Lizz Kemery, Comedian, Actor, Writer

“I was watching a comedy show at the Groundling Theatre in Los Angeles, crying with happiness through the whole show, when I realized that this is what I want my life to be. It was the first time in my life that I felt I fit in somewhere”. That was the moment Lizz Kemery knew what her true calling in life is.

A brilliant comedian, actor, writer, improv trainer, stage manager, assistant director, and before all this a beautiful human with a gentle heart. Lizz performed in Los Angeles, London and now performing as a full-time cast member in Amsterdam. Originally from Pennsylvania, Lizz moved to Amsterdam in 2018 from London, where she lived on and off for two years, to join Boom Chicago as a Stage Manager. Boom Chicago is an influential and innovative comedy institution in The Netherlands.

Comedy is so important to Lizz because she believes it gives hope to people. “Comedy is so impactful for people and the world in general; it can inspire change, it can make you look at things differently, it can lift you up, it’s the spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.” Lizz says

Lizz was performing in London, when she was invited to audition for a spot in the Boom Chicago cast. She was devastated when she didn’t get that spot, but she didn’t give up; she joined Boom Chicago as a Stage Manager with her heart set on being a full time cast member. Today, you can spot Lizz on stage, five days a week alongside her cast mates, she will impress you with her impeccable sense of humor and undeniable presence. She has also recently written the curriculum for a new improv course for kids with autism, where she’s the head teacher as well.

“I admitted to myself, for the first time ever that I want this, which for me was the hardest part, admitting it; the vulnerability of admitting you want something and the possibility of public failure. After that, I chased it until I got it.”

Lizz adds

Lizz graduated from Temple University with a degree in Communication with a focus on PR and a certificate in Spanish. She remembers her study abroad experience, where she studied Spanish in Seville, as the best. “You have to meet the world, you just have to!” she adds. Kemery studied improv comedy at The Groundlings, The Upright Citizens Brigade and The Free Association.

Lizz comes from an awesome family; she has two elder twin sisters and one younger brother. Her family is a big part of her life. She has always been the rebellious kid in the family; her dad says she’s the one in the family that constantly pushes the limits. “All of my siblings are my soulmate best friends, each for different reasons, we’re just so tight.” Lizz says

Growing up, Lizz was so shy, she was the secret clown; the one who once you get to know will always try to make you laugh. If you come across pictures of Lizz as a kid, she’ll be the one crying while posing next to the birthday cupcakes, she was just mortified of being the center of attention.

“It’s never too late to find yourself, because you never know when and where it will happen.”

Lizz Kemery

It wasn’t an easy road for Lizz getting to where she is today; she had to work hard and be persistent and resilient, to do the thing she loves the most and to hold on to her dreams. She has been told by a teacher that maybe comedy is not the right path to follow for her. These words put her off and made her stop improvising for a year. But this was her passion, so she pulled herself together and took charge of her life again and kept going.

“I had to keep doing comedy, it wasn’t an option anymore. Deep down I knew I can do this, I want to do this, I just simply love it! Improv is the first thing that’s been important to me, I’m very passionate about it, I am sure about it. This was the first time in my life that I prioritized something. It was important.”

Lizz adds

When asked to describe herself in three words, Lizz said “Hopeful, Cynical, Feminist”. Being a feminist is not an obvious descriptor as a woman, it’s fundamental to Lizz.

I am so hopeful that I get inspired and swept up in things. I am so excited by other people’s passions and things they’re doing because I have hope. Yet I’m still so cynical because the world is pretty bleak and dark, and there are a lot of awful things going on out there. This is why comedy for me is so important because it can deliver a message, give energy and happiness where there’s none, and pull hope and joy out of any situation, this is amazing; it’s a magic trick.”

She adds

Lizz has been doing a lot of knowing herself in the past year, trying to figure out who she really is and what she wants from life. She still doesn’t have a clear vision or a specific path, but she knows she wants to be involved in comedy somehow and make a change, especially for women.

