The comedian and actress plays Ava in HBO Max's dark comedy Hacks
Hannah Einbinder
Credit: Justin Bettman

When it comes to pursuing a career in stand-up comedy, Hacks star Hannah Einbinder has some tips.

In this week's issue of PEOPLE, the 26-year-old comedian opens up about how she got her start, the challenges she's faced and how she landed a role starring alongside Jean Smart in HBO Max's new dark comedy series.

"Nicole Byer, who's a great comedian, came to my college to perform and she asked if any of the students wanted to open for her and I volunteered," the Los Angeles active recalls of her first experience doing stand-up. "So I just started working on an eight-minute set for that. It was my first time writing my own comedy. That night that I performed. I feel like I caught the bug and it hasn't left me since."

"I had to learn a lot on my own," she adds. "There's no other way. I started open mics right after college and no one can prepare you for that. I was out there, going all over the city, every single night of the week after my coffee shop job, with like, an almond milk-soaked flannel. Failing and succeeding and failing and succeeding for years. There's really nothing anyone can do. You just have to do it. You have to be obsessed with it and addicted to it, and I certainly was."

Hannah Einbinder
Credit: Justin Bettman

While Einbinder, whose mom is Saturday Night Live's Laraine Newman, continues to pave her own way, she says she's learned the secret to finding success.

"You just talk to other comedians," she says. "The community is so important, because comedians are the only people who will really get it. You also have to accept that failure is a huge part of this path. It's really about the bounce-back, [and] if you're willing to learn from it. Not every comedian is for everyone, and sometimes you just have to understand you're not going to get everybody. We're just individuals sharing our perspective on life as we see it. Obviously, we don't all see things the same way. Sometimes you've got to just accept that."

Now, Einbinder, is tackling a new challenge: acting.

Hannah Einbinder
Credit: Jake Giles Netter/HBO Max

"It's certainly different," she says of her role in Hacks, where she plays a joke writer hired by a comedy legend (Smart). "I think the most difficult part about it in the beginning was the fact that on set, everything has to be silent because they're obviously recording the sound. So no one can really laugh, and when there's silence, that triggers a reaction in my soul that I'm bombing."

"I'm trying to be a lot more fluid with how I view comedy," she adds. "I don't want there to be any rigidity in my approach."

Hacks is streaming on HBO Max.