Let’s pivot a bit, shall we? I have with me today, entertainment triple threat, Iliza Shlesinger. The award-winning standup comedian, actor, writer, producer, and author, is one of the most natural entertainers there is, out here. Her new film Good on Paper premieres on Netflix on June 23.
After years of putting her career ahead of love, stand-up comic Andrea Singer has stumbled upon the perfect guy. On paper, he checks all the boxes but is he everything he appears to be?
The Girl Logic author has not allowed the pandemic to slow her down. She’s appeared in eight films between 2020 until now and executive produced her six-part series, The Iliza Shlesinger Sketch Show. A secret world filled with absurd characters, insight into the female experience, and irreverent yet poignant social commentary.
Shlesinger’s comedic genius has catalysized her very successful career – currently streaming five specials on Netflix, including her 2018 masterpiece, Elder Millennial which remains a top contender on Netflix’s 2021 best standup comedy specials list.
Besides being known as a phenomenal comedian, Shlesinger shared more strength and fearlessness in her 2018 book Gil Logic: The Genius and the Absurdity to empower other women and girls. Girl Logic is a characteristically female way of thinking that appears contradictory and circuitous but is actually a complicated and highly evolved way of looking at the world. The fact is, whether you’re obsessing over his last text or the most important meeting of your career, your Girl Logic serves a purpose: It helps push you, question what you want, and clarify what will make you a happier, better person. Girl Logic can be every confident woman’s secret weapon, and this book shows you how to wield it.
You can catch more of her on the Ask Iliza Anything – Podcast. Don’t you just love getting an extra dose of content from some of your favorite entertainers via podcasts? I know you do. That’s why you are here.
Also, you can currently catch her on her Back In Action Tour – www.iliza.com/tour for tickets.
Enjoy my entertaining conversation with Iliza Shlesinger.
Alex Ferrari 0:00
I like to welcome the show, lliza. How are you doing?
Iliza Shlesinger 0:17
Good. How are you? Thanks for having me.
Alex Ferrari 0:19
Thank you for coming on the show. I really appreciate it like I was telling you earlier. I am a big fan of yours. I've been watching you for a while and I've been I've been in the stand up in the stand up circles for quite some time working with a lot of big standups going on tour and with some of them and they are in my first okay bless. Yes, I did a bunch of stuff with Gabe. Joe Michelle made Leon was the star of my first feature. And she introduced me to a ton of comics and most of I think most of depth Deborah Wilson of God so many different. Carlos. Carlos. I was Rocky. And then all of gabes Yeah, they were all on my first featured I directed so they and I've dealt I just the second I got to LA literally three months after I got to LA. The standups were the first to embrace me. I just became friends with up and yeah, it's it's a wild it's a wild ride hanging with stand up specially at night in those comedy clubs.
Iliza Shlesinger 1:23
Yeah, it's it's somewhere no one should be. But that's where we are.
Alex Ferrari 1:27
Exactly. But one thing I always wanted to know, coming from a stand up, how do you construct a joke? Like, how does it how do you like as a writer, bring it together. And then the timing and the pitching and the working it out before you get on stage.
Iliza Shlesinger 1:42
You know, I'm a big believer in the workout. And just getting up every night. Sometimes you can't do every night, but I get it pretty consistently. And it really is about talking it out, you know, you will never know what it's going to be until you get it on its feet. So you can stay at home and you can write all that you want. But it isn't, I think a lot of screenwriters too, unless you say the words out loud, and you hear them out loud to hear the intonation and inflection and pauses. And then of course, there's an audience feedback, you'll never know because the way it sounds in your head, it won't even ever sound the way that you want to say it. So it is about working it out over and over. And then you know, if you get a big laugh, great, if you get half a laugh, maybe you have to switch things around, you know, it goes beyond premise setup punch, you know, there's so much in between. And that really just comes down to the craft of it, which a lot of people forego because people want to get famous immediately, or they want the joke to just work or sometimes the low hanging fruit joke just works fine. He just made a joke. He said the F word. And it was and that was that. Not that the F word isn't a beautiful thing. But you know about 10 years in is when you can really start to change and really dive into the math of it and the and the energy of stuff and taking people on that ride. So it's just like anything else. There's a craft and you got to put in that 10,000 hours and just keep saying it over and over.
Alex Ferrari 3:07
Yeah, that's the thing that a lot of a lot of even actors have standards, but they don't understand that they're it's a rarity to have a Eddie Murphy show up. You know that or you know, these young kids who just explode. And you were fairly young, when you kind of got became, you know, a headliner and all that stuff. Yeah. Back with less Comic Standing and everything. Yeah. I mean, how do you go from like, working the clubs to like, hey, you're, you're a headliner now.
Iliza Shlesinger 3:35
I mean, in my case, you Right, so I did one last Comic Standing. And in my case, it was like a now this is what you do. But the truth is, you know, anybody could rent a theater and say that you're a headliner, you know, having that 45 minutes to an hour of solid material. And a lot of people say, Oh, I'm like, I hear a lot of like comics that are like in their nascent stages. They're like, I'm running by our because it's such a point of pride to have it. I'm like, No, what you're running is a very loose 20 with long pauses for laughter. You know, that's true. So it's about having the energy and the through line to take people through that hour. And so that just comes from the practice, but you can headline a choco bucket and you're not ready to headline the weekend. You know, this is about an audience that came to see you versus an audience that won free tickets. What those clubs are for is working out, you know, my first couple, you know, of headlining gigs, you know, you're just, especially right after the show, it's just like, you're a headliner. Now I'm like, Well, I better string together, the 45 minutes of stuff I have, because these guys that I'm touring with, want to bury me. And then it really is about what you do with it, and about how do you choose to get better or do you keep doing the same jokes, or do you keep? Yeah, a lot of people keep doing the same jokes versus evolving. So it's all about putting in that work. guess.
Alex Ferrari 5:00
Yeah, and I remember Seinfeld. I think one of his specials he just, he just retired his jokes, like all his solid material, he just said, I'm done.
