Interview with Iliza Shlesinger
Iliza Shlesinger is the hilarious creator of the show “War Paint” and the Netflix special “Freezing Hot”. She has appeared on NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, TBS’ Deal With It, Comedy Central Presents, as well as Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham, E! Network’s Chelsea Lately and now on March this year, she became the host of the show “Separation Anxiety” on TBS. So if you have not heard of her, we want to know, where have you been?
Thanks to the Just For Laughs Festival, it was possible to get an interview with Iliza last Friday 22 of July. She was kind enough to give us the interview since she was very sick and have had to run to set last minute for a couple of times in the week. Finally, on Friday I picked up the phone and it was the one and only, Iliza. This is what she talked with La Cosa Nostra.
When did you start doing comedy?
So many people ask me that, there’s no moment, there’s no moment. I’m just funny, I was always funny. I always knew I was gonna do something funny. I just couldn’t commit to anything else. I started doing stand up professionally in 2008.
Where do you take inspiration from and how you make sure that your show evolves while keeping your jokes fresh?
I think keeping it as honest as possible and it takes years to allow that real authenticity and artistry, so, I get inspired by everyday interactions. Sometimes I get inspired by work situations. It comes in all forms. It just comes describing forms to communicate, like, awkward or relatable situations to an audience.
Have you ever encountered an obstacle while performing in other countries, for example things we may find funny here may not be seen as comedic elsewhere outside North America?
I’ve been pretty fortunate. Most of my shows are in the U.S. and sometimes I perform in England, where English is not a problem. I think a big part of what makes comedy relatable is; a lot of human condition things, like girls are the same everywhere and men and women act the same way. I think part of what makes it relatable, is that I’m able to convey that message to anyone from any culture. So, I can’t just not go somewhere unless I’ve been invited in terms of performing and I think the hallmark of a good comic is making everything relatable no matter what part of the world you’re from.
What is your routine or preparation before your shows?
I don’t really have one, I have…You know, when you do stand up as often I do, sometimes you can’t afford the luxury of a superstition. So, I like to have, if I’m gonna do an hour or more, I’ll have one sugar-free Red bull, but other than I mean, I’ve woken up out of a flu to do my show, I’ve woken up sick, I’ve gone on stage sad, sometimes I’ve gone on stage right from the airport. You don’t always have time to prepare yourself. So, like, I’ve done it enough now so I’m pretty much to my show at the drop of a hat.
What do you think about people who say women can’t or are not good at being comedians?
I am like: “Uhhh…Have you seen any of my specials? Or one of my Netflix Specials? Ok… Tell me how many specials do you have?”
Do you have any favourite female comedians?
You know, it’s funny, sometimes I am proud I am a female, but when it comes to female comedians, I have been competing in performing with men for so long I tend to not say I am a female comedian but if I have to say for women who do it for me, I have always respected Ellen, to me she is a funny woman. Like Christina Applegate she was a funny woman, Melissa McCarthy is a funny woman, all the women in Saturday Night Live, there are so many. For me they are a bunch of funny people, it’s always been about funny people and not about just being a woman.
Is Stacy based on a real person?
Yes, she is. Stacy is an amalgamation of the best and the worst things we think about girls in our culture, she is sort of my thoughts of like any girl. I just picked the name and it was funny. I heard a comic, about a year ago, doing that, he used the word “Stacy” so I was like “Ok, I am not the only one”. I don’t think I actually know a Stacy, I just thought it is a name of the 90’s, I think I just naturally picked a name, that resembled memories of my childhood and I used that, you know, I needed a name that sort of categorizes that girl.
What about the Party Goblin, is she based on personal experiences?
Party Goblin is not only based on personal experiences, she is alive and well, and right now she is inside a shoe box, somewhere in my basement. What I love so much about my Party Goblin is she just wants to have a good time and then she wants to get out of there. She is very stupid and she can’t be trusted but you know that she is always going to make sure that you have a great time.
How do you handle haters, and what advice can you give to others who want to become comedians but are afraid of criticism?
If somebody takes the time to watch your art, and log on their social media and find you and tell you how much they hated you, then you WON! Like you already take some space on their lives. People are like: “You are not funny” and I am like “Thanks for watching, thanks for buying the tickets”… Like off course you are not going to win everybody over, you know? I am not doing the cooking show, not everybody is going to love me. I am very fortunate that not a lot of people bother me about it. On occasion it gets you and you want to shut someone down because they say something threatening or misinformed. What also baffles me is the amount of people who say something really mean and then you get back at them and they say: “I was just kidding”. Honestly so many times is like when a boy pulls your hair because he likes you. So many people just don’t know how to handle something so it’s not worth respond to them. Just remember: They took time to bother you and you didn’t even knew about their existence.
So you have already performed at the Just For Laughs Festival, how was that experience?
It is good, I think I have performed 4 times. It’s really good because there is a lot going on and I keep getting invited back. The first time I did it, I was a new face and last time I did it I did my Netflix hour, and this time I am doing two galas and I am doing my show twice, I am doing my “Girls Night Only”, I am doing a podcast recording show, so it’s fun to go to a foreign city where you have fans, even the fact that you picked up the phone and said “I love “Warpaint” and “Freezing Hot”” it never gets old, is just such a humbling experience to know all the people around the world that take the time out of their day to be a fan of something that came out of my imagination, is very cool.
Your next Stand Up special comes out on September 23rd and is called “Confirmed Kills”. Tell us a little bit about it.
We shot it in Chicago, and we edited very quickly. This is my most important special to date, is the one I felt the most responsibility. On my first special, I was assured that my audience wanted some of the same because that’s why they are a fan of yours, but I felt an obligation to say something important and an obligation as an artist but also as a woman. You know, a lot of the observations that think I had of my comedy because I my twenties I was talking about drinking and things like that and while there is that and this there is a very relatable, honest and feminist angle that I think everyone will be able to appreciate.
Finally, what should we expect from your show presented at the Just For Laughs this year?
For my hour show this year, I am basically going to be doing a chunk of my Netflix special for the most of it, so it’s going to be a very honest look at the state of my generation and of course I will explain the origins of The Party Goblin.
Thank you so much for taking the time I liza for chatting with me! I can’t wait to see your show!
Iliza’s book “Girl Logic” comes out on Spring next year.
Don’t miss Iliza’s shows in Montreal for 2 performances at 5e Salle at Place Des Arts on July 28 and 30 and her show Girls’ Night In with Iliza at Théâtre Lachapelle on July 29.