Comedian Iliza Shlesinger

Comedian Iliza Shlesinger

Marteen Deboer/Courtesy Photo

Iliza Shlesinger has been busy. The Dallas-raised comedian has a new Netflix special (her third), Confirmed Kills, coming out Friday. This weekend, she'll be in town for the Oddball Comedy Festival. She just finished writing season two of her ABC Digital series Forever 31. And early next year, she'll be back in Dallas again for a performance at the Majestic Theatre.

Born in Manhattan, Shlesinger moved to Dallas with her parents when she was an infant. She went to elementary school and middle school in Plano and was a Greenhill student in Addison for high school, before leaving D-FW for college.

We caught up with her to talk about her latest projects, her favorite Dallas foods and a bit about the State Fair of Texas.

I hesitate to ask you about sexism in comedy, because it seems like one of those things that female comedians are always asked. But you bring it up a lot in both Confirmed Kills and Forever 31, so I assume you're OK with talking about it. Have you seen things changed much at all in the years that you've been in this business? Have they gotten better?

Iliza Shlesinger

Yeah. I think with every girl that gets a chance, it paves the way for someone else, and it becomes more acceptable. You know, we're trying to move away from the term "female comic." Personally I've always considered myself just as funny as the guys. The connotation of "female" is like saying, "Hey, a girl is doing something boys do."

We're getting more chances in TV and movies, and it's getting less about "funny for women" and more just "funny period." It's something we've all kind of accepted. To hear someone say to me, "You're funny for a girl" is kind of antiquated. It's almost like hearing the n-word. Like, really? You're really saying that? OK. You need to watch the news more.

So yeah, we're definitely making some strides, things have gotten a little easier. It's still terrible at times, but [Confirmed Kills] is my third Netflix special, and I make a very wonderful living doing this. So people definitely want to hear what a girl has to say.

It's impressive how quickly you can jump from saying something really profound in Confirmed Kills about topics like sexism or racism to something less serious like jokes about being hungover. Do you ever get much pushback because of how you approach the tougher topics?

Well, no one has seen this special yet since it comes out on Friday, so we'll find out. This is my first time really tackling anything that serious. But I mean, if anybody had a problem with it, I would just assume that they're not that bright and then move on. It's for my audience to consume, and you can't please everyone.

My goal is never to ostracize anyone, and I never want to hurt anyone's feelings, and I'm very deliberate with my word choice because of it. Have I said some things in the past that I regret? Of course, I'm only human. But I try to be very deliberate.

Also, when there's gravity to what you're talking about, you can't really afford to misstep. So I can't get out there, grab your attention and have your heart and souls and then say something dumb.

I think there's an obligation there. People are trusting you with their minds and their hearts for that hour, and I take that very seriously.

I took a few notes while watching Confirmed Kills, and one of them just says in bold, "How long can Iliza go without blinking?" [This will make sense when you watch the bit.] Have you timed yourself?

It's the duration of that joke and not much longer, because my contacts dry out. I enjoy physically challenging myself on stage. So that bit initially didn't have that part, and then I added it in. I think bringing a little bit of theater and pain to it just adds that extra wow factor. You know, if you can balance, if you can keep your eyes open, if you can talk without breathing ... I enjoy that aspect of it.

You've also been doing more creature makeup stuff lately. The Party Goblin getup in Forever 31 is pretty elaborate. Is that something you've enjoyed branching out into?

Forever 31 was great because it's a different art. It's acting, and there's an ensemble, and it gives you a chance to bring to life some of these thoughts that are, while vivid on stage, still only being portrayed by a change in your voice. Getting a chance to bring these things to life on television is just another dimension of my comedy. I enjoyed it a lot. I think we're going to see a lot more of that in season two, which I just finished writing.

Going back to Dallas for a second, do you have any favorite foods or places around here that you just have to get whenever you're in town?

I'm pretty sure Dallas has more restaurants per capita than any other city [not quite, but we've got a lot], so I love the convenience of all the restaurants. I don't want to say the wrong one, and there are too many.

I don't come home as often as I would like. I'm playing the Majestic Theatre in a few months [January 21], and that will be the first time I've played a theater in Dallas all by myself.