Iliza Shlesinger 5:08
That's what you do when you're done, you know, everybody, it's a luxury to be like I'm done. And then the next crowd The next day, they have to hear all brand new stuff that's not fully worked out. Sometimes it's just a premise, no punch line. But that's what you're like Monday through Thursday night shows that like alternative venues are for, you know, I'll get up with my notepad on like, a Wednesday, and I don't ever say like, let's try this out. But if it doesn't land, I'm like, Look, this ticket was $10 were in an alley, what you expected sort of that tacit agreement with the audience, you know, but if you're coming to see me at a theater, this is your night out, I'm very cognizant of people spending the money that they have, in some cases, that is their money, that is their disposable income on a ticket to see me and I want to give them a show. So the pressure is less there if you're doing a you know, Quick Set at the improv versus a you know, a 4000 seat venue you
Alex Ferrari 6:01
want to give them a show. Right, exactly. Now, I know a lot of a lot of listeners listening think of stand up as a very glamorous glamorous job and and you get to travel the world and and you know you know first class accommodations all the way around Can you can you just please explain to them what it's like especially when you're coming up with the selling the merge outside your you know, outside beside like this the CDs or the DVDs of your album or? Or t shirts. Yeah, that can you talk a little because that's because a lot of people just see the you know, that that Netflix special, the Netflix special? Not Oh, they've arrived like Yeah, but it took a minute to get there.
Iliza Shlesinger 6:37
Oh my god. And even I mean, there's a lot of Netflix specials, they gave out a lot. Like even those people don't have that merge, like you just had that special but aren't torrent, you know, there's so many ways to tour I mean, to put in perspective, when after last Comic Standing, we went on tour and I was hand burning my own CDs, so I would have something to sell. I don't even know what that set was my first album that I recorded myself hand burned the CDs. I don't think I ever sold it. Um, and you know, I have a very specific memory of playing the Tempe improv and you'd say, you know, that's my time, thank you. And then I run out with my duffel bag, and I put out all my own t shirts that I brought with me in my luggage. And you got this is before square, you know, you're running credit cards, and then you have a square. And then, you know, I remember Gosh, I remember I did a guest set at zanies in Nashville, and Jon reep was on and I remember I went outside, and he had two folding tables setup of like, way too many skews of T shirts, but he had like 10 different kinds of T shirts. And I remember thinking like, that's when you know, you've made it when you have merch like that. And it takes years to figure out, you know, because you got to pay for everything. And it takes years to figure out the best way to sell and then you you start paying someone to sell them and then you hire a team. And then you hire a tour manager. And so, you know, at the highest point, you're Kevin Hart, and you know, you're selling whatever, you don't even see it. And then, I mean, I started doing my own everything, schlepping everything myself. And I know that you know, when the pandemic hit, I ate 1000s of dollars and T shirts that we had prepared for the tour, of course, and those are sitting in a warehouse. They made a lovely condo for a rat somewhere. But you know, you're still you're still entertainers so you're still going in through the kitchen like that scene in Goodfellas. You know, Beyonce probably walks through the kitchen. Backstage is my my opener. His name is Hunter. He's, oh, he loves theaters. He loves the history of theaters and they mean something and I'm like, I don't I don't do soundcheck. I get there. I have someone do my soundcheck. So I arrive, like 45 minutes before I come in the back the loading dock where the garbage is, I never see the front of the house. I never see the front of the theater. Except for like in a car you see people lined up which is great. But like to me, they're just backstage, they all look the same. And if you have a second when you're on stage to admire the beautiful theater, that's great, but it's even at its most glamorous, you know, if you have a private jet, that's one thing. But these are early flight. In some cases, you do have to connect if you don't want to take a private plane, you are connecting through Atlanta forever. You're dealing with other other travelers, other passengers, I do believe air travel brings out the worst. Like if you want to know what the world will be like in a post apocalyptic situation, go to an airport. And in some cases, no restaurants are closed or you don't have the healthiest options. So there are definitely times where I'm like I think I'm supposed to be more glamorous than this as I'm eating like a power bar at a wah wah driving to the gig, but sometimes the only way to do it is to drive so it's definitely humbling, but you definitely it's definitely worth it because you get to do the best job in the world. We're on terms.
Alex Ferrari 9:55
Absolutely. Absolutely. Now when I mean all during all those those early years There's what is there a, an experienced the worst kind of experience that you had on one of these stand up, you know, at one of these gigs that you just like, oh my god that day, I'll never forget.
