Vegas Bound Iliza Shlesinger Talks About the Double Edged Sword of Winning Last Comic Standing

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Ever since she can remember, Iliza Shlesinger knew that comedy would be a major part of her future.  “It was a given, like you’re going to get old one day. It’s something you just always know,” Shlesinger said in an interview with The Interrobang. “My parents were funny, and I always wanted to be funny. Getting the teacher to laugh, getting the other kids to laugh, that was always my goal. Making people laugh is important to my soul, to my being.”

Shlesinger will be performing as part of the Lipshtick comedy series on November 15 at The Venetian in Las Vegas, Nevada.

It was a double-edged sword. Winning was a Cinderella story, but it was both a blessing and a curse.

A native of Dallas, she relocated to California after graduating from college and set out to pursue a career in comedy. She took her brand of observational, reflective comedy to the clubs and began honing her stand-up act with short sets. With barely three years under her belt, Shlesinger struck gold, winning the sixth Last Comic Standing competition in 2008. That win catapulted Shlesinger up the stand-up ranks.

It was a “double-edged sword,” Shlesinger said. “Winning Last Comic Standing was a Cinderella story, but it was both a blessing and a curse,” she said. Here she was, a comedy newcomer scoring national recognition, exposure on NBC, and a $250,000 cash prize. She knew other comics were sniping at her. She knew some people said she didn’t “deserve” it. She worked hard to put any critics out of her mind. “I had to erase the word ‘deserve’ from my vocabulary,” she said. “There were things I thouExcusedght I had ‘deserved’ that didn’t happen for me. That’s the nature of entertainment. People who ‘aren’t funny’ get sit-coms or become movie stars. It’s all subjective. If I had just won the contest and never done anything else, that would be one thing. But I’ve gone on to do a Netflix special (War Paint), I did a Comedy Central Presents special, I’ve done Late Night with . I’ve done a lot more since Last Comic Standing. Not that I feel that I need to prove myself to anybody, but any attitude I got back then, I don’t get as much anymore.”

In fact, Shlesinger has cultivated a devoted and passionate fan following. Her special, War Paint reached number-one on the iTunes charts. She hosted Excused, a syndicated reality-based dating show from 2011 through 2013, taping 230 episodes. She scored a role in the Diablo Cody-directed film, Paradise alongside Russell Brand and Holly Hunter, and she is currently working on pilots for several potential television projects.

She said she was extremely fortunate to be involved with “Excused”, which gave her an opportunity to flex her improv muscles and make the show her own.  “Everything that came out of my mouth, other than the standard introduction and commercial breaks, I made up on the spot,” Shlesinger said. “I told them from the beginning – if you want a pretty girl to stand there and read cue cards, then you’ve got the wrong girl. If you want a kind-of cute girl to have fun with it, I can do that.”

Shlesinger has a tendency to downplay her looks at times. Like her early success with Last Comic Standing, she said her appearance can be both a blessing and a curse.  There’s a reason why many comics rely on self-deprecation in their routines. No one wants their clowns to be beautiful people. Shlesinger said she tried to find a balance. The most important thing, she said, is staying true to herself.

“I wasn’t raised as a model or anything. I didn’t have things given to me because of how I looked,” she said. “When I’m on stage, I tend to dress down. I don’t wear little short skirts or anything. I guess I get some attention because I work in an industry where many people are unattractive. You can’t allow other people’s insecurities about themselves to affect your self-image. Some comics are fat and they use that in their act. My comedy is just based on my life and who I am, and this is who I am.”

She said she is looking forward to performing as part of the Lipshtick series, which also includes , , , , and .  Shlesinger said her Lipshtick show at the Venetian will be a mix of new material and popular favorites. She said she is constantly working on new material, keeping her eyes open for universal experiences and pop culture references that might find their way into her act.  “I’m honored to be part of this series,” Shlesinger said. “You have some of the best working comedians out there performing as part of Lipshtick. It’s really an elite group of women, and I’m happy to be among them.”


 

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Iliza will be performing  in “Lipshtick” with Fortune Feimster on November 15 at the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas. To get tickets, visit http://www.venetian.com/lipshtick.html

Lipshtick: the Perfect Shade of Stand Up” marks the first time in the history of Las Vegas entertainment that a comedy stage will be performed on exclusively by female performers. Some of the funny women that have already headlined at the Sands Showroom include Heather McDonald and Iliza Schlesinger, Rita Rudner, Joy Behar and Caroline Rhea and Wendy Liebman.

Upcoming Lipshtick Shows

  • November 7 & 8:  Barr
  • November 15th Iliza Shlesinger and Fortune Feimster
  • November 22nd Loni Love
  • November 28 & 29: Whitney Cummings
  • December 26 & 27: Lisa Lampanelli
  • January 2, 3: Whitney Cummings

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Dan Murphy is a freelance writer in Buffalo. Pre-order his new book documenting the rise of women’s wrestling from sideshow to WWE main event on Amazon.com, "Sisterhood of the Squared Circle: The History and Rise of Women’s Wrestling"
Dan Murphy
Dan Murphy
Dan Murphy is a freelance writer in Buffalo. Pre-order his new book documenting the rise of women’s wrestling from sideshow to WWE main event on Amazon.com, "Sisterhood of the Squared Circle: The History and Rise of Women’s Wrestling"