TAMPA — Comedian Ester Steinberg has been feuding with Wikipedia since high school.
“I am obsessed with my high school Wikipedia page’s notable alumni section,” the 2008 Plant High School graduate said with a laugh. “It has Wade Boggs. It has Gallagher. I want to be on it.”
Time and again, Steinberg said, she has added her name to the list and, time and again, it has been deleted by administrators.
“I used to do it for laughs,” she said. “But as they kept deleting it, I thought, ‘One day I will really make it onto this page.’”
She is on the right track.
The 31-year-old, who now lives in Los Angeles, has a resume that includes an episode of Prime Video’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and a recurring role in the Oxygen channel’s Funny Girls, a reality show about female comedians.
Now, her new comedy special, Ester Steinberg: Burning Bush, is available on streaming services such as Redbox and Apple TV.
It is receiving positive reviews.
The New York Times wrote that “her physicality somehow manages to evoke Bill Burr and Kate Berlant” and her performance has a “nimbleness ... that is the work of someone who has come into her own.”
After jokingly asking if the New York Times is a big deal, Steinberg said, “My biggest problem throughout my career was just always exposure. I feel like I am finally getting the exposure I need.”
Her special was originally slated to be filmed in April 2020 as part of New York’s Tribeca Film Festival, when she was nine months pregnant with her first child. Jokes were going to revolve around the pregnancy.
The pandemic canceled the taping.
“I actually took it really well,” Steinberg said. “I didn’t say, ‘Oh poor me.’ Everything was being canceled. It made sense.”
It was later rescheduled, but with changes.
The special was filmed as a drive-in show held in the parking lot at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
IMDB.com says there were 64 cars, each wired “with microphones to capture the live audience’s reaction.”
Steinberg said she’d typically practice jokes at comedy clubs in preparation for such a major show, but “everything was shut down and I had to prepare to tell jokes to cars, not people.”
So, she practiced for friends and family via Zoom.
But the most difficult change was that the special was taped in July, after her son was born. Her jokes about being pregnant were outdated. A rewrite was needed.
“Luckily, I think everything worked out,” she said.
Steinberg pokes fun at Tampa during the special.
“I went to high school in the worst education system next to Alabama,” she told the audience. “We didn’t even have sex ed class in Tampa. They just split us up, boys and girls, put us in a single line and pierced our nipples.”
There are plenty of wisecracks about her marriage.
She found the perfect man, she said during the special. He’s tall, he’s Jewish and he has a dead mom.
Her legal married name is Ester Steinberg Gardenswartz, she continued. “I think it has a ring to it and that ring is people calling me because they think I’m a law firm.”
She, of course, discussed the pandemic.
After checking in with her quarantined grandparents, Steinberg told the audience, “they then called me every single day for the next seven days. And I had to be like, ‘This is not an every-single-day phone call. This is like a onetime coronavirus courtesy call.’”
There are also plenty of jokes that made her parents blush.
“During those parts, I just put my hands over my ears,” said her father, Michael Steinberg.
He is a Tampa attorney who has unsuccessfully run for state senate. But, in his younger years, the 62-year-old was an aspiring comedian.
“I went to Los Angeles for several months to break into comedy,” he said. “My dad told me to come back to Tampa, practice law, get married, have kids and when you retire if you still want to be a comedian, I will 100 percent support you.”
When his daughter told him that she was bitten by the acting bug, he suggested standup comedy instead.
“There are lots of actresses out there,” he said. “But if you do standup, the chances of getting a part in a movie or TV are better. If you look at the sitcoms and comedy movies, the big stars are comedians who cast their comedian buddies.”
In high school, Steinberg took comedy classes at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, worked the door at Side Splitters and performed at open mic nights before heading off to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts to study theater and hone her standup chops.
Paid gigs “trickled in and doors opened,” Steinberg said. She was booked in bigger clubs, recorded a comedy album, was cast on television shows and recently started a podcast called Stand-Up Mom that discusses motherhood with other female comedians.
As for future plans, those are tied to her Tampa roots. She wants to write a comedy film that “captures Tampa’s grittiness” and hopes to one day headline a show at Clearwater’s Ruth Eckerd Hall.
“That would be an amazing homecoming,” she said.
And maybe those feats can get her added to Plant High School’s notable alumni list on Wikipedia.
“That,” Steinberg said with a laugh, “is when I know I made it.”
For viewing and listening options on Ester Steinberg: Burning Bush, visit comedydynamics.com and enter her name into the search bar.