This Is Rutherford
This is Elisa Kreisinger
Updated: Sep 13, 2020
By Jennifer Ersalesi
Photo credits: Josh Dalsimer (@jdalsimer) and Elisa Kreisinger
As someone who has always loved to ask questions, delve into and add humor to important topics, Elisa Kreisinger has made a name for herself through her award-winning syndicated program, Strong Opinions Loosely Held, her life celebrity talk show, The Ladies Room, and her creative work on the TBS series, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. Elisa grew up in Rutherford and went through the Rutherford Public Schools. After she graduated from Rutherford High School she attended Simmons College in Boston where she began to consider how she wanted to use her sense of humor, intellect, strong opinions, and unique voice in a male-dominated field of digital storytelling.
TIR: You currently lead the Digital Department at Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. Can you tell us more about your role there?
Elisa Kreisinger: I help grow Sam's sense of humor and creative vision across social platforms and create original series with the help of an amazing, hard-working, and incredibly smart team of digital producers and editors.
TIR: For your work on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee you have been nominated for two Emmy awards. You must be so excited. Where were you when you heard the news? How are you feeling about this achievement?
EK: I was on a walk in the forest on the phone with the amazing writer, actor, and comedian Nicole Drespel telling her about the project we had submitted to the Emmys. I looked at my watch and realized it was time for the announcements and I was so relieved when I found out! It wasn't easy getting here. We had been in production on a completely different series when everything changed. We were the first late-night show to forgo our regular studio audience due to an abundance of caution surrounding COVID-19. Sam was suddenly shooting the show with her kids in her yard. The staff was all at home. The series we were working on wasn't relevant anymore. The world had changed. Everything had changed. So we took our HOURS and HOURS of footage and completely retooled our creative. We ended up making Pandemic Video Diaries in just a few weeks, just in time to submit for Emmys. I was so happy to see it get recognized.
TIR: As a Woman in Technology Fellow at NYU School of Engineering, how do you feel you have influenced other young women?
EK: I have a very...diverse...background. I didn't follow a set path because I graduated into the 2008 recession. There wasn't a path to follow that allowed me to do the work I wanted to do and be paid enough to be financially independent. I think my varied backgrounds in community organizing, media literacy, tech, and media production illustrates that you can have a bunch of different paths that lead to where you want to end up.
Rachel Roswal Bozek, Former Editor at Nickelodeon Magazine, has known Elisa since she was four years old. She also babysat for her when they both lived in Rutherford. “I brought Elisa to work with me at Nickelodeon one day—it must have been almost 20 years ago at this point. I remember how impressed everyone was with her, even then, when she was a student. She looks past the obvious and has always asked the best, most thought-provoking questions. She continues to do that today and I’m so proud of her.“
TIR: When you were with Refinery29 you were the Executive Producer of Strong Opinions Loosely Held, where did you come up with the idea for that program? Who did you enjoy interviewing?
EK: That franchise started out as a test podcast for the company. I would share an opinion in an email and, to soften it, I'd say, "strong opinions loosely held" at the end so that people didn't think I was too aggressive. When it came time for the title of this test podcast, I went with that because it was my signature, for better or worse. I had strong opinions but I was open to feedback and hearing (most) other opinions. I'm really proud of that franchise because it started out as an idea to talk to some of the smartest women on the internet and expanded to be the fastest-growing franchise at Refinery29. It was in the top 10 on Apple podcasts for weeks and became a video series syndicated to Facebook Watch, Amazon, and Snap. It was just supposed to be a test and suddenly I was interviewing Glenn Close and Tan France, the only male I interviewed over the course of my 4 years.
My favorite interview was with Ibtihaj Muhammad, a fellow New Jersey native, the first American to compete in a hijab and the first Muslim-American woman to win a medal at the 2016 Olympics. She endured so much toxic behavior from her fellow American teammates while training for the Olympics and at the games. Can you imagine being bullied by YOUR OWN TEAM? She told me how she was left off official team lists and emails, ignored by teammates, and not invited to team dinners. The fact that she survived in that environment and went on to win just blew me away. It was a reminder that success is truly mind over matter.
Mrs. Constance DeFazio was one of Elisa’s elementary school teachers. DeFazio told TIR, “Elisa was an eclectic student. She was interested in issues beyond her age. Perhaps it was being an only child or having parents who themselves were involved in their community who exposed her to issues "outside the typical student world" that inspired the curiosity to learn more.”
TIR: You are often described as the “Pop Culture Pirate”, how did you earn this title?
EK: When I got out of college, I really wanted to be a writer but my spec scripts were just terrible. I decided to "write" the kind of TV shows I wanted to see by re-editing the actual show. I went through every season of Sex And The City and edited out all the men and every mention of men and just made it about women's relationships. I did the same with Mad Men and other shows. I used the language of popular culture to make new narratives. Remix culture was alive at the time and that's how I got the title. Of course, it got me ZERO writing jobs. No writer wants to see their baby sliced and diced into a completely different show.
TIR: As a visual artist, you have displayed your work in many places. Can you explain more about the art you create?
EK: The remixes mentioned above were well received in the art world as appropriation art and I was lucky enough to have those videos shown in galleries and museums around the world. I don't make these anymore for my own art practice. Video art isn't as profitable as one might think. I know, you're shocked.
While living in Rutherford, Elisa attended Rutherford High School. One of her teachers, Mr. Jason Narozny, remembers Elisa well, “Elisa always stood out as someone more socially and politically aware than typically found in high school. She had an uncommon mix of logic, wit, and determination that allowed her strong voice to be heard, especially when standing up for a cause she believed in. It comes as no surprise that she has found success in utilizing her platform to give voice to those experiencing discrimination, injustice, and inequality.”
TIR: As a public speaker, you have traveled to many different colleges and universities, such as Savannah College of Art and Design and Harvard Law School, to speak about digital culture, what do you want to teach those interested in getting into your field?
EK: Know the story you want to tell and tell it. Have something to say and know when to say it.
TIR: You grew up in Rutherford. What do you remember about your hometown?
EK: The borough of trees! Swimming on the Rutherford Stingrays swim team at the RHS pool is probably my fondest memory. I was in that pool from 7:15 AM (swim team practice) until 7:00 PM (the end of open swim). They had to kick me out of the locker room at night. I started swimming there at age five and didn't leave until college. I knew that place like the back of my hand. I knew every lifeguard. I knew the janitor. I loved that pool. Even when it was over-chlorinated and the smell came out of your pores when you sweat and your arm hair burned off. It was just the greatest place. The smell of bleach brings back those fond memories every time I clean. Which, I'm realizing now, isn't nearly as often as I'd like.
To see some of Elisa's work with Refinery 29, click here.
To visit Elisa's website, click here.
The Emmy Awards will air on ABC on Sunday, September 20th at 8 pm.