Last night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, a sold-out, warmly appreciative crowd — including former Downton Abbey actor Dan Stevens, who appeared in the episode “Rachel” — watched High Maintenance‘s greatest hits, which numbered seven episodes, plus one from the newest cycle.
As a web series, High Maintenance is usually a personal, intimate viewing experience, something you watch curled around your laptop, but it played well on the big screen, garnering big laughs and happy clapping before the best-known episodes (“Heidi,” about a homeless hipster drifter and starring comedy up-and-comer Greta Lee, was clearly a favorite), but also a pensive hum before the heartbreaking episodes (“Helen”). The new entry, “Genghis,” about an asexual magician struggling through a summer as a teaching assistant in public school, struck a poignant, human note, while also finding room for funny throwaway lines like, “I thought doing that fat girl monologue from Louie was a good idea.”
In a Q&A session after the screening, Sinclair and Blichfeld noted how the series has changed over the past two years, with the credits for the first produced episode numbering very few people, to the latest work, which has a full crew. They talked about their process: “We don’t start from a place of limitations,” Sinclair said. “We want something that feels true and authentic. Have we not seen this before in regular media, but have you seen it in the real world? Have you seen an asexual magician?” They talked about how they flirted with FX, where they had a development deal, but ultimately stayed with Vimeo. “We don’t really want it to scale larger. I think it would lose what people respond to. Our hands are in every part of it.”
It’s fascinating that a couple created the show together, and they were frank about the struggles they’ve had balancing the personal and professional. “Our relationship is really strong,” Blichfeld said. “But only because it’s been hacked away like a rosebush,” Sinclair added. “Make sure you have other things going on as well,” Blichfeld replied, as the ultimate advice on how to balance art and love.
While the new Vimeo deal is a grand experiment, Sinclair and Blichfeld feel like they could produce three High Maintenance episodes a year for the rest of their lives. “It has to have some breath around it,” Sinclair said. “I know it’s cool to be an artist and all, but it’s cool to be a human being too. You need time to experience life.”