Inside the Viral Video Spoof Lena Dunham’s Audition for ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

Anna Klassen talks to the comedian behind ‘Lena Dunham’s Audition for “Zero Dark Thirty.”’

“If I really have to waterboard you, that is really gonna scar me, like, emotionally.”

What do you get when you cross Girls creator/star Lena Dunham with the Oscar-nominated film Zero Dark Thirty? This week’s most recent viral video, a YouTube parody that blends the hard-hitting drama of Zero Dark Thirty with the cupcake-loving on-screen persona of Dunham’s Girls character, Hannah Horvath.

“Lena Dunham’s Audition for Zero Dark Thirty” features the Girls star—portrayed here by 24-year-old comedian Chelsea Davison—reciting a monologue for Kathryn Bigelow’s 2012 Osama bin Laden manhunt film. The clip is steadily picking up online traffic after it was posted on YouTube on Tuesday, thanks to mentions by Mashable, Salon, and The Hollywood Reporter.

The video, which is just over two minutes in length and cost only $100 to produce—including the purchase of “a dozen delicious cupcakes”—showcases “Dunham” in typical Girls garb: a flowery blouse, magenta cardigan, and even a bob-length wavy wig, auditioning for the controversial flick, complete with cupcake in hand.

“It's always fun to parody the stuff you admire,” Davison told The Daily Beast on Wednesday.

Davison, like Dunham’s Hannah on HBO’s Girls, lives in New York City and admits to being a big fan of both Zero Dark Thirty and Girls. Davison was rehearsing for an improv comedy set at the PIT (The People’s Improv Theater) in New York when the idea for the parody came to her.

“[Dunham] has such a unique voice, both in how she speaks and in the things she says,” Davison said. “Because the character makes everything about her, I knew I wanted to find a very serious, totally inappropriate setting in which to put her. It really magnifies those traits when you see it against something so different.” And Zero Dark Thirty made for the perfect backdrop.

To prepare to shoot the video, Davison watched a marathon of Girls episodes, but taming her normally long, fiery red hair proved to be the biggest challenge. She tried dyeing it and using different wigs, but in the end, she still thinks the finished effect isn’t quite right.

Clearly, fans were convinced by her impression, or at least entertained by it, however. One YouTube commenter wrote of the video, “Holy crap, when I saw this on HP, thought it actually was Lena…perfect impression.” Another commented, “SNL, here she comes…”

As of press time, Davison hadn’t heard whether Dunham had seen the spoof, but Davison said she thinks Dunham—who has proved willing in the past to skewer her persona—would probably find it funny.

One of the crucial elements in the star’s NSFW series is nudity—more specifically, Dunham’s constant and unapologetic full-frontal scenes. Davison nods to this in her video, and at one point she even starts unbuttoning her blouse, thinking the script indicates that she should get naked. “No,” says the unseen director, “you strip the prisoner.” And when the director turns her down for a naked scene, “Dunham” offers an alternative: sex on camera. “If you look at my résumé under the skills section,” she says, “those are all positions that are totally fine with me.”

Davison almost took it to Dunham levels: “In earlier takes, my boyfriend, the guy playing the reader, didn’t interrupt me soon enough so I just kept unbuttoning the dress, which was funny, but probably would’ve needed some blurring for YouTube.”

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But while Davison sees Dunham’s body as a possible comedic foil, it’s also a statement about freedom from self-guilt: “While nudity is an easy joke, as a female performer with a body not terribly unlike Lena’s, it’s pretty inspiring how open she is,” said Davison.