Hilarious Hostel: Get Into Bed With Queer Comedy At PodShare

I’ve been a comedian for forever and a day. It all started back in New York — my odd and wonderful career. I learned quickly that if you wanted to be on a cool comedy show full of queer and allied acts, well, you had to make one yourself.

Cut to over a decade later whenI make the move to Los Angeles. Social media is king. I’m enjoying making my mark on twitter (@beckydonohue) and my blog. I start poking around the LA landscape for a new space and all I want to find is a collaborator who understands the digital arena as much as I do.

Enter Elvina Beck (@StartupKid) and my prayers were answered. (Yep, a prayin’ lez. You can call me that, but I think “mantis” is much cooler.)

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Elvina Beck is a 28 year old Russian immigrant raised in New Jersey. I came across her eclectic and interesting space on eventup.com. I figured if I wanted an owner that was social media savvy then she must have a web presence. Hell, I look at Yelp reviews when I’m trying to find a new doctor; this wasn’t something I could skip in my hunt for a new comedy home. The PodShare is a pod hotel located in the heart of Hollywood. What Elvina wants to do is extend the “community” feeling that one gains in college, but often loses when they move to an expansive place like Los Angeles. I called her up and we arranged a time to meet.

I arrived to find a raw, industrial space with a couch, concierge desk and a flat screen tv that greets new arrivals. I rounded the entry and found a full kitchen. Turned left from there and — BLAM — I was face to face with THE PODS.

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The pods are tripped-out individual beds each fitted with their own screens, Netflix and Hulu, memory foam mattress, electrical outlets and LED night light. You can access the web or watch a movie — all from the comfort of your own pod. The idea was Elvina’s, but the pods were custom-built and then wired by her girlfriend, electrical artist (ok, engineer), Joni Colburn.

When I toured the space with my own Wifesy (an ex-veteran of the music business), I was unsure about running a comedy show out of the space and I mean, literally, out of the space. We throw some cushions down in the middle of the room, prop up a mic, and then present the best stand ups in LA. My Wifesy saw the potential, but initially I had my reservations.

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“What if people want to go to bed?” I wondered.

That’s when Elvina stepped in. You see, this girl LIVES her mission statement. As she puts it,

“PodShare is the Zipcar of housing. It’s a membership based, social network offline. To stay at the PodShare we do a light online background search on you. But, to become a member of PodShare and to return to any of our locations the guest has to be SAFE, SANE, AND SOCIAL. We want to build a community of likeminded folks, but as curators it is our job to fill the space with people who can co-exist. 98% of our guests are members, those that aren’t just don’t understand our mission.”

It’s a great pitch, but still I was still a touch leery. As a comedian, I had been privy to many a “comedy ambush” situation. I define a comedy ambush as a group of people out for a nice dinner when, previously unbeknownst to them, a comedy show erupts around their meal. Imagine that happening in your bedroom! That’s what I pictured. But, Elvina reassured me, “We’re going to let all of our guests know that a comedy show is happening here while they are staying. They are, of course, invited to the show — free of charge — but if for some reason that doesn’t work for them we will give them a FULL refund.”

Holy Awesomesauce.

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Nowadays, that’s exactly what happens. A comedy show in the middle of some fancy pods with audience members filling up the beds to watch. It’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced and — amazingly — it really works.

I’m convinced that like attracts like in life. Through that attraction amazing things can happen. (And no, I’m not channelling Oprah right now.) I think of myself as nothing but an extreme DO-IT-YOURSELF-ER. In today’s entertainment business you have to be. Clearly Elvina is one too; I peppered the young, startup kid with a few questions to delve deeper into this fiercely independent streak that birthed what is now known as PodShare.

How did you come up with the idea?

