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Interview: Iliza Shlesinger (Variety Playhouse 12/2) talks booze, politics, new late night talk show

This was posted Tuesday, November 29, 2016 by Rodney Ho on the AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

There is a rising tide of younger female stand-up comics, led by Amy Schumer, who recently headlined Philips Arena.

Iliza Shlesinger is part of that group. If you see her on her recent third Netflix special "Confirmed Kills," she shows total command of the stage and her material, whether it's sifting for a lip liner in her way too big purse at a nightclub or discussing why CrossFit is a cult.

And if you want to see her live, she's at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta Friday night, December 2. (Buy tickets here.)

I spoke with her right after the election of Donald Trump. "It's been a very weird election," she said. "Very surreal. I found myself instinctively seeking out warm blankets and fatty food looking for comfort!"

She actually performed on election night in Las Vegas but avoided politics. She allowed other comics to do that. She hates to needlessly alienate some people in the audience by trashing Trump. "It's a very liberal, very California to assume everyone is as blue as you," she said. Instead, she talked about how much she hates Vegas.

Shlesinger is more a physical/observational comic who lately has focused on feminist issues such as obsessing over being skinny ("so thin that your friends worry about you!") and sexual harassment. ("Being sexually harassed is the worst. Sorry. Let me rephrase that. Being sexually harassed by an ugly guy is the worst... If he's hot, it's just plain old flirting.")

While Schumer is known to guzzle wine on stage, Shlesinger keeps it clean any day she performs.

"I'm down to party and drink and do whatever," she said. "On stage, I don't drink. I don't do any drugs. I won't even have a mimosa that night. I really respect my craft and obligation to my audience. For me, I prefer to be clearheaded. If all that's required for me to do my dream job is be lucid for an hour, I think I can pull that off."

Since winning "Last Comic Standing" in 2008 as its first female victor, she has worked steadily. She hosted a syndicated dating show "Excused." She spent some time in Atlanta last year shooting a short-lived game show "Separation Anxiety." And as noted, she is now on her third Netflix special. She appears regularly on late-night TV, making recent appearances with Jimmy Fallon and James Corden.

She is developing a talk show with Freeform in a very crowded field. She said it was still in the formation stage. She'd be the third woman in the field after Chelsea Handler and Samantha Bee. "I really respect Samantha Bee," she said. "I was watching her show last night. Her passion for politics is incredible. The election brought out the political side in all of us. That's not where my heart lies. I'm more social commentary."

She doesn't know Handler.

As for getting stuff to go "viral," she said she considers herself pretty forward thinking. During the latest Netflix special, when she says something amusing, a hashtag goes up "just to see if people are watching. I have cool ideas on how to address this new non-linear consuming audience. I'm not ready to share them just yet."


Iliza Shlesinger

7:30 p.m.

$29.50 in advance, $35 day of show

Variety Playhouse

1099 Euclid Ave., Atlanta

Buy tickets here.


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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.