Iliza Shlesinger 10:10
I mean, there's definitely look, because you can't talk about that without talking about being a woman in stand up, which it's never occurred to me that I always get questions about you didn't ask this, but it's fine if we don't talk about it, you know, like, Are women funny? And that was my next question. Okay. It's such an antiquated question, because it comes from this world where it was only men doing the truth is, personally, it never even occurred to me, not growing up, not when I got into it, that I wasn't just as funny as my friends, because I was always learning and so I feel bad for the women who have had to go through it. Also, because I became a headliner so soon, I never had to ask permission, I never had to seek validation from someone because I was always in charge. And that's a blessing and a curse because you sort of Miss bonding time with other comics, but I'd take it over, you know, some male comic telling me I had to like sleep with everything, which is fully insane. So you know, a lot of that comes down to physical vulnerability as a girl and vulnerability, male or female, or other standing on stage, here, it is this tacit agreement with the audience that we intend to do no harm. So I'm going to stand completely blind to you because the room is dark, and the lights are on me, and I'm gonna hope that no one's gonna throw anything that no one's gonna come on the stage. You know. I mean, there are comics who have had that happen to them. It's not like the movies are like throwing tomatoes. I one sticks out because it's particularly egregious. I was on stage in, in St. Louis, at a club. This is a very long time ago. And sometimes you get hecklers who just make noise. Like they just, it's like this male inferiority thing. Like they just want to be included. And I and I was doing well, and everything was fine. And I, I kept hearing like a noise every time they laugh, I'd hear like, Huh, and so your first thought is okay, either he's booing or he's making a noise because he's hoping I'll be like, Who's that owl? Oh, is you? Do you want to come up here? And what I soon realized after was that he was yelling, jus, every time I would tell a joke. And oh, I just, you have a you have a choice to make, you know, like, I do a very intense act, and I grab them and we go, I'm like, do I want to stop down for this idiot? And that what am I gonna say, Hey, don't be anti semitic, like whoever makes that choice. So I went to the greenroom show was done, I was sitting there with my dog, Blanche. And the guy came into my greenroom. And he was just like, hey, love you, even though you're a Jew. And then I just remember, my first thought was grab your dog, like protect the dog, who's fine. And then I like puffed up, and I was like, get the fuck out of here. And you know, and you slam the door. And then it's a good thing that it happened only because it brings, especially when you're a younger girl, it brings into your consciousness, like, Oh, I need to make sure even at a shitty club, like there's a sick kid, or someone doesn't have to be secure just a dude, there, or there's a lock, or that they, the public can't get back to the green room. So you start to have an awareness of how unsafe it is. And it's unfortunate that experiences whether it's someone invading your personal space or stalking you, you know, you have to pay for security. You know, now I have police officers there with everything because I you know, I have a stalker, and I've had, for the most part, it's been 99.99% positive, but all it takes is one person, there's something wrong with them doing something. So that was probably the scariest, versus like a heckler, or the times, I've dumped drinks on people, or things like that. And so it's good to have that in your mind. Because when you're young, you think you're invincible. And you're not.
Alex Ferrari 13:58
Yes, and life, life tells you that you're not quickly as you get as you get older. You don't get
Iliza Shlesinger 14:05
a lot of those lessons as a upper middle class white person, but that was particularly jarring.
Alex Ferrari 14:12
Now, as a stand up, did you always want to be an actor? Or was it something you fell into?
Iliza Shlesinger 14:18
You know, it's one of those things where I've had some success with it lately, but it's not for lack of trying, and I've been auditioning for over a decade. And it's just hard, just like stand up as hard. You know, and I always respect actors because stand up, I can get up every night and practice my craft and acting you have to pay for a class you have to get a group like you can run your monologue alone, but it is so hard and I have so much respect for actors and that craft and the dedication it takes just to get a commercial you know, and the amount of luck and stuff like that. So it's not something that I was able to dedicate as much time to as stand up because standard just gave me more green lights on Not that it hasn't been difficult, but it's something where I've been able to get great auditions because I can act and I'm good enough at it. But it is very hard to get it over the top. You know, some people, there's an art to auditioning. And every once in a while it works out and obviously more gigs beget more gigs. But yeah, I just always assumed I would be an entertainer across the board minus the singing.
Alex Ferrari 15:25
So you're so we're not we're not expecting you to do with Lady Gaga anytime soon. Because what you're saying, oh, I'll do it. I just don't think anyone's gonna want to do it. Now, you you can you tell me what happened when you got that call from Mr. Mark Wahlberg for Spencer confidential, which, by the way, I loved you. And you were, you stole the show? You stole the show. Every time you showed up? I was like, This is gonna be great.
Iliza Shlesinger 15:49
Thank you. It was um, yeah, I actually remember it. First of all, it was an audition like any other audition. The fact that we had both I was in instant family did not matter. I don't think you've ever because it was like 10th on the call sheet. We just happen to both be in both movies. I audition just like any other audition. And I assumed I wouldn't get it just like literally every other audition. I did choose to do a Boston accent even though the side said, like explicitly no Boston accent. But I remember reading the lines and thinking you can't not do a Boston accent. She talks about like St. Francis. Unless you're Irish. You're not invoking a saints name or Italian. But unless you're from Boston, like it's specific. So I went to school there, I took a crack at it. And I think they just didn't want to spend their day hearing bad ones. And just like whatever. I mean, I threw it away, you know, you're done with the audition. And I was actually in Boston, I was there to do like a big corporate event. And I was just I remember this specifically because they always say in LA you know, if you want to book a gig book, a plane ticket, the idea behind that being if you want something, just tell the universe you don't want it and it'll it'll come to you. And I was waiting for my agent to call me back because it was like, Oh, well, no Friday or something. And she hadn't called and I was like, This is so dumb. Just you know what you're gonna meditate. I never meditate. I'm I want to meditate. I'm, you know, I'm turning the phone off. I'm taking the power out of turn the phone off. I lay down. I got for about five minutes. And I was like, This is so boring. I turn the phone on. And I had a missed call. And I was like, I called her back. And she was like Mark Wahlberg wants to call you. And I'm like, Oh, that's so sweet. He's gonna call me to tell me I did a great job. But unfortunately, they haven't. They have to give it to an octopus. And. And so she's like, he's gonna FaceTime you. And I'm like, I just got out of shower. Like, I was like, Oh my god, I can't look like this. So I'm like racing around to get ready. He didn't face on he called. And it was very, you know, it kind of took his time. And I'm just dabbling about, like, how I went to school in Boston. Nobody fucking cares. And he just goes like, so you know, we liked your audition. We liked your tape. I'm like, okay, like, waiting for the rejection. Like, I'm a pretty confident person. But like, no one books anything. And I just remember he goes, so you're ready to get crazy with us. And I actually went, does that mean I have the gigs? I have to hear you say? And he was like, yeah, we'll see you in Boston. And I hung up and I screamed, I'm pretty sure they thought someone was being murdered. In my hotel room. I only get a couple of those big wins in a career and so that's an end, you know, we got to have big sex in the bathroom was very real for me. But
Alex Ferrari 18:34
yes, I've seen some of your interviews in regards to that. That's sexy. And Mark, when you're sitting next to Marquis, it's, you're like, I can't even look at you, Mark. I can't I can't make eye contact.