“I know that I would like to pave the road for other women, I want to stomp on some kind of ground over and over so that people have the option to walk there, specifically women. I knew I wanted to do comedy when I watched that Groundling show, I had an ‘aha moment’ where I knew this is what I want to do, but I think that life comes with multiple ‘aha moments’ and I recently had another ‘aha moment’. I had a really rough time when I first moved to Amsterdam because I wanted to be on stage and I was just a stage manager then, so I had to ask myself: if other people are telling me no, then why do I want this? And at the same time, I was becoming more and more aware about women issues. That is when my mindset shifted from wanting to do comedy to get up on stage, make fun of myself, be goofy and make people laugh, which makes me really comfortable, to wanting to use this tool that I have for a bigger purpose. I finally started to look outside of myself, which came from being poorly treated and having no other choice but to start recognizing my own self-worth, which led me to realize that I have the platform to help women feel worthy, in any way that I can.”

Lizz Kemery ladies and gentlemen… Remember this name because you’ll be hearing it often in few years!

Who is your favorite comedian or comedy show?

I’m a huge fan of Kristen Wiig and Amy Poehler, these are the two women I really look up to and really love. Lily Tomlin had a massive effect on me as well. I also love Sarah Silverman; I love how she touches on these horrific subjects and wears it, she’s changing the game.

There’s also an actor at the Groundlings, her name is Edi Patterson, she is one of the most talented people I’ve ever seen in improv comedy. She does an improv show with just two people, where she becomes nine different characters at the same time and improvises amongst herself. She’s so talented, she’s great!

Did you have a role model growing up?

I really looked up to my sisters growing up. Whenever I was asked at school who my idol was, I would always write about my sisters. They’re both so strong for different reasons.

My sister Rachel is a huge advocate for mental health and has always been a mentor to me. My sister Kate gets things done, loves so hard, and remains optimistic.

They are twins, but they are nothing alike. They’ve always looked out for me; I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. Not at all!

What’s something that guides both your professional and personal development, and helps you regain focus in challenging times?

The hope that I have of making a difference in some way. Even if it’s on a day to day basis, even if it’s not that I become famous and have a show that would change the world.

I have an overwhelming love for women lately. Women are everything, and of course deserve all equal opportunities and treatment. I have to make things better, especially for my nieces.

I am most comfortable with comedy, I love comedy, and right now I’m angry and that drives it. Because the situation for women is not fair, it’s not right; the way that it’s imbalanced. As Rebecca Traister said: “Women’s anger is politically catalytic”. It’s been that way for a while and it’s working. For example, we march, and I think what would walking in a big crowd do? but it matters, it makes change, it’s created communities, it empowers us, it gives us strength, it’s alchemy.

So, I’m holding onto that anger and channeling it through my comedy hoping that it’s politically catalytic in some way. Comedy can make a change and in some small way I want to pitch in.

What do you believe is at the core of women’s hesitation to step out and pursue leadership roles where they are?

It is not women, it is the system they exist in. We are not encouraged to pursue things and follow through. We are always told that a happy ending for a woman is getting married. All stories end with
‘and then they lived happily ever after…’ as if your life is over after getting married, as if nothing else matters after marriage, your story is over.

So, we are not really encouraged to chase things and follow through, that’s not our story. It is ingrained in every inch in what we do. I can’t stand when people say women are being dramatic, we’re not. We can’t be dramatic enough, because things need to change.

Is there something keeping you from getting to where you want to be?

The unknown is always nerve-wracking. Procrastination fueled by self-doubt is still holding me back, it’s something I’m battling every day. I’m trying to tackle this day by day.

What does success look like to you?

Being proud of myself.

What is your greatest accomplishment?

