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Comedian Iliza Shlesinger chats with the BCSE about her (snowy) return to Boston

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Comedian Iliza Shlesinger returns to Boston on Friday, February 7, to headline The Wilbur Theatre at 10:00 p.m.. The Dallas, Texas native, who briefly attended Boston’s Emerson College, is spending some time on the road these days to fine-tune an all-new hour of material that will be worked into a brand new special later this year. As the youngest-ever (and first female) winner of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing”, Iliza recently took some time to chat with the Boston Comedy Scene Examiner about her career and the upcoming new season of LCS.

BCSE: Hi Iliza, how are you?

IS: I’m good, how are you?

BCSE: I’m doing well, thanks. So you’re coming to Boston just in time for a whole bunch of snow.

IS: Oh, well, good. I haven’t seen snow in a long time, so I’m okay with that.

BCSE: Fantastic, so it’s got to be exciting coming back to your old stomping grounds.

IS: It’s cool. I mean, I’ve been back to Boston once or twice before that, but you know it’s – I went to Emerson which is right next to the Wilbur, and it’s just kind of cool to be there and be performing alone, like on – it is kind of cool. It also kind of doesn’t affect me at all, but I was physically on the campus for like a year-and-a-half, but it is cool, and I love Boston, so it would be nice to revisit it as an adult.

BCSE: Definitely.

IS: Yeah.

BCSE: So I loved your last special, one of my favorites.

IS: Oh, thank you.

BCSE: Absolutely delightful, and it’s led me to want to know when can we expect something more from you?

IS: I’ll tell you exactly when! Pretty much when that one came out, and they called me and they were like, ‘When do you want to do a second one?’ So I set the time frame for June-July. I pretty much just booked up all of the spring doing as many shows as possible. Right now, I’ve got about 40 brand new minutes, and so I’d like to bump that up to around 60 and polish it, and we’re well on our way, so definitely this summer, we’ll tape a new one.

BCSE: Awesome, that’s great news.

IS: Yeah, I’m excited.

BCSE: I’m curious to know what you think of the whole resurgence of ‘Last Comic Standing’.

IS: I think it’s great. I think the show deserves a breath of life into it. With social media being what it is now – it wasn’t quite that when I was on it – comics are just getting more and more platform to do this stuff, and I hope that the show concentrates more on standup, and less on ridiculous challenges, this time. I think that makes the show more valid than ‘how funny can be in a room full of dwarves at a Hibachi restaurant? which is one challenge we had to do. So I hope that the show comes back in full effect and people watch it for the good comedy, not for the shtick.

BCSE: Definitely, I couldn’t agree more with you on that one. So, as a woman in comedy – now, I talk to so many male comics, so whenever I get to talk to a female, I have to ask – you know, if any, what have you faced in terms of any struggles as a woman in the industry?

IS: You know, it’s a subject I normally don’t talk about, and here’s why. When I first started, I had a very easy intro to standup because I won ‘Last Comic Standing,’ and so I did it for three years, and then I won the show, so it was kind of a Cinderella story. So it was hard for me to fully understand it. Then, that kind of died down and now I just have my regular career. I truly don’t think at this stage, where more and more women are getting accepted and getting to do things – and I’ve always said this from the beginning - I really think it’s about being funny and it’s less about being a woman. I do think, in TV and movies we’ve got a long way to go in terms of letting girls just be funny, and getting to do guy parts.

I mean, I go out for pilot season every year and everything I read, the girl either tells disgusting dick jokes, or they act like guys, and it’s just totally unrealistic, so, I think in terms of TV and movies, people don’t or aren’t quite ready to let women off the leash yet. But I do think in standup, while there is that preconceived notion that girls aren’t funny, that’s going away more and more. And what you are seeing is a lot of girls blaming their gender and it’s like, ‘No, you got up there, told a disgusting joke about fucking five dudes, and like Plan B and condoms, that’s totally un-relatable. No one laughed because your joke isn’t authentic, it wasn’t real at all and it wasn’t funny. It’s not because you’re a woman. It’s because you chose to marginalize yourself with material only girls think they need to talk about.’