Iliza Shlesinger 18:44
It's it was the least intimate. You know, the we didn't even kiss in the scene. And there's no, there's no lesson you take for like, hey, you're gonna fake sex for the first time on camera with one of the world's biggest movie stars. Like there's no tutorial, there's no
Alex Ferrari 18:57
book. There's no book for that.
Iliza Shlesinger 18:59
It is Mark Wahlberg. So it's not like we are colleagues. It's not like he's my contemporary, you know, so it's not like he's like a kid that I've known forever. And like, it's just, he's Mark Wahlberg shooting, just like I need to remain professional. And also, like, honor my husband, but also like, you know, it's incredibly nerve racking. And there's no no one teaches you how to act other than, like, just be as ice cold professional as possible about it, while letting him know that that was crazy. And he's just, the guy worked so much. He's probably like, I don't remember. I don't know what press what movie we're doing this for. Right? So it's cool. It was three pairs of underwear and like sweating through that dress, so it was not romantic at all.
Alex Ferrari 19:43
It looks it looks quite romantic. No, I'm joking. But it was it was an intense scene for every woman. Now you wrote a book called girl logic. I'd love for you to talk a little bit about why you wrote that book and what you wanted to put out there.
Iliza Shlesinger 20:00
Okay, so I probably wrote this book 2017 2018 and I just sort of, you know, a lot of my act for a while was about making fun of girls, you know, laughing with not at but also at because everything weird that we all do it. And I believe standup is about holding up a mirror and being like, here's what we do. And then I sort of started getting more into the psychology of it sort of, it's not enough to just make fun but explaining why we think the way that we think we're so vilified. You know, women are so vilified if they deign to try at all right? Either you're, you've lost too much weight, or your body isn't perfect, or you're, you've got to You're too, you're too proud of yourself, or you need a better self esteem. Like we'd like to keep women in this constant state of being unsure of themselves. And so I wrote girl logic as my sort of scientific without any backing take on explaining why we think the way that we do and we're always labeled crazy, but there's actually a lot of heart and intelligence that goes into why we think the way we do and we have to be so many things to so many people all at once. The expectation is, you'll be the perfect mother, you'll be thin, you'll be curvy in the right places, you'll be a team leader, but also a go getter, but also quiet. But you'll also listen but not bitchy, but also in charge. And it vacillate depending on who you're talking to. And so it's so easy to label women as crazy when the truth is, we are just trained from 1000s of years of trying to be everything at once. So it was my attempt to explain. And I think it's a great handbook for men, why we think the way we do and you have to take into account fertility and sexuality and societal perceptions, and all of these things that make us the way that we are not crazy, but very complex. And so I wrote that. And I just got another book deal. This one's with Abrams, and it's in our follow up is just my second book. It's called all things aside, and it's a book of personal essays, and it'll be out in 2022. Right now, I keep forgetting
Alex Ferrari 22:04
all my things to do. It's on my things to do. Yeah, now, you're out of all the careers that you could have jumped into, can you tell me what, why stand up with it? Like you said earlier? It's not an easy journey for a guy, but specifically for women as well, because I know a lot of females they end up it is, it's tough. Why did you decide to go down this road?
Iliza Shlesinger 22:25
I didn't think about it. I just, you know, I was always funny. I always did improv, I always made my own movies. You know, everything was always about comedy. You know, like I was the kid in school, the teacher would be like, do you want you have you break into groups, you can do an oral presentation, you can do a book report, or you can do like a video on like video. And product class will forego the information as long as I can get that laugh. And so, you know, and I went to film school because there was no such thing as like a cost stand up comedy major. And I never, I was always a student of comedy, but it was never really about stand up specifically, because I love sketch. And I remember I got to LA and I knew I was gonna be in comedy. But there's no roadmap, I didn't have family that worked in the business. I didn't know anyone. And I knew I just was like, I just got to get near it. So whether that's working in an office that does something creative. I was like, if I could just, you know at that, you know, you're in your early 20s. And I remember thinking I just want to be I just want to be successful at something in comedy, I probably very easily could have become a writer, or someone that did sketch or a producer. You know, it's all about where the energy flows. And I remember thinking if I could just get that stage time. And I remember taking sketch comedy classes, and I thought I sent in a tape for SNL, I think I gave it to an agent who probably threw it away. But I just remember thinking, how do you get stage time I didn't know about the Comedy Store, or the improv, comedy, anything. But I remember thinking if I could just get stage time, then they'd see how good I am. And I had come from a semester abroad where this is so random, but you know, they would do these open mics. On it was I was on a ship for sex for like four months, and kids would get up and they'd sing or they do poetry, and I would make fun of the kids on the ship. I'd make fun of the male interactions, I would just kind of do that. And that was based off of a one man show I had written in college. So it was just me taking the little things I'd written, expanding, expanding, expanding. And I took a couple of those jokes. I got to Atlanta, I thought if I could just find a stage, then I'll be a star. And I saw an ad for a comedy class. And it was, you know, pay by our book. And we'll give you a showcase. I was like, I don't want to do this. I know. You either get funny or you don't. You cannot teach it. Sorry, folks. And I did class. And I helped all the other kids write their jokes. And of course, I just did not like the instructor. And sure I was nice to him, but I was just like, what is this? And it turns out like I'd read the thing wrong and you had to get to level two To get the showcase of it, I met another, of course, turns out it was Scientology No. And another comic who was just a guy, his name was Tim. And he was like, You know what, you're really funny. Some friends of mine, we do a show at room five on the bryah, which was above this restaurant called the malfi, which doesn't exist anymore, if you want to come. And so he introduced me this group of guys, who just were doing a stand up show, and they gave me five minutes. And then I met some friends and we became a friend group. And then I started binding and then I started going up at the improv, and then they made me irregular, and then the communists remained mirror. So it really was just, I just do my day job. And then I would just go out and do a couple spots at night, because no one said I couldn't and no one cared if I did or didn't. But I just started moving in that direction. You don't have to ask for permission, you can just go and now there's even more shows than ever, you don't have to just be passed by someone. And so I just moved in that direction. And I never even occurred to me that I couldn't, or that I had to ask anyone for anything. And then I asked my boss if I could leave, to go audition for a show called last Comic Standing. And he said, Okay, and then I won. And I was like, I have to quit this job. And I'm out. I just, I didn't know anything about I came from I really, I went to a really competitive academically competitive school where it You were never taught girls are stupid, or girls can't you know a lot of my friends were lawyers and doctors and I was a really nice environment. Some people, you know, might roll their eyes at that. But there is something to be said for bringing your daughter up in an environment where she is taught, she is just as good. And it's never even a question. And I took that confidence with me into moving to LA and so when you run into people who think you should kowtow to them or think women are money, I'm like, Why are you getting this? You know, I? I don't I don't know why you're so slow. I doesn't even occur. To me. It's just such a different way of thinking. And we criticize women when they have confidence. I've definitely been criticized for that. I'm like, what's the other version that I'm as insecure as you and I mean to everyone? Hard pass. So just go work on your shit and be nice. And that's all you can do. Right? I've never heard of an insecure comic ever.
