Sitting down with standup comedian Iliza Shlesigner

You read the story in Hype, now get the full scoop. CWU Hype had a chance to catch up with Iliza Schlesinger, who is busy shooting her new TBS relationship game show, “Separation Anxiety,” performing live and writing new material.

She answered a few our questions, and we couldn’t be more excited to share with you her opinions on social media, how her life changed after winning “Last Comic Standing” and her role in creating entertainment content for a streaming-centric youth.

What inspired you to become a comedian? Were you class clown and it’s something you’ve always dreamed of or did it come to you later in life?

It literally never occurred to me to do anything else. I knew all roads would have to lead to this end result. Also? I can’t do math, so that really limited my horizons.

What’s your favorite type of venue to perform at? What’s your least favorite? Do you have a story of a worst/best experience?

I like big venues because I enjoy feeding off a crowd’s energy. I love commanding a large crowd and I’m used to it from touring so much. That being said, an intimate group is a beautiful thing because you have to really pause to take the time to be mindful of your energy and theirs and how they fit, if it sounds like a new age holistic approach, it isn’t, it’s just a fancy way of talking about timing. I believe there is a lesson to be learned from every show, so I always try to book mainstream and alternative venues, that way I am always prepared. I love it all. 

Did your life change drastically after you won “Last Comic Standing”? How?

Yeah, I had only been doing comedy for three years, so I went from having no career to being a headliner basically overnight. It taught me a lot fast, but I’m glad I got a head start on my life.

You probably get asked this all the time, but I think it’s necessary in today’s climate: How has performing as a woman been throughout the years?

Yeah, I do get asked that lot. Can’t answer it since I’ve never performed as a man.

Were you ever discouraged in becoming a comic because you’re a woman?

No. When you’re funny, people love to tell you that you’re funny. The sad part is when you aren’t funny and people tell you that you’re funny and you try to have a career in it anyway, that’s how you end up holding a sign on a corner to an open house for eight bucks an hour or you get a TV show… Could really go either way.

How has it been working with Netflix and more online-centric entertainment partners? Is this the future for stand-up comedians (rather than Comedy Central specials being the gold-standard)?

Netflix kicked the door in and took no prisoners. They basically pioneered the whole idea of non-linear programming. They put creative people in charge and gave them license to create what they wanted – a great example of that is OITNB. They are exceptional at spotting talent and letting that talent shine. They totally changed the stand up game. It used to be you got a special and it aired whenever a network aired it.

Netflix came in and was like, “How about we give you creative control, put a ton of money behind you and give fans access 24 hours a day?” You would have to be insane not to think their formula is better.  

Have you noticed a change in your style of humor and how well you can craft a joke throughout the years? What was that like and when/how did you start noticing?

The more I do it the more syntax and detail matter. Comedy is a science and pacing, syllables and word choice are huge factors – once you have the heart and the intention, the icing on the cake is the perfect word choice and order.

You’re an avid user of social media; what do you like and/or hate about the experience? Do you feel more connected to fans this way or do you find yourself using it almost as an outlet for distraction like the rest of us?

I hate that total losers feel that they have the right (and no you don’t just because you have the opportunity) to be horrible to people and hide behind the anonymity of a screen. It’s gutless to harass someone and have a locked profile; it just shows how weak they are.

I don’t mind it as much for me because I have a tough skin and don’t read THAT many tweets. I feel for women who are harassed, I feel for any kids that get bullied – I just wish people would remember that the person being mean to you is more afraid of themselves than anything and them lashing out is just them demonstrating how much they hate themselves. No two ways around it.

That being said, I think having a direct connection to fans gives you insight and, if you do it right, you can really lean on them in times of need – I look at my fans like a big group who is all in on a great inside jokes. I love them so much. They are my #PartyGoblins. And yes, I use social media as a remedy to how bored I am (sadly) with every moment my mind isn’t occupied with something worthy of my full attention – like most conversations.

What kind of humor can a crowd of college students expect from your live set? Do you have different material than you’d normally perform?

Do you guys like blood? Do you like balloon art? No? I’d say go watch my Netflix special to prepare, and then come to me with your Raptor Claw sharpened and an open mind.

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