The ‘Toxic Masculinity’ sketch in our show, ‘The Future is Here and It’s Slightly Annoying’, is one of my proudest moments lately. Every time I walk on stage to do that, I’m very proud. It makes me very happy when women come to me after the show and they are really thankful that it’s in there.

How do you manage fear and anxiety in both your work and personal life?

I have really bad anxiety and panic attacks. It is something that has really kicked off in the past two years. I’ve had it since I was a kid, but we didn’t talk much about mental health growing up, it was only recently that people started to talk about it more openly. My dad used to call it ‘The Feeling’, he didn’t really know what is was, but he just used to rub my head until I fell asleep.

What helps me is letting myself believe that I am a worthy person and finding my independence. I think once you find your independence in the world, you can do anything. That’s when you can also love so hard, that’s when you can give yourself up to somebody because you’re whole.

Also, reminding myself that everything is temporary and building little tools that can help me remember that I can do it no matter what. As well, being open to being vulnerable and being hurt, because that will always happen, it is inevitable. You will get hurt, you will have a really hard time but when you know that it is going to happen, you are ready for it. So, when it happens you recognize it, you know it is temporary and you know that you will get through this. You believe in yourself and you know that you are worthy of getting through it and you’re independent.

I had a very supportive dad growing up and going through the world was harder without him, but he always made sure I know that I can do it on my own. It is like the moment leading to opening your bills; you know that you have to pay your bills, but you don’t want to open your mail because you don’t want to go through it right now. Just do whatever you need to do, everything is temporary, and you will survive. You will be okay.

It is also so important who you surround yourself with, so surround yourself with good people. I am very lucky to have lots of really awesome people around me.

What do you value the most in your life?

The opportunities I’ve been given. I’m just so grateful. I really value having a choice and being able to make my own decisions. A few years ago, I truly realized how important friendship is and now I’m just obsessed with it. I believe relationships are the most important thing in life.

Do you have a morning practice that helps you face the day with a more positive attitude?

I take time for myself in the morning; I make a cup of tea, sit or chat with my roommate or read. Just so that I’m not waking up and rushing to my day. I’m not a slave to my day, I’m waking up for me and with me. It helps me feel independent from anything and less stressed.

What motivates you to get up in the morning?

Lately it’s been my patio set, I enjoy sitting there especially when the weather is good. I’m not a morning person; I’ve always been a night owl.

Is there a song that you listen to when you want to cheer yourself up?

Yes, I have two right now. ‘Gravity’ from the musical ‘Wicked’ and ‘Mostly Me’ from the soundtrack of ‘The Book of Mormon’. Also, my favorite line that gets me pumped up from a song is “I’ma keep running cause a winner don’t quit on themselves. “it’s from the song “Freedom” by Beyoncé, I love this bit.

What do you believe will be the greatest benefit to having more women as leaders in the world?

Everyone deserves opportunity and equality. I love women, and women are everything, just like men, and so they deserve that opportunity. We only have one life to live, what human being gets to tell someone what they can or cannot do? No one.

What role should men play in supporting more gender diversity?

I would like them to ’Yes, and’. This is the basic rule in improv comedy; it means that you honor whatever offer is presented to you and you add to it. So, I want men to honor equality and female rights and it would be great if they can add to it in any way.

If you could change one thing in this world, what would that be?

Equality for women everywhere.

What is so important to you, that you would go on a hunger strike for?

People having full authority over their bodies. I wouldn’t eat for that for sure.

What’s your greatest personal challenge, and how you’ve achieved success in spite of it?

My greatest challenge was that I never believed in myself, I was my own worst enemy. It took this moment of losing this guy that I really loved, and losing his love, combined with just being so tired of fighting myself and not loving myself.

I was scared but I just said to myself: no more, you deserve this, you are great, this was on the 25th anniversary of Boom Chicago. It was the scariest moment in my life thus far, performing improv comedy in front of a lot of comedy idols like Seth Meyers and Kay Cannon. I didn’t step out fast enough to perform while some of my teammates did instead. I thought, if I don’t believe in myself right now, I won’t be able to perform.
I just patted myself on the back at that moment and was like: ‘go show them what you got, you’re wonderful, I love you’. Then I stepped forward and just did it, then Seth Meyers came to me after the show and complimented me.