Alex Ferrari 27:12
I have no idea what you're talking about. I mean, we're all Yeah. Artists are artists are in general. We are. But no, but I've, I've been around certain comics. Sometimes I'll just like, dude, like, come on.
Iliza Shlesinger 27:27
I remember. I remember showcasing one time for something. It was all these comics in the room. And it's always so exhausting. When there's a comic who's like doing bits for everyone. I'm like, dude, we're all here. For the same thing. No one in this room can greenlight your career? Why don't you save your fucking energy? We all need attention. But like, I've never walked in a room like David for the stage and be funny. We're your friends. You're never gonna, you know, we all I love being around funny comics. I love people who are genuinely funny. But people who try too hard, out of insecurity and then get angry, and it's like, just just do a good job on that stage. And then, even if you're a bad person, people will still like you because you're successful.
Alex Ferrari 28:12
Now, you said that your basement? Yeah, you know, you said you you move to LA do you suggest people like I came to LA over a decade ago? I you know, you learn here a lot faster than you learn anywhere else. But for in the stand up world? Can you make it in New York, Chicago? Can you just do it on your own tours? Or do you have to live in LA?
Iliza Shlesinger 28:33
I mean, if you just want to be a stand up, I mean, a lot of a lot of successful startups don't live in LA, because we are taxed very heavily. Yes. It's really difficult to live here. But a lot of comics just live centrally. You know, some people live in Austin, some people live in upstate New York, or that's not central upstate New York. But if you're successful enough, like jon stewart lives on like a farm in upstate New York, and he just cherry picks as good as he can. You know, I don't know where all standups live. But if you're if you only want to tour, it actually makes more sense to live somewhere else. Unless you're like always flying to Hawaii. So you can definitely, and there are plenty of comics who get really big in another city, and then they come here, but you got to prove, you know, LA is LA and you've got to, I think it's a diverse city. And you do run the risk of if you stay in your small town, you start to cater to that audience. And you don't open yourself up to a bigger crowd. And when you really start to tour you just know people while they are the same everywhere, like crowds are different. So your la specific comedy or Chicago specific comedy may not play in London, you know if that's your goal, or LA may not play New York, you know, funny is funny, but it's always good to get that perspective and to get those reps in somewhere else. But if you just want a tour, you can live anywhere because planes go everywhere. Um, I think la makes the best comics
Alex Ferrari 29:57
and it's streaming and you happen to live in I like having to be one. Now, one thing I've always found fascinating about the kind of stand up psyche is I was I was shooting, I was shooting a special and I was doing a test lighting test. And I got up in front of the mic, there was nobody in the crowd, and I just stand, I just stood there, and I just saw the empty seats. And I freaked out. I'm like, I can't understand the bravery that it was the insanity of a stand up to just go up and go, I'm going to entertain you with my voice, not singing, and I'm going to make you laugh for an hour. I could I and it's always it's always that guy. Like, I could tell jokes in a group. And I can I can kill in front of four or five of my friends. And that's fine. And I have that charisma, if you will, but you throw me in, like, it's a whole other thing to do a professor
Iliza Shlesinger 30:47
alone, you and when you don't do well you realize how alone you are. You know, and there's nowhere to turn. And that's so great about the or at the Comedy Store. It's like, if you're doing if you're eating it, like there's nowhere to hide, not even a big enough stage to like, go to the other end to see what that sides like like it's, you know, a coffin sized stage and you're just like drowning in your own hubris. I mean, I need it. You know, I don't need validation. I'm in the system. Everybody needs validation in a different way. I love making people laugh. And, you know, you then laughing at you validates that all the things that you thought in your head about being human are true. And we all need these things for different reasons. But it's I've never had stage fright some people do some people don't you know, a lot of people find it terrifying. And it's weird because it is one of the hardest things to do to master it not to just tell a joke. And yet everybody thinks they can do it. You know, and people have no problem giving you critiques or advice or you're in a conversation someone's like, I work at FedEx kinkos and by the way, feel free to use all this material you're like I'm good. Thanks so much. But it's less about Oh your life is an interesting it's more like I speak from experience and I really believe you know me using your FedEx kinkos material launcher, I can make it relatable. I like to talk about things that I am things that I feel like you're talking about a point of view versus co opting someone else's point of view. And yeah, it is this inherent need to have people validate your thoughts. You know, Seinfeld you think about it like it's just the show is about crazy selfish people completely and, and yet, we all watch it. We're like, I do feel that way. Like Of course they take it to extremes. But it is about saying like, here's the weird way I see the world and people being like I see it that way too. I just wasn't allowed to say it. I didn't think I could. It was very freeing. And it's important. That validation.
Alex Ferrari 32:53
Fair enough. Now your new film on Netflix called good on paper. I watched it and as I was watching it dad loved us is inspired by a true story. Then afterwards, I'm like this disc I mean, this How much is this a true story? Please tell me did this really happen to you? Only the part where we kill him just they'll never find the body ever.