PodShare came to me during a really hot shower one night. When I was 21, I backpacked around 6 countries by train and by foot to learn self-reliance and independence. I realized that people in America are graduating from dorm-style colleges and traveling in the next phase of their lives to stay in sterile hotels or motels. I didn’t like the term “hostels” because it is a word associated with scary movies and bed bugs. However, Americans are social. They go to bars to meet people. It made sense to create a social community around hotel rooms (or pods) that can be thought of as a home-base for travelers in their 20’s and 30’s.

The staff at the PodShare is particularly awesome (a lot of them gay, even). Do you look for a particular energy or alignment with your vision when you hire someone?

I have an AMAZING team. We go out to lunch once a week to talk about making PodShare better. We blog and photograph our guests and really get to know them. If you look on YELP, we have 21 reviews with 5 out of 5 stars. That’s incredible for a hospitality business. I get phone calls from startup kids asking me how we do it — the answer is our team. I look for authentic energy. In the interview I always ask this question, “What are you driven by? Money, power or sex?” Based on their answer, we choose our teammate.

What are your future plans for PodShare?

Expansion is inevitable. People love the brand and we love our super-fans. PodShare will have a membership system with a custom dashboard that connects every single person that has stayed in a pod. This dashboard will help extend the community experience beyond each person’s stay.

We are looking for partners in different American cities. I am not interested in franchising, but rather partnering with investors who know and love their city. I see a PodShare in every major metropolis providing “ballers on a budget” an opportunity to travel and stay in a safe, sane and social environment.

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Our next PodCom stand up show is at PodShare on Saturday, February 23rd and features Julie Goldman, Reggie Watts, Selene Luna and yours truly. It’ll be followed up by another show on  March 30th.

You can help Elvina by liking PodShare on Facebook.

Rebecca has written 1 articles for us.

36 Comments

  1. I have been returning to the podshare for months now. I have gotten to know all the awesome staff members and I feel as though I am even a part of the mission. I’m honored to be included in such an epic idea. You will find me staying here every weekend.

  2. PodShare is hands down one of the most brilliant and efficiently executed spaces I have ever come across. It’s a legitimate social platform, in REAL LIFE but fully integrated and with the times- not even Facebook can give you good night sleep with noise canceling headphones after you gain 10 new friends.. Many Cheers to Elvina and Joni on all of their success!!

  3. I moved to Los Angeles a year ago. I had no idea what to expect, but when I found PodShare on Air Bnb I knew I wax in for something special. At first I was skeptical with Podshare being a “hostel”. However the moment I met Elvina and Joni I fell right at home. My LA life wouldn’t be the same if it had not started at Podshare. I am grateful that there is a place I can always go back to if ever I need somewhere to stay. Also, I am grateful that I made a friends in someone as brilliant and caring Elvina and Joni. They Rock!

  4. I am TOTALLY intrigued by everything about Podshare. As a whole, our society is experiencing an odd duality sparked by our increased ability to communicate through our plethora of digitized communications as well as becoming TOO removed from personal/face-to-face contact because of that very same electronic miracle. So, I think it’s absolutely FABULOUS that Elvina and Joni and her staff are trying to integrate electronic communications with the good, old-fashioned delight of human contact.

    I’m certain the comedy nights are a really unique and incredible experience, and I would LOVE to be a guest or even just take a tour sometime. And I’m going to be in L.A. for a seminar in March.

    However, I’m a 40-something, married heterosexual, so I don’t fit your stated demographic. Would I be welcome? And just to ease your fears in regard to my intent, please know that I could care less what someone’s sexual orientation or age is…as such, feel free to check out my blog at http://www.tenaciousbitch.com and one entry in particular called: I’m not a lesbian – nor do I play one on TV…and there’s no bait and switch afoot – i.e. there’s ABSOLUTELY not any sort of gay bashing. It’s just my account of an awkward situation with an old friend.

    ANYWAY, regardless, a thousand Kudos for the creation of PodShare, and I wish you the BEST OF LUCK…perhaps, some day there shall be a Podshare hotel in Columbus, Ohio where I currently reside.

