“Good evening homosexuals…and homosexual-adjacents.” So Nadya Ginsburg begins her one woman show, Madonnalogues. It’s no mistake that this performance takes place September 4th, the hump day of PRIDE week here in Austin. Portraying both Madonna and Cher through the course of the evening, Ginsburg uses her artistic roots in the alternative art and comedy scene of NYC, as well as her knack for celebrity impersonation, to put the best of drag queens to shame.
Ginsburg states that from her artistic standpoint, everything is vaudeville. True to her word, Madonnalogues incorporates song, dance, stand-up comedy, and of course, female impersonation. The Spiderhouse Ballroom is an excellent venue for the performance, its walls lined with rich red velvet reminiscent of the act curtains of theatre days gone by. The warm red lighting creates an intimate vibe while the thrust formation allows Ginsburg a greater presence on the stage. It also provides opportunity to enhance moments of audience interaction, like when Ginsburg’s Madonna makes an attempt to do some crowd work but can’t seem to find an audience member who won’t try to make eye contact (or worse, look at her forearms).
But Ginsberg doesn’t allow Madonnalogues to serve only as an extension of a stand-up comedy routine. Instead, it is a multi-media performance, with Ginsburg pulling footage from her wildly successful YouTube videos to smartly fill the time while she changes from character to character during the course of the evening. This allows the audience to not only spend more time with Ginsburg’s Madonna, but to be introduced to characters like Madonna’s much younger boyfriend Brahim (played by what looks like a 6-year-old boy in the video).
The use of video footage is also an homage to the viral Internet fanbase which garnered Ginsburg much of her current artistic success. Ginsburg states that the creation of Madonnalougues was an accident rather than something she set out to do. Ginsburg had worked with Austin Young to create The Worm – a video where Madonna and Cher tie up Brittney Spears – and the project grew from there. Ginsburg states that more than any of her live performance, Internet videos were what garnered a following to her work, because “everyone who likes Madonna will click on that.”
Speaking of her growth as an artist, Ginsburg stated she learned the most by doing. She encourages aspiring artists to be open and embrace their creativity, rather than feeling pressured or penned in by what someone else tells them they “have to” do in order to succeed as an artist. She also advocates using the Internet as a tool by which to be the creator of one’s own artistic vision, saying we’ve never lived in more exciting times. Ginsburg’s Madonna cries, “The revolution will not be televised. It will be tweeted,” and Ginsburg herself used Kickstarter to fund the vlog which begat Madonnalogues.
When questioned regarding her relationship to the LGBTQI community, Ginsburg stated that she has learned more from being a woman in show business than anything, but that she will always be grateful for the loving embrace of the gay community in and around her work. Ginsburg provides plenty of nods of appreciation to the LGBTQI community throughout Madonnalogues – like when Ginsburg’s Cher states, “The longer I look good, the better gay men feel.” Ginsburg argued that it is in part this desire to love and protect female icons like Madonna or Cher that draws a gay following to her work, and that “it’s good enough for me.”
After the show, Ginsburg emerged as herself to thank the audience and tell a little bit about her own journey as a fan of Madonna. She said her dream in the 80s was to become a wild, free, broke, slutty artist like Madonna, and that some dreams do become a reality. I do think it is telling that Ginsburg mentioned the “boy’s club” of comedy in our interview and how peers like Sarah Silverman had to embrace their masculine sides to become successful.
Rather than following their footsteps, Ginsburg chose caricature, or “femme-ininity” if you will, as a way to make it as a woman in comedy. Riding the line between homage and satire, Madonnalogues is at once hilarious, insightful, and an honest look at the plight of aging female celebrities in the modern era. Regarding Madonna, Ginsburg stated, “I’m going to ride that bitch’s name to the bank. But that’s what she taught me to do.” Madonnalogues has certainly made Ginsburg a rising success, and for those who missed it, you can get your Madonna fix on YouTube or at madonnalogues.com.
This article was first published by The Horn on 09/19/2013.