Iliza Shlesinger 33:16
Yeah, it's a we say it's a mostly true story based on a lie. And it is true. In that, you know, I did meet and befriend and then ultimately date only for a short amount of time someone who ended up being a full sociopath. And they from the day I met them on an airplane. It turned out they had lied about everything down to what clubs they belong to, what school they went to, and where they lived everything. And it was just such an insane story, which I only realized through telling the story how relatable it is and that almost everyone has dated a liar or like oh my God, my cousin dated a guy that said he was a doctor. I mean, there's podcasts about it. Now there are you know, I told the story a couple years ago but like Doctor death, or what's that one? About? No, no, not doctor death. What's the other one? The one with Connie Britton? Okay, fine, whatever. Not my system would know. You know, shows about guys who live you know, American, what dirty jobs there it is. Yes, American, to an extent is about people who just lie and we don't realize that it actually is. The world is replete with liars. And it isn't until you go through it that you realize, oh, wow, this happens to a lot of people. And so what initially started out as me writing the script as a form of catharsis and just to get it out. This movie isn't about revenge. I don't care if that person ever sees it. This was just this became about telling a great story. That's ultimately relatable because of the characters and the situations and that's funny and heartfelt. So, what comics do is we take real life tragedy and you turn it into something funny, relatable, that is art. And that was the goal. And it's so steeped in reality. So even if you don't believe it, it happened, folks. It's
Alex Ferrari 35:06
like, was it just like he just met you at an airport? And it just took the opportunity there to just kind of roll with it? Because I was he wasn't someone who was just like, planned all of this. It kind of just fell on Oh, oh, you never you never knew.
Iliza Shlesinger 35:20
I made up my own conclusion. I To this day, I'll never know. Did you know who I was prior? Did you Google once we're on the plane. Do you? Or do you? I think, you know, because there's different parts of the lie. But on the plane, he said all these things. And I think that's just their mo in life. Because I weirdly heard from a couple of other girls who were like, I know this guy. One girl said he lied about one thing, one girls another. So I think that was his thing. Now, I don't think there's anything wrong. We talked about a movie with lying to someone on a plane, because you're like, I'll never see this person again. Who cares? If they think I'm the queen of France? Probably wouldn't be flying commercial if you were. But then, you know, the kicker of the movie is this person was a liar. But our character ends up liking him for all the things he didn't lie about, you know, kindness, intelligence. And so it's a real lesson for because there is an archetype of person out there who's so insecure. And it's like, if you were just yourself, you'd have some such a better shot. Because that cannot like you're always like, what's the goal here? died together at 80. And I never knew.
Alex Ferrari 36:30
Like, how long was that going to go on? Because I mean, it's anyone who's ever lived before, you know, especially in a relationship, you can only hold that on for so long. And he lied about everything. It must have been exhausting.
Iliza Shlesinger 36:40
It must have been exhausting, exhausting. And, yeah, so I just I was like, this is a crazy story. And it really poured out of me. And, you know, I just wrote it, and then getting it made the whole other thing, but
Alex Ferrari 36:52
yeah, how did how did you get into like how to like Netflix saw the script, it's like we're in how did that work? Oh, my
Iliza Shlesinger 36:57
wish, I don't even know if netflix they must have existed at the time, because I already done some specials. But this was before streaming like original movie
Alex Ferrari 37:05
all. So this was a while ago, this will happen to you a while ago.
Iliza Shlesinger 37:09
I think it's happened around 2015. I don't know why I can't do the math. But I knew this person when I was 30. And I remember they were at my 31st or 32nd birthday party. So this is now going back six or seven years ago. And it happened. And of course, you take some time with it, you need to remove the anger, because we're very quick to you know, be like, oh, a woman scorned But really, the story is about a man score. This is about a guy who was so sad and incapable that he was like, I'm going to make women pay for it. So I was very delicate in the way I told that. But I probably wrote this script. And this was this script really is a testament to, again, asking no one for permission. And just doing so many people have all these ideas. And it's like, put it on paper, write that script. Because people want ideas. They want something that they can produce. And it's hard to produce just an idea without something concrete. So I wrote it. And I gave it to my manager. And I was like, here's what I got. And so she, you know, you take general meetings, I take them all day every day. And usually they pan out to be nothing but I was in Boston, my lucky city. This is a couple years ago, I was playing the Wilbur like doing like 800 shows and she said we have a general for you. His name is Paul burnin. He's a producer. He lives in Boston and La love to meet you. I looked him up. I was like, Oh, he's cute. So I put in some fake hair. And I went down to the lobby. I had a boyfriend who's now my husband, but I was like still best hair forward. And we ended up just having a really great meeting. And we got very personal and talked about relationships. And we became friends. And he loved the story. And he was he said he loved to make it and my whole thing in this career is like, I just need it. Yes. I don't care who it's from, like, I want that. Yes. And please let me run with it. And he did. And they got universal on board. And I teared up a little bit when I saw the movie after the fight like after we were done with it. And I saw it on my TV and I saw the universal title card at the top. Because that's substantial. That's not 15 production companies each pulling together $1,000 You know, that's, it's like, oh, somebody
Alex Ferrari 39:14
believed in you. It's the show. It's the show. It's a show.
