Downtown Delusional Divas

New York has a lot of scenes. There’s the “Williamsburg hipster” scene, the “Lower East Side hipster” scene and the underrepresented “West Village apartment-sitter’s who’ve fallen in love with much older bankers“ scene (also mostly hipsters).

Created by Pistols Kill Ponies for Index Magazine, Delusional Downtown Divas is a web comedy devoted to parodying one of New York’s lesser known societal signposts, the “20-something rec. drug divas with art degrees” scene. It’s very niche-y, kind of how The Factory was except with no figurehead. (Or, are Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen figureheads?)

I, myself a New Yorker and amateur cultural anthropologist, have come close to this subset of metropolitan peoples, but never quite been able to access its inner circle. Still, I have no doubt it exists, because in New York everything exists. We even have Mexican food. These young, ambitious fashionistas obsessed with the art world, their Portable Carl Jung, and hat in hand, are the fodder for Delusional Downtown Divas comedy.

Downtown Delusional DivasIn spoofing this particular bunch of New York scenesters the comedy could read dangerously broad. Like Robin Williams doing an impression of a gay black man on Who’s Line Is It Anyway? So it helps that the show’s co-creators and stars Joana D’Avillez, Isabel Hailey and director Lena Dunham ostensibly are what they mock. The creative trio was raised in New York’s downtown arts scene. They have experienced this neuroses up close, if not lived it. Their familiarity with that world informs the hyped-up versions of themselves that they play.

Episodes are shot highly naturalistic. There is a narrative, but the point of each episode is as much the journey as its destination. And there is improv. Think if Robert Altman directed an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm while he was in film school.

The show’s three main characters are Agness, Oona and Swann – three art brats who cajole each other over weed and wine, and then insinuate themselves into situations they are clueless to master. Rejected by bouncers at the door of the Beatrice Inn, Agness tries giving them the slip by masking herself in a hat that Anna Wintour could ladle soup from. Oona, so infatuated by the sight of a local art celebrity pedaling down the street, emphatically declares into her cell phone to someone named Jazzy that she has “GOT to GET a BIKE.”

In Episode 10 “I Don’t Have A Chair & This Is My Corner” Swann, a self-defined personal performance artist, visits a Miami art gallery and ends up in a passive-aggressive confrontation with a digital sculptor about who has the right to not be noticed performing in a particular corner of an otherwise busy gallery space. It ends amicably when Swann’s opponent extends this brilliant offer: “Well, maybe we could not show each other our work?”

If there are complaints with DDD they haven’t much to do with performance. The show isn’t exactly shot in High Def, and the sound quality, at times, is lacking, but it’s nothing tragic and the story more than makes up for it with surprises like an Episode 5 cameo from the inherently likeable Isaac Mizrahi.

The scene between him and the girls plays classically comedic, as if they had just been given a “place” and a “situation” beforehand. But unlike most actors doing improv these three former art students, and one current fashion designer, are actually funny.

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