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Q&A: Iliza Shlesinger

A winner of NBC’s "Last Comic Standing," Iliza Shlesinger's ability to artfully articulate a contemporary female perspective has cemented her reputation on Netflix and in the stand-up spotlight.

Donna Leahey
March 28, 2020

Iliza Shlesinger is a busy woman. She’s not just one of today’s leading comedians, she’s all over Netflix. She’s written a book [2017’s Girl Logic] and a screenplay. And if that wasn’t enough on her plate, she’s also got a podcast, a digital series, a limited-edition fragrance, and she’s on the road with all-new material.

Manhattan, New York-born, and Dallas, Texas-raised, Shlesinger was already an up-and-comer in the comedy scene in Los Angeles when she landed a spot in the 2008 season of NBC’s Last Comic Standing. She sailed through the season to become the first and only woman (and the youngest) to win the reality competition show. She was twice sent to the elimination round, where she bested other comics joke-for-joke.

Her first comedy special, War Paint, was released on Netflix in 2013. In 2017, she released Girl Logic: The Genius and the Absurdity — a humorous collection of essays and observations on irrational behavior. In 2018, she hit the big screen with Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne in Instant Family.

Last year, she released a limited-edition fragrance, Christmas Mouth, to honor the memory of her beloved dog, Blanche. The proceeds went to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, making Shlesinger not just a talented comedian, actress, writer, podcaster, and performer, but also a philanthropist with a soft spot for dogs.

Since 2013, she has put out five Netflix specials, including Elder Millennial, which dropped in 2018 and was recorded on United States Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Hornet. While on the streaming platform, you can also catch her in the Mark Wahlberg movie, Spenser Confidential, and a sketch comedy show.

Q. Tell us all about the “Forever Tour” that you’re bringing to Tulsa?
A. I’m excited to come to Tulsa. I’ve never been to Tulsa, and remember I am from Texas. I may have been to Tulsa playing sports in high school, but being from Texas, you know, we’re sworn not to enter the state. But we played Oklahoma City last year, and to date, it was one of the best shows we’ve ever had. I’ve heard a lot of great things about Tulsa. I know you guys have an awesome food scene. Tulsa seems to be the hot city that people are talking about. I’m excited to come there and acquaint myself with an Oklahoma crowd. It’ll be great.

The “Forever Tour” features plenty of new jokes with a couple of nods to the old stuff. We’ve been touring this for a little while, and the crowds have just been tremendous. I’m so excited to come back to the area, and I’m bringing my new dog, Tian Fu, along.

Q. Is that Tian Fu barking in the background?
A. Yes. She’s a Chinese rescue dog. She’s already captured the hearts of millions on Instagram, and she will be in Oklahoma. She barks because she doesn’t understand yet that the world is not a cruel place. She’s protecting me from my assistant.

Q. Tell us about the Netflix film Spenser Confidential.
A. Spenser Confidential is the movie I’m in with Mark Wahlberg. There was a television show in the ‘80s [starring Robert Urlich] and a series of books based on the character [Spenser: For Hire]. In this movie, Spenser gets out of jail, and nobody’s on his side. There’s a case exploding around him, and he won’t let it go. There’s a dirty cop and the mob. It’s about the people who go along with him, like his best friend and a particular ex-girlfriend from Boston who loves him very much.

Q. What can you tell us about the independent feature you wrote?
A. We picture-locked it recently, and we have a distribution deal. I don’t know what I’m allowed to say about it right now. You’re supposed to write about what you know, so, a couple of years ago, I wrote this script. After many general meetings, we found a producer and someone to give us money to make it. It’s cool that as an artist, you can have a thought and put it to paper, and then other people buy into it. We made an actual movie. It’s not like an iPhone movie. I can’t tell you the name yet. I have a name I’m fighting hard for, but I think my producer will kill me if I tell you a name, and they change it. But I know the name I’m hoping for. Keep your fingers crossed.

Q. You’ve got a sketch show coming out on Netflix as well, right?
A. I do. It’s the Iliza Shlesinger Sketch Show. It’ll be on Netflix. We got six episodes. It is super irreverent, funny, and weird. I wanted to make something that’s just fun. Of course, there are always social messages, but it’s not political at all. I’ve always loved sketch comedy. I’ve always loved weird sketches and unique, original characters. It’s about giving funny people a chance to be funny. We shot it in Brooklyn, and I think we made something awesome that people are going to love.

Iliza Shlesinger
Tulsa Theater
105 W. Reconciliation Way | Tulsa
April 25: 7 p.m.
POSTPONED: Sept. 26: 7 p.m.