Iliza Shlesinger 39:16
No, and you know, but even once he said he wanted to do it, you know, then begins a year of rewrites going back and forth with a different one of his producers who ultimately left. And then we got a director on board Kimmy gatewood. And then she took a crack at it. And I had to go back as the writer and undo all the edits that were made that I didn't agree with. And Kimmy was like, why isn't it and I'm like, that's what it should have been. That's what the amount of emails where I'm like, that's what I had in the draft. So she was really great about understanding my voice and tone and intention. So we do that. And this is a movie you know, when your movie star or when you've got big Hollywood friends, you can pull in a lot of favors, and I'm very much the little Engine That Could and we were like, you know what? We're not going to get anywhere. If we give this to actors and we let him sit with it for six months while they read it. I'm a big believer in like, trust an actor give them the part. So she came up with Ryan Hansen, who played Dennis, I'd never heard of him. He came in, he was like, this guy's good looking. He's like, I'm gonna wear fake teeth, I'm gonna dye my hair. I'm just like he was, he wanted to play a liar, which is cool, because most men want to be like a superhero, good guy. And then the best friend character was a combination, an amalgamation of three women in my life. One of them is my best friend who is a lesbian. So I was like, This character is gotta be queer. And we pick Margaret Cho, because she represents not only, you know, diversity and being gay, but also stand ups. And I have a great love for that. And she and I play well off each other. So almost every single part in this movie, it was like a race between me and Kimmy, like, who would give them more parts away to their friends. We gave it like, because you know, like, as someone who's auditioned, I think of the amount of times I haven't gotten it. And I'm like, but why there's this person is equal. There's no reason people get so precious about these bit parts. I remember like I've read for like a FedEx Delivery worker. And I'm, like, really, like you couldn't just trust me with that line. And so, my best friend, one of the guys who plays a director in the movie is an actor, but he's my favorite bartender at our favorite restaurant. And I knew he was an actor. And I was like, why wouldn't I give him that? That's amazing. Why wouldn't we give our friends these roles? This is like, Don't be so precious. We didn't write Shakespeare here like you can, if you're a working actor, you can handle it. And so it was a real exercise in trust. And everybody, everybody did their job. And it was really cool to see that. That's awesome. And
Alex Ferrari 41:50
then Netflix obviously came on board later on. And
Iliza Shlesinger 41:53
sorry, yeah. It was months and months after we turned it in, you know, like Kimmy did her edit. And then as executive producer, I sat there with my baby, and I oversaw every single extra time, like I was, people don't understand that, like, your job live and die by the editing. It really, there were moments. Oh, my god, yes. And you will create timing, if the performance isn't there. But it also has to do with lagging, you don't want people to get bored, so I was maniacal about it. We turned it in. And then you don't see your baby for months. I'm calling my executive producer every time like, Where's it going? He's like, universal is anything. And then he called me one day, he's like Netflix bought it. And again, it was one of those like, Fuck yeah, like you only get a couple of those screams in our career. And I think I broke a window. I was screaming so loud, the dog was terrified.
Alex Ferrari 42:44
And but you've already had some specials on on Netflix. Prior to this, right?
Iliza Shlesinger 42:48
It's a different department. Really. It's a totally different department. And because you think you know, you, no one says yes to anything. Nothing goes in. I'm thinking like, we made this great movie, but it'll probably be like, a free movie with a QR code. If you order a mattress, you can stream it on Thursdays, like something weird. Happened company like that? Say yes, it just, it was it was so validating. That's awesome.
Alex Ferrari 43:15
That's awesome. Real quick, you touched on something about timing. That is something in especially in all comedy is timing is everything. You know, it really is about timing. How you can't teach timing. You can't like where does How do you know what timing is? You know, I mean, I've got I've got comedy before and it's just like the stand up will be there and going Nope, you gotta give me one more. One more beat there. One more beat. Yep, it's what is it? It's a few don't know you
Iliza Shlesinger 43:43
feel it like musician like they just feel it right? Like it just comes out. You feel it? It's actually metaphysical and it's its nature. This is such a weird example. But your dog has perfect timing. If you've ever played with your dog, right you like and then they always wait the perfect amount before they attack again, like she like it's on the right beats. I've always noticed that like they understand the rule of three or something. Avogadro's number, what is the golden ratio? Like there's something mathematical about timing, about the perfect amount like data, data, data data, like there's beats to it, it's musical. And you really, you either get that or you don't and you can try to compensate for it or you could do what I do where you just steamroll the audience with the noises but um and it really does make or break some great comedies and you know, even dramas you know, the suspense you know, the bad guys coming stabbed with a nighttime does it too soon. It's not scary and too late, you're bored of it. So, you know, you can teach people to be aware of it, but it is something that you feel like when you're on stage. You take the audience really, really high. You're going really really fast and then you drop it down and you It is. It's an opera
Alex Ferrari 45:01
that it's, it's like it's like you're composing music on standup and you ended the great stand up, you look at there, you look at their shows, and it's just, it just constantly
Iliza Shlesinger 45:11
is like, and there's different ways just like, there's there's different ways I was at the Comedy Store last night and Tom Papa was just listening to him. He's performing. He has a very melodic way of speaking. Right. And then, you know, no, you know, some people. Stephen right joke, like Stephen shore, where there's like a misdirect. You know, there's a tempo, like Sebastian is very like denona, Danna, Danna, you know, and you get on board with each person song. Um, so, yeah, it is. It's math.
Alex Ferrari 45:45
It's math and music at the same time. Yeah. And then when is a good good on paper out?
Iliza Shlesinger 45:50
Good papers out June 23. on Netflix, we worked very hard to edit it to make sure that it moves. And we're calling it a ROM Khan is its own genre.
Alex Ferrari 46:03
romantic. It's very romantic. It's very romantic, the rom com. Now I'm gonna ask you a couple questions asked all my guests. What advice would you give anyone trying to break into the film business today?
Iliza Shlesinger 46:15
Don't do it. Stay home, be a doctor, get a real job math and help improve America? Do not do it.
Alex Ferrari 46:24
Fair enough. We're good. Now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the industry or in life,
Iliza Shlesinger 46:36
I don't know that I fully even learned it yet. Slowing down is very difficult for me. And I think in slowing down, because you can still be witty and you can still be fast. I think there's also slowing down of judgment. And I think as a comic, you're very armed. You know, and especially, you know, being a woman or whatever experiences you've had, you know, whether you're the fat kid or the kid that was made fun of erased or whatever, you know, you you build up a bit of armor. And you never want to be caught off guard. But realizing that most people are not. And these are my battle scars from just being in stand up and dealing with broken egos. Most people are not coming to the table ready to be mean. But having gone through my own experiences, with how competitive stand up can be, you start to think that way about people and it's always an exercise to remind myself like this person likes you. You know, especially in this business, like the feedback you get people judging you for things you didn't do, or, Oh, she was really rude. And you're like, I didn't even see the guy like, you know, people putting their insecurities on you. And it is a challenge every day to treat each person as case by case basis, and sometimes even give people a second chance, even if they're rude. Because the truth is, most people don't realize how they come across. And all they will remember is how you reacted to them. And as a comic, understanding people and being like, that person didn't mean it, they don't know better, I'll give them another chance before I completely decimate them.
