Ridgefield comedian Eliza Kingsbury releases new Lady Gaga parody video ahead of VMAs
Eliza Kingsbury grew up in Ridgefield, went to New Canaan High School, and has long had a passion for the arts. After graduating from Sarah Lawrence College, she moved to New York City, where she has been pursuing comedy, music and acting ever since. She often performs at Amy Poehler’s Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.
A Jill-of-all-trades, she is a skilled writer, composer, musician and artist who excels at comic impersonations. Kingsbury had planned to release her new Lady Gaga parody video in early June after the pop star released her “Chromatica” album, but decided to postpone the release after the news of George Floyd’s death claimed headlines nationwide. At the time Kingsbury said she was postponing the release because she didn’t feel that comedy was appropriate at that moment. As Black Lives Matter protests were held across the nation, Kingsbury said she wanted to take the time to listen. “A lot of white artists and comedians, such as myself, have recognized that there are voices in the Black community that really need to be heard right now. All of my current projects are on hold, because I now realize this is an important time to take action, reflect and unlearn,” she said in June.
Two months later, Kingsbury is ready to release the parody video, which will be released on Aug. 17, ahead of MTV’s 2020 VMAs (Video Music Awards).
Andrea Valluzzo: To paraphrase the lyrics from your new video, “who am I…”, tell us who you are.
Eliza Kingsbury: “Who am I” is my definitive lyric for a Lady Gaga parody: she is so many things at once! And I really identify with that. I’m an actor, but I’m also a comedy writer, a classically trained musician and a visual artist. I call myself a comedian because I’ve found that comedy is the best outlet for all of my passions.
AV: What inspired you to do this Lady Gaga parody video?
EK: I was given a time slot in a solo sketch comedy festival, and at the time, I had already written a Justin Bieber sketch. I had two weeks to come up with a half hour show, so I developed this pop star theme. I’m unashamed to be a pop music fanatic — the artists are so delightful to imagine as characters. So I added some original pop star characters with their own songs and backstories, as well as sketches parodying Lady Gaga, Kesha, and Ariana Grande. The Lady Gaga parody was filmed first because the lyrics offer so many fun visuals, and I had a very clear vision for it.
AV: You wrote the lyrics, composed and mixed the music in addition to producing, directing, choreographing and editing the video. Which part was most challenging?
EK: The choreography! I was told so many times throughout my life that I was not a good dancer. It’s the thing I’m the most afraid of. But in college I started to face my fears head on. I had an amazing dance professor at Sarah Lawerence — David Neumann (“Hadestown” Tony Award nominee) — who saw something in me and gave me a lot of encouragement. I choreographed a few pieces in college and even though I’ve become much more comfortable with it, it still kind of scares me.
AV: What is it about Lady Gaga that you most identify with or relate to?
EK: When I want to write a pop star parody, I think “What about them is funny?” I know that sounds simple, but sometimes it’s harder than you’d think — especially when the artist is legendary. More so than Gaga just being “weird,” I like to imagine she has this diabolical plan to keep you guessing so much, she becomes a sort of superhero-enigma. I think she’s a genius. I’ve always felt connected to Gaga in that she’s the ultimate Renaissance woman: her creativity has no limits, and she can’t pick just one thing to be. I can also relate to wanting to have complete creative control when you have a clear vision for a project.
AV: Which came first for you as a performer: comedy or music?
EK: I would say music, because that’s the first place I knew I could shine. Comedy came much later, but it’s always been deep down in there. I remember being a kid doing impressions and silly voices for my friends. Because I’m a trained vocalist, I became interested in pushing the limits of my instrument, and that led me into doing impressions professionally. Although I started in musical theatre, I arrived at comedy because it feels much more natural to me and I can express myself through writing my own material and composing my own music.
AV: You’ve done a few celebrity impressions. Who is your favorite star to do and why?
EK: Besides Gaga, I love doing Holly Hunter. And Jennifer Aniston. And David Attenborough. And while we’re at it, hand me Mrs. Maisel and Elisabeth Moss. The thing I love about impressions is that it’s not just vocal matching — it’s writing from a specific point of view in that character’s imagined world. I try to write and perform impressions that feel relatable to me, but then I also want to think outside the box.
AV: With NYC still in a shutdown and theaters not likely to reopen for a while, how has the pandemic affected/changed your work?
EK: It’s changed absolutely everything. I was on my way to perform in an industry showcase when Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre closed indefinitely. It’s been my home for the past nine years, and suddenly it’s gone. I’m really worried about how COVID-19 will change the landscape of the arts industry in New York City. There’s no way of knowing when our performing spaces will open again and when it will be safe for production to start again. Fortunately, I have a home recording studio, so I’m able to make music and book voice-over work from time to time, but I miss performing for an audience like no other. I can say one thing for sure: comedians in New York City are still working and going strong. We’re doing what we can given the circumstances, because our art is at our core. In the darkest of times, there has always been comedy, and there has always been art. For that, I’m extremely hopeful.