Being a huge fan of the cable series Girls, and of Lena Dunham as of late, I was caught by surprise when Dunham herself tweeted this video expressing how funny she thought it was–This was a video of what was essentially the single most dead-on impression of Ms. Dunham I have seen to date (there are several parodies of Dunham’s Obama commercial on YouTube, but this is the clear winner by far), and add to this the gift of the holy blessing from Lena herself on Twitter, plus its initial viral spread on various sites, and it seems to spell internet success.
The lady portraying Lena Dunham is Chelsea Davison, who is a working artist of multiple skills (acting, writing, singing, stand-up comedy, etc.), and given that I truly loved this parody of one of my favorite people, I decided to ask her for an interview for The Glass.
CM: Love this video! What made you do this, and how often do you do impressions?
Chelsea: I haven’t really done a lot of impressions. Basically, I do stand-up and improv, but haven’t done as much sketch/character stuff. A friend of mine who is big into that was having a show at the People’s Improv Theater, and he invited me to be on the show. As part of that, you need sketches, you need characters and you also need impressions. So, I started working on some last week, trying to prep for Monday, and one that I really loved doing was Lena Dunham.
It wasn’t very good at first, but I watched a lot of Girls, and kind of practiced it, and thought it could be something really fun! I filmed it over the weekend, just because I thought it was kind of a funny thing, and one of my goals is, because I don’t usually do impressions, is to try to get them on film to do more of them in the future–Push myself as a comedian and an actress. So I filmed it more for myself than anyone else, and when I did it at the show, it got a really great response! So I figured “Hey! Might as well put it online and see what happens!”, and I sent it out to my friends in the comedy scene, and I guess from there it sort of spread, I don’t know how, but I think Mashable was the first one to pick it up, and I’m not sure how they saw it!
CM: Also Funny or Die, Huffington Post, The Daily Beast–All these different notable blogs picked up this video, and then Lena Dunham saw it! That had to be exciting when she tweeted it!
Um, this girl is very funny and has me doing a lot of self-searching (CAVITY SEARCHING! ugh, sorry) so…youtube.com/watch?feature=…!
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) February 28, 2013
Chelsea: Very! I’m a huge Lena Dunham and Girls fan, so, it was really cool to actually have her see it! As a person whose career is just starting it’s a pretty huge thing to have someone like Lena Dunham see your work, even if it’s parodying her! [laughs]
Chelsea Davison performing ‘Lena Dunham’s Audition for Zero Dark Thirty’
[Pictured left: the real Lena Dunham on Girls, and the real Zero Dark Thirty with Jason Clarke]
CM: You nailed the whiny, neurotic voice and the frumpy clothes, and of course Zero Dark Thirty is very popular as well, so tying in with that made this twice as funny!
Chelsea: Yeah, plus Zero Dark Thirty made a lot of sense to use because–It was really an imitation of Hannah Horvath, Lena’s character, and Hannah is so self-obsessed, and she just doesn’t get social situations…
CM: Plus, she’s always eating! [laughs]
Chelsea: Right! It’s all about her, and I thought it would be really funny to put her in a situation where she’s torturing someone, and worried how it’s going to affect her! Like “Oh, this is really going to hurt me!”
CM: (in a girly voice): “This isn’t working out for me right now!”
CM: There were parodies of Lena that were already on YouTube, but I think yours was definitely the best. I even said on Facebook it was such a close impression that Lena herself couldn’t top it!
You also did this interactive media project where you left cards all over the city and they had a Truth or Dare challenge on them.
Chelsea: Right! I did Truth or Dare in NY last Summer, and that was really cool and it got a lot of great press! I printed out 300 cards and chose one location: Washington Square Park. I enlisted 6 friends and we each split up the cards with tape and all canvased a different little area of the park nonchalantly taping them…
CM: These cards were all randomly chosen, they were not specific for where you put them?
Chelsea: Correct! I made all of the T&D’s fairly easy, some of them people still wouldn’t do, but there was nothing inappropriate, nothing sexual like “take off your clothes” or anything, it was all like “pretend to fly” or “talk to a stranger in a British accent”–Just things to get you out of your comfort zone.
I haven’t done it again since then, but other people around the world have taken it on–There’s a chapter of it in Sydney, Australia that’s really strong, and they even received grant money to turn it into a bigger ongoing performance, and I know in England they got some grant money and put it up as part of one of their theatre festivals. That was really cool!
Truth or Dare project in NYC
Chelsea: I also write a comedy blog called “What I Fucked Up.com”, and every week I update with a new story of something in my life that I have fucked up, and I include my drawings that are like comics–I have just finished writing a web series, and soon I will get to fundraise and produce that!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Look for a fundraising post for Chelsea in the future here on The Glass!