Top Comedian and Netflix Favourite, Iliza Shlesinger, Is Coming To Ottawa This Weekend
Iliza is one of today’s leading comedians with a fan base who show their loyalty by creating their own Iliza inspired swag to wear to her shows. A quick scroll through her Instagram will show just that – the creative, hilarious, touching, and inclusive community of fans she has created during her rise to fame in the comedy industry.
Last year she hosted her late night limited run talk show “Truth & Iliza,” on Freeform. In November 2017, she released her first book Girl Logic: The Genius and the Absurdity (Hachette Book Group) a subversively funny collection of essays and observations on a confident woman’s approach to friendship, singlehood, and relationships.
In 2018, she released Elder Millennial, her fourth Netflix stand up special for the streaming service. Her past specials War Paint, Freezing Hot and Confirmed Kills have made her one of the top comedians working today. She plans to record her fifth special at the end of May during her worldwide tour.
She’s bringing that tour to Ottawa for the first time to share her hilarious, universal truths. We had the chance to chat with her ahead of the double header (7pm and 9:30pm) at the NAC this Friday night.
What is it that drew you to comedy?
I knew I wasn’t gonna be a mathematician for a living. And I was only OK at basketball, so comedy it was.
Your comedy is smart; it addresses a different way of representing women in this industry. You bring forth a lot of universal truths, saying what so many women are thinking, and that’s what makes your content so attractive because it’s so real. Where does the inspiration for your work come from and how do you want to represent yourself in this profession?
The inspiration comes from just everyday commentary on this treasure trove of thoughts in the back of our minds, and I’m just tapping into the things we all want to be saying. I feel an obligation to comment on life itself and the way I’m experiencing it. I always try to be authentic, and it’s authentically my experiences. I feel that if I’m feeling these things, then other people must be as well. I think that’s where the inclusion comes in. At the end of the day, regardless of your colour or religion, we’re still human. Dating is still weird, people are still frustrating, we go through a lot of the same experiences, just different shades of it.
Although often throwing out jokes about social media and hashtags, you invite fans to use hashtags throughout your Netflix specials. What’s your goal and how has this helped you to engage with fans?
The hashtags I came up with. I think it was my first special because Netflix doesn’t share their numbers. So I thought, if I put these hashtags in, I can kind of see who is engaging with my special because they’ll use the hashtags. People like to engage with things, and so at first it was a way of monitoring them, but then it became things that people use in everyday life, and it became ways to express moods and situations.
In terms of Instagram, I never feel an obligation to post or be funny. Just because it’s a certain holiday, I don’t have to engage with that, and I never feel a social pressure. Once you’re freed of that, then I have this freedom to write back to a fan when I want, post something, do whatever. I like the idea that it’s almost like another show if you follow me on Instagram. I’m not pretentious about not engaging with fans. We try to make everybody feel that if you really took the time to write me something or send me a picture, I want you to know I saw that and that it touched me. With me and my fans, it’s a very personal exchange, whether it’s in the gifts they make me, or the things they confide in me, and I take that very seriously.
You use so much expressive body language and physical movements throughout your specials. What inclined this kind of storytelling for you?
You know, it’s a natural expression. I always enjoyed watching physical comedy. Sometimes you have to employ different methods. Some people stand very still and that’s the best way to tell their jokes. It naturally comes out in me, it wasn’t a decision. There’s a lot of energy in my stand-up. It’s kind of me as an artist wanting so much to get out of my brain and crawl into your heart. It is this manifestation of energy and enthusiasm and storytelling. For me, it just comes out through my body and my limbs.
You played October in Instant Family, released in November with Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne. Did you enjoy working on this film, and do you find acting more difficult than your live shows?
With Instant Family, I had a very small part in a very fun movie. I basically got paid to sit still, make a kind of unwelcoming face, and I got to watch Octavia Spencer, Rose Byrne and Mark Wahlberg act. It was really cool to get paid to have a front seat to see their level of professionalism and the way they approach acting and they couldn’t have been lovelier.
It’s not harder, or better, or worse, it’s just different. Acting is a collaborative process, and while the camera is on you and you have that one moment to get it right, there’s still retakes. Stand-up is live, in the moment and it’s energy. And it’s not collaborative, it’s just you. You live and die by your own merit, and you can’t blame the editing, or the makeup, or the directing. It’s two very different things but they’re both challenging. I like that acting is somewhere that I don’t have anything to prove yet because there’s no expectations. I like that I get to be a student, and come from a more humble place of watching everyone and learning. I don’t need to lead the charge like in stand up.
Do you have any pre-show rituals you do before you step on stage?
We have been doing this thing where my dog Blanche runs across the stage. The lights go down so everyone knows the show is about to start, but instead of a human, this little tiny brown angel just comes running across. The crowd goes ballistic and then the show starts.
Your tour is making a stop in Ottawa on May 24th. What can fans expect from your live show experience?
I have never done a show in Ottawa! I’ve always been so lucky with Canada. I started coming to Calgary forever ago and they were always so welcoming. Since then, I’ve been coming into Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg. Everywhere I go in Canada the fans always turn out and they’re some of the best crowds. I’m sad that I haven’t been to Ottawa yet so I’m really pumped that I get to come see you guys.
This tour is the new hour, and this Canada run is the last batting practice before we record the special on May 31st. We wanted to come to Canada because the crowds are always so great and it’s a great boost, so it’s kind of a last little workout. I’ll be doing the new special which is all about my experience and thoughts on the BS that is a wedding. I acknowledge all the different aspects of it, from the way women feel to the way guys feel. If you’re married, your battle scars will throb, and if you’re getting married, you’ll heed my warning. If you wanna get married, I suggest you watch this special.
LA is home base for you. What do you enjoy doing in your off time?
I don’t believe your hobbies or your down time should ever make a negative impact. I enjoy working out, I like reading, I love crossword puzzles. I got married last May and my husband and I travel so much so I really try to carve out time just to sit with each other, we do crossword puzzles…that sounds so dorky. Just being together, and driving him crazy.