Star's Female-Driven Content Platform WhoHaha.com Debuts as Women's Issues Reach Critical Point in Marketing, Advertising, Entertainment and Tech.
Elizabeth Banks is a rare Hollywood talent. We know she can act and make us laugh out loud with her strong, sometimes off-kilter, verging on insane characters, whether she's playing mad stylist Effie Trinket in "The Hunger Games" or buying a house in ads for Realtor.com. She's also a successful producer and director, having helmed the global box-office hit "Pitch Perfect 2." Now, she's tackling her next challenge, WhoHaha.com, a comedy site that puts funny women at center stage.
"This is an opportunity," said Ms. Banks, taking a break at the airy studios at YouTube Space in Playa Vista, Calif. She's filming new content for the site, which will feature both original and curated films. "There are people doing it really well for boys. I just felt like there was not a place that was doing it really, really well, and specifically, for girls and women."
WhoHaha is designed to be an online entertainment destination not just for Ms. Banks' own funny business, but for that of other women, too. It will be a new stage for her currently running YouTube series, such as "Really Important Questions," in which she answers fans' burning inquiries like "Can I have a sandwich?" and "Will you call me sometime?" In "Ask a Badass," she interviews other funny talents and co-stars including Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence and Julianne Moore.
The site will also showcase fresh faces from the "new" Hollywood -- famous YouTubers like Hannah Hart, best known for her "My Drunk Kitchen," in which she cooks things while totally wasted; Mamrie Hart, who's behind the series and book "You Deserve a Drink"; and up-and-comers like Megan MacKay, who woke up viewers with a makeup tutorial that satirized the National Football League's treatment of former Ravens player Ray Rice's assault scandal.
Today, Ms. Banks is on set with yet another "Hart," a YouTuber who earned internet love for dancing around in a watermelon-rind bikini to tackle lesbian stereotypes. Ms. Banks has her in the "Badass" seat, and neither misses a beat quizzing the other for new videos to feature on their respective channels -- Ms. Banks asks Hart about how her mom reacted to her fruity attire, and Hart, more formally known as "Hartbeat," asks Ms. Banks about her last trip to a strip club.
Here, among new-media creators with various piercings, multicolor hairdos of assorted shapes and sizes and artfully shredded clothing, seasoned Hollywood star Ms. Banks is something of an anomaly.
In person, she's slighter but no less perfect than her big-screen presence. She's stylish yet subdued in a puff-sleeve striped shirt, jeans and jeweled sandals -- all of which is cloaked underneath a long hooded jacket because, as is the plight of people with little body fat, she's very cold. Her voice, however, is as big and sonorous and musical as it is in the movies and could transport you instantly to any of her fictional haunts, from the Lego universe to Panem to Monroeville, Pa.
The soundstage her team has reserved features a variety of setups -- from a pair of director's chairs to a faux gynecologist's office with models and pictures of female organs strewn about.
Which is a nice segue to the site's name. "We wanted something that really spoke to the brand of the site," Ms. Banks said. "It's meant to be funny and clever and a little bit racy and silly." "WhoHaha" is a double entendre that's both a cheeky play on lady parts and a celebration of a more substantive idea. "It's about promoting female voices," she said. "It's about the 'who' behind the 'ha-ha.'"
That said, "We're not anti-male," she said. "We love boys and men and their eyeballs. There will be lots of boys and men on our site, just not as content creators."
To launch the site, Ms. Banks teamed with her digital management company, Digital Media Management, which has also helped create celeb-driven destinations like Ashley Tisdale's lifestyle site, The Haute Mess, and Felicity Huffman's quirky mom destination, What the Flicka.
Having worked with a number of female clients, Luigi Picarazzi, CEO-president of Digital Media Management, observed that for comedy, "The only platform they had online was to do something with FunnyorDie, which starred females but was very much made for men. I thought it was sad women didn't have a platform where they had the power. We've been talking to so many YouTubers, and they've been backing us up in terms of 'We need this.'"