So I'm trying to think ... Mi Cocina? I remember liking that. I could say Whataburger, but doesn't everyone in Texas say that?

Iliza Shlesinger

Iliza Shlesinger

Marteen Deboer/Courtesy Photo

We get a lot of that. I've also had at least one person say Braum's.

Braum's! My grandma loves Braum's!

If I wanted to give the answer that would make everyone happy, I would say Wild About Harry's and Bubba's fried chicken. But I didn't live in Highland Park, I lived in the southern suburbs, so, like, Campisi's pizza was a thing.

These are bad. I haven't lived there since I was 18, and when you're 18 you're eating at Wendy's and thinking you're ruling the world.

The State Fair of Texas is coming up. Have you been?

Of course I've been! Everyone goes for Fair Day!

Do you have any favorite things you remember doing or seeing?

I remember going on Fair Day and always wanting one of those t-shirts with the sprayed graffiti name on it.

I remember you could buy those little lizards that were made of Styrofoam that you could walk and it would look like they were real. I kept mine forever because I thought it was so special that I had this thing that was like a puppet.

And smoked turkey legs, to this day, are one of my top five favorite foods.

And didn't... was his name Big Tex?

Yeah?

Didn't he catch on fire?

He did. They rebuilt him.

I'm sorry, but I think the image of that thing on fire is the funniest thing ever.

Is there much of Forever 31 that's autobiographical?

I love that you asked, because almost every story in that, just like almost every story in my stand-up, is true.

[Spoiler alert for Forever 31's later episodes. Just go watch the series. It won't take you very long.]

The story at the end, where I go on the date with a guy and he's like, "Oh, you just have to let us go. I'm just not that into you," and he makes it sound like I care? That happened to me. I went out on a date with a guy once, didn't like him, saw him a month later and he's like, "Sorry I never called you." And I was like, "I don't care!"

And that last episode where we go egg the house, that's all true. In fact, the actress who plays Alexis, her name is Alexis Archer, she's from Dallas, too. We met in Dallas, we stayed best friends, we had a web show together in LA, and about two years ago she started dating a guy who did [what her character's boyfriend did]. He was cheating on her with three other girls, and so we egged his house.

It's all 100 percent true.

We've only got a few minutes left but I still want to get to know you better. Can I hit you with some kind of random rapid fire questions?

Sure, let's do it!

Who is your favorite superhero?

Iron Man because I love Robert Downey Jr.

What's one thing most people don't know about you?

I love to be barefoot. To the detriment of my arches and the calluses on my feet, I will walk barefoot as much as possible.

Who's your (non-super) hero?

I'm supposed to say my mom and my dad. I don't want Thanksgiving to be awkward.

The Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival: Dane Cook / Sebastian Maniscalco / Iliza Shlesinger

Who was your first celebrity crush?

Probably Devon Sawa. I think he was in Casper? And maybe Jonathan Taylor Thomas? Without revealing too much about how weird I am, I think I'm going to go with those answers. That's the farthest back I can remember.

What's your favorite candy?

I love Sour Patch Kids. And if you put them in popcorn, they're even better. It's the perfect mixture of sour and salty.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I go the gym. I tell people I'm reading, but really I'm just scrolling through my Instagram feed. I watch Middle Eastern girls do makeup tutorials on Instagram. I watch Korean girls decorate phone cases. I watch a lot of Fraiser. I go back and forth between all my social media refreshing pages like a rat at a feed bar.

Weirdest thing you've received from a fan?

I don't want to say this is weird, because weird is kind of a negative thing. But I have this series I do on my Instagram called Day's Wages, where I give Blanche [her dog] one bite of food and tell her it's her day's wages, because she worked so hard. She gets one bite of turkey or one bite of steak or whatever. Sometimes it will be one grain of rice, so I'll say, "Here's your grain of rice! Here's your day's wages!" I had a fan give me a jar with exactly 365 grains of rice, and she wrote a note that said, "Here's a year's worth of day's wages." That was really sweet. A whole salary in a jar!

You can buy tickets to Shlesinger's upcoming Dallas show on her website.

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