” throughout high school, but that something felt off. “For many years, I felt like it kind of zombified me and took away my spark and stopped me from being present in my experience.”

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The comedian credited Chapman’s improv troupe, Improv Inc., for her decision to stop taking the medication. She said she tried out for the team, and felt “insane” and “so bad about” how it went. She still got a callback, though, and the group’s head, a friend, suggested that she try doing it without taking the medication. She did so, felt great and was asked to join.

“That was the first time I stopped taking Adderall, and I never took it again,” she recalled. “I started doing comedy, and it was like I met myself for the first time.”

After graduating from Chapman, Einbinder embarked on a career in standup comedy, which led to an audition for and ultimately her part on Hacks. Einbinder, who identifies as queer, shared how much it means to her that the show’s portrayal of Ava, who is also queer, feels so “true” to her experience.

“Reading the pilot, I could not believe what I was reading,” Einbinder declared. “I think there have been some shows since Hacks has come out that have been great queer representation, but I think at the time I was not… I can tell you I wasn’t reading anything that felt so true to my experience of queerness.”

And yet, despite loving her Hacks role and collaborators, and garnering widespread critical praise and awards attention, Einbinder revealed that it wasn’t until just ahead of the release of the show’s third season that her feeling of “imposter syndrome” began to go away. “Maybe three months ago,” she confessed. “Literally, it’s so recent,” she continued.

Einbinder noted that she was so used to performing comedy in front of audiences, which enabled her to hear feedback immediately, and that not having that threw her off. “Even after accolades, I just felt bad.”

But, she said, she was “so tired of feeling bad all the time,” particularly when so many people were telling her that she was doing a good job, that she eventually vowed to stop — and did. “I did, just overall in my life, outside of my work as well, just get so fed up with just beating myself up constantly. So that has been such relief.”

The comedian, who is always looking for a laugh even in relation to dark subject matter, compared her experience to a scene from the Pixar film The Incredibles in which the main character is told to pull herself together. “That is me and my director, Lucia [Aniello],” she joked.

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