Alex Ferrari 48:07
Now, you just you touched on something is Do you believe that there is this kind of like crabs in a bucket mentality when it comes to comics? Because it's not, I mean, so much supportive. But others are just like, they just, it's like this competition, and I don't I just want it from your point of view, like what is it? I mean, what we're all competitive, you know, like, you know, everybody, every director wants to be Quinn, Tarantino, like me, you know, you know, so, but but also in certain certain areas of the business. Like, I know, a lot of these big directors, they all help each other, they get calls, like, Hey, man, I'm having this problem. What do you think? And they're supportive, where I know, that happens in in comedy, but I've heard much more of that whole crab in the bucket thing.
Iliza Shlesinger 48:47
I think, you know, think of the bucket as having levels and success begets grace. And so of course, you're competitive, and it's silly, we're there. Likewise, on your own paper. I'm like, How am I supposed to know what to audition for? But I don't see other people doing it. You know, what, how I was supposed to know how high to aim if I don't see other people also achieving that. But I think at a lower level, you know, no one sure who's good or who's talented, no one's proven anything. So everyone's trying to assert themselves. But there is, you know, when you see big comics hanging out with each other, it's by choice. It's not because they're stuck in a green room, and there is a respect and you don't get I mean, you can always be nice to people but I don't have a respect for a ton of comics. And those that I do you know, I don't feel the need to out funny them or to prove anything because there's an ease and success, money, but success begets a little bit of that ease where you're always having to prove something but it's less about you start to realize like I was never in competition with that person. we're each going to have our own thing and I you know, the thing with women in comedy, being competitive people enjoy pitting us against each other. I've always felt my competition were other men because we Always been playing the same venues like when I go to a large theater, for the most part, it's other male comics. That's not saying women don't do it, maybe just not there that month, but there's not a ton and everybody is truly on their own path. And so, everybody represents something different, you know, whether it is your race, whether it is your gender, you know, we all tick different boxes. So at a lower level when anyone can be swapped out for anyone because it's all about that five minute set, then you get Oh, you know, and it's like, well, we need someone who's African American, we need a woman we need a guy we want a middle America white guy, you know, you start to find that own path and no one can take it away from you because you work so hard at building that point of view, you know? And so it really, the harder you work, the more success you get, the more you become irreplaceable, but at the beginning, you are Thunderdome you can be swapped out. It's Thunderdome. It's Thunderdome. It's Thunderdome at the beginning, but you know, like, I'm sure everybody wants to be the best. But I don't think like Kevin Hart looks at Dave Chappelle, like got to beat him or vice versa. I think they're both doing their own thing, you know? And the truth is, the busier you are, the more validated you feel, the less you think the less you're doing that scrolling, the less you're thinking about who you hate and who you don't. Because you're so busy, that you're distracted.
Alex Ferrari 51:25
You're focusing on the work. Yeah, focus
Iliza Shlesinger 51:28
on the work. And don't allow yourself to be pitted against I, I'll have that sometimes. You know, I said something about a female comic the other day and someone was like, Oh, yeah, she's a bit and I was like, No, I actually don't know her. And I'm like, why do you think she's a bad? She's like, well, one time and I'm like, you need to relax with that because you're trying to get me to say I don't like her. But I don't really know. I don't like her jokes, but I don't dislike her. But I know I dislike you now. You're manipulative. Be aware of other people's agendas, or do what I do, do your fucking time crush it and go home and eat a sandwich.
Alex Ferrari 52:02
And last question three of your favorite films of all time.
Iliza Shlesinger 52:08
Good fellows. Nice. Good fellows and good. Good guys. As the third question, right, because
Alex Ferrari 52:17
it's just it's not going to be on your on your gravestone. So just three that comes to mind that
Iliza Shlesinger 52:25
like to say like Shawshank Redemption, I love goodfellows Ah, like a good choice. I don't it's my favorite film of all time. But I watched the Wedding Singer on a plane last week and I was one of his best I just leave it at a Goodfellas because I had in film school I had that poster on my wall of course. Um, and I actually Fun fact, people like cringe at voiceover as a device. And I love it. And I put it in my film because of Goodfellas. I had the voiceover
Alex Ferrari 53:01
thank when that is awesome, but not as many wacky things in your film, not as many
Iliza Shlesinger 53:06
as many as I would have liked. Legally could have gotten away with and still call it a story.
Alex Ferrari 53:12
It is an absolute pleasure talking to you. Thank you for being so candid. And I wish you much success with your film and everything moving forward. So thank you for doing what you do on a daily basis.
Iliza Shlesinger 53:23
Thank you Alex, thanks so much for having me. And I'm just now realizing I should have said all the films that were framed behind you
Alex Ferrari 53:30
know, those those are all my those are all my films, so please, please read them and say that I appreciate that I
Iliza Shlesinger 53:38
create is broken and one looks like it says edge of destiny but I don't think that's what that says you're close.
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- Iliza Shlesinger – IMDB
- Iliza Shlesinger – Website
- Good on Paper on Netflix
- Book: Girl Logic: The Genius and the Absurdity – Amazon
- Ask Iliza Anything – Podcast
Where Hollywood Comes to Talk
Oscar® Winning Writer/Director
(Platoon, Wall Street, JFK)
(Brothers McMullin, She's the One)
Oscar® Nominated Writer/Director
(Boyhood, School of Rock)
Emmy® Winning Writer/Director/Actor
(City Slickers, Analyze This)
(Smokin' Aces, The Grey, Narc)