There’s also this wonderful thing that I’ve seen, where someone showed the baby versions of women to themselves and asked them to give advice to the little girl they see. So, I started thinking if I can talk to my younger self what would I say? and I have nieces now and I just want to tell them that they are perfect, get out there and live your life, you only get one.

What does life mean to you?

Life is there to be enjoyed, it’s the journey, it’s the reason I’m terrified to die. I enjoy life so much and I can’t imagine not doing it anymore. It is an opportunity to enjoy yourself and everybody deserves that.

I make my decisions in life thinking would I regret my choices when I’m on my deathbed? would I be happy with my decisions? I call them deathbed decisions, I use this way of thinking almost always.

What do you want from life?

I want to be proud of myself and I want people to be proud of me as well. I recently started feeling proud of myself and figuring out what makes me proud and actively working at it.

If there is one person who you can invite to come watch you perform, who would that be?

Anne Frank. I want to be able to give her that because I think she was a spectacular fourteen-year-old girl. I just want her to come and have a good time; I want to make her laugh.

What are you really grateful for?

Other women being brave and sharing their stories, because I think it is really inspiring and it really helps. I think that women are amazing at creating communities and we are building a global one at the moment, and without the stories there’s no structure for the community, the stories make everything. So, women please keep talking and tell your full story.

If you could gain one quality or ability, what would that be?

The ability to speak any language so that you can go anywhere and talk to anyone, that would be really cool and fun. Shout out to my ex, that’s his answer but I agree! Also, being able to time travel.

Is there something too serious to joke about?

I don’t think that anything is too serious to find the humor within or through. But joking about things, of course there are some things that are too serious to joke about because they are just not funny. But if we can find humor within or through it, to help it or to undercut the severity of it or inspire change then definitely there’s nothing too serious for that.

Describe a perfect day.

It has to be hot outside. Taking time for myself in the morning, hearing from my family, maybe getting some videos from my nieces and nephews. Having some sort of observation during the day that I enjoy, so that I can feel proud. Chatting to people I love. Eating pizza. Making someone laugh. Sleeping in. Having a glass of wine at some point. These are all items that would make my day perfect.

What is your favorite book?

I loved ‘Number the Stars’ by Lois Lowry growing up, it just stuck with me my whole life. I also love ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go’ by Dr. Seuss. I am currently reading ‘You Play The Girl’ by Carina Chocano, and it is wonderful. Funny and insightful, I can’t put it down.

If you could know the answer to only one of the following, which one would you choose, and why?

  • What happens after death?
  • What is the meaning of life?

Neither of these two; I want to know how the pyramids were built instead, I would trade out those two questions for this [laughing]. Because in my heart of hearts, I believe that nothing happens after death; I believe we die, and nothing happens; we don’t exist anymore. And there is no meaning of life, there’s no such thing; everybody has their own meaning. The meaning of life is like a thumbprint, so everybody has their own. Imagine if there was one meaning of life, I don’t want the same meaning of life as everybody else.

What’s the best advice you ever received?

The advice from my dad saying that everything is temporary. It is good for me because it is both cynical and hopeful. If something bad is going on, it’s temporary, you’ll just get through it. But if something great is happening and everything is temporary then savor the moment, enjoy it, and be present. So, it works in both ways; it works in your favor whichever way you want to look at it. It is just a good reminder.

What advice would you give to women out there?

I just think it’s so important to be kind to yourself and to other women. First and foremost, be super nice to yourself and don’t listen to anything else but those kind words you tell yourself. Also, don’t let anyone be unkind to you. You are everything and you can be anything you want.

Written by Yasmeen Smadi

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