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Lady Rizo: 'Lowbrow Is Where It's At'

The word "cabaret" is taken from the French to describe small, intimate spaces where performances take place. New York cabaret star Lady Rizo fills those small, intimate spaces to the rafters with a signature mix of elegance, blue humor and a voice that has been described as "the product of a night of unrestrained indulgence between Peggy Lee, Mel Brooks, Nina Simone, Dean Martin and Janis Joplin."

"I exist between boundaries — because I am a comedian, and I consider myself a chanteuse and a singer. It's really an equal mix," Rizo tells NPR's Scott Simon. "I like to not only sing songs but explore them in ways that tweak the dark humor of things."

Born Amelia Zirin-Brown, Rizo co-created the cult performance troupe Lady Rizo & The Assettes in 2005. She coined the term "caburlesque" to describe her aesthetic.

"We thought about doing something highbrow," Rizo says. "Then we were like, 'Let's forget about highbrow — lowbrow is where it's at.' And so we decided to make a burlesque show with live music, and I would host and get to explore this comedic side."

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