So, and if you’re the funniest girl – I’ve been saying this since day one - if you’re the funniest one on a line-up, and you’re a girl, you’re going to get more recognition because you’re a girl. So don’t use it as a stepping stone one second and then a crutch another second. Go home and write some better material. And that’s anyone. I actually feel bad for the average white 30-something male comic because there’s a hell of a lot more of them than there are of any other – and so that’s got to be tough, but plenty of comics stand out. Really, at the end of the day, it’s ‘Are you funny? Do you have what it takes? Are you tough?’ Because nobody is going to feel bad for you. It’s not, ‘Oh, my god, I’m a girl.’ On an average Saturday night, if I do three shows in LA, I’m typically the only girl on that lineup, and that’s not because they feel bad for me. It’s because I can hang with the other comics. There’s no reason another girl can’t do that.

BCSE: Yeah, exactly. I’m so glad you say that because I kind of see it the same way. You know, it really comes down to the jokes. I think it’s easy for some women to sort of fall back on the ‘blame game’ and be like, ‘Oh, it’s tough as a woman, but yeah, I totally agree with you.

IS: And you know what? It is tough. There are a lot of things that happen that you don’t really realize are tough until it happens. I had an audition the other day and the director thought it was okay to contact me outside of the context of an audition, and ask me out. That – and, of course, the answer is no, but things like that where women don’t get that. You’re not going to get a woman calling like a hot guy like, ‘Oh, go out with me.’ Women have to live in that world, and that is unfortunate, and you can either rise above it – maybe you pay a price, maybe you don’t – or you can play into it. There’s this horrible article in Gawker that was brought to my attention about someone trying to peg Jerry Seinfeld as a racist because he was saying, ‘I don’t care about --.’ You know, your comedy isn’t about appealing to everyone. It’s not about your color, your race or your gender. It’s just, you know, basically ‘funny is funny,’ and I really subscribe to that for comedy. I think when a woman walks on stage, you’re more likely to kind of cringe at first, and even – you know, I get that because of our reputation, but if you’re good, you’re good, and no one can take that away from you. Sorry, it’s like a “hot button” issue for me. I hate whiners.

BCSE: Me, too, no. I’m totally behind you, like you know, especially as a woman, when I hear about that, it just kind of frustrates me because I see it like you see it.

IS: Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty like white 30-something guys that get up there and tell stoner and sex jokes, but there’s a reason that they’re not successful. And then if they are, it’s because they figure it out in a different way, or they slept with some really powerful women [chuckles].

BCSE: Right, well, I love your outlook on things. You’ve got a good head on your shoulders about it, so.

IS: Thank you.

BCSE: And we’re really excited. I think we’re going to need some laughter by the end of this week, and we’re pumped that you’re coming back to town.

IS: I’m excited to be there. It’s going to be a good show.

BCSE: Definitely, now are you bringing a feature act, or are you going to go with someone local?

IS: I’m not. I didn’t even think about it, so I probably should get on that this afternoon. I don’t know any local Boston comics, and by the time this gets published it will be too late for me to conduct and essay-writing contest and a shirtless photo contest to see who gets hired, so whoever – I mean, let’s just hope they don’t suck, and if they do, I’ll have to spend the first 20 minutes cleaning up their mess.

BCSE: Exactly, well the Wilbur will take care of you in that regard.

IS: I hope so. I think they know what they’re doing. I feel like they put on a great event. I got to get a feature. I didn’t even think about that. Maybe we’ll treat it like a one-man show, and I’ll just go up there without the feature, and I’ll just do it.

BCSE: Yeah, you know, just do your own intro, just run everything.

IS: My god, that’s so funny, doing your own intro. It’s like the saddest thing ever.

BCSE: Well, listen, I don’t want to take up too much more of your time, but thanks so much for chatting with me and we’re really looking forward to seeing you Friday night.

IS: Thank you for the interview. I will see you Friday night.

Nothing lessens the physical pain of shoveling a foot of snow better than a night of raucous laughter and entertainment, and there’s nobody better equipped to dole out those laughs than Iliza Shlesinger. Be sure to grab your tickets now for this hilarious show taking place on Friday, February 7 at The Wilbur Theater before they’re gone (and with a last-minute Groupon offer, those tickets are being snatched up quicker than ever). The Wilbur is located at 246 Tremont Street in Boston’s historic Theater District.

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