    YOURS IN PASTA and chocolate chip cookies-
    (or something like that :))…

    Tenacious Bitch
    http://www.tenaciousbitch.com

  5. I’m kinda really jealous that I live in the butt end of Africa right now. This is exactly up my alley. I love the PodShare idea. Brilliant!

    I can see myself living in this kind of space ten years ago. Now being married with kids it wouldn’t work so well.

    I hope Podcom moves from strength to strength. Good luck Becky.

  6. This is a brilliant concept. As a former hostel user this appears to be far superior to the that old model. It is bright, open, clean and everyone looks to be enjoying themselves. The fact that you could also be entertained by people as hilariously funny as Rebecca Donohue is the icing on the cake. I would never want to leave.

  7. The difference at PodShare is that they care about you and your time spent in the Pods! Great atmosphere in the wonderful city of LA, I am glad Elvina is getting the recognition she deserves for her dedication and hard work.

  8. Love Podshare! Live nearby and had my birthday party there. Also got to meet some great guests that I hope to meet up with in different parts of the country some day!

  9. Elvina and Joni are the ultimate hostesses! I have been to a number of celebration/events in their space, including this past New Year’s Eve and they always welcome people with open arms and treat their guests to a great time! Not to mention PodShare’s sleek interior design and integrated technology! Highly recommended! Thank you ladies!

  10. Great location smack in the middle of Hollywood. Always a blast everytime I am over there. You’ll find friendly people from different parts of the world each time.

  11. This is a totally fascinating idea. Kudos to people with great vision and the guts and persistence to make them come true. I have never heard of anything like this, but you when you think about it, it makes total sense.

    Love the article. Thank you.

  12. I watched a video of one of your shows in Podshare but I had no idea what Podshare actually was. I thought it was just an interesting new concept in venue furnishings!

    Now I know it’s actually real live accommodation for travellers on a budget I wish I was still in my 20’s and travelling.

    The Japanese have a similar concept in terms of personal space, but that’s more like a sterile beehive. Podshare is an incredible idea and I hope it does spread, not just to US cities, but all around the world.

  13. This is social networking that I can understand and would have been totally on board with when I was the target demographic. I’m at that awkward, in-between age now: neither a hipster nor an old codger. I think my daughter would like this, though! xoM

  14. What a brilliant idea! The Podshare, the comedy nights everything. Being an aging hippie who often weeps at our lack of community this makes me want to cheer.

  15. What an awesome idea … both in the comedy pop-up PodShow, and the ideology behind Podshare. It is refreshing to actually see the result of people taking action with an idea that makes sense, rather than hearing about people wondering whether it can happen. Thanks for sharing this interesting introduction to both.

  16. Freaking brilliant idea! Now the truth is that the world is filled with brilliant ideas–in fact, I have up to five on a good day. What’s truly impressive about this is that she made her brilliant idea happen. Kudos to Elvina. I can’t wait to see a comedy performance there.

  17. I love this place. These girls have done an amazing job, and I’m looking forward to seeing Podshare spring up like mushrooms all across the US. Many of us will be thinking, damn, if only I had invested… 😉

  18. Elvina and Joni are the absolute raddest!! Soso hard working and, uh, not to mention smoking hot. She had this vision and brought it to life with Joni’s help without any hesitation, I’m so proud to be her little sister! I was lucky enough to have her take care of me for so many years and now she’s taking care of all these travelers, it’s truly amazing. I was once envious of how well she keeps her word but now I’ve realized her ability to be so solid is something I can look up to and model myself after. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for expansion here in SF so hopefully I can be a part of this beautiful business!

  19. What a cool concept! If only I was 20 years younger. It seems like this would work for all types of traveling young people – how about a PodShare for the anti-social types or the geeks, or the Gleeks.

  20. Wow, I love this concept. A lot. I actually think this is the ideal space for a comedy show. It feels like you’re hanging out in someone’s living room; this is good for both the comedian and the audience.

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