For this installment of “Why So Serious,” we caught up with Iliza Shlesinger, winner of Season 6 of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing.” Like Denver favorite Josh Blue, Schlesinger got a significant bump from winning that program — though she has worked hard to maintain her growing audience, going out of her way to perform multiple times every night of the week.
The 28-year-old Texas native also hosts the web series “The Weakly News with Iliza” on thestream.tv. Her fast, sharp delivery covers everything from current events to girls’ nights out to the vagaries of sex ‘n food — though she certainly doesn’t consider herself a “female comic.”
“I know that women in comedy have a bad rap and I know that the three or four that are good at it are paving the way,” she said over the phone recently from L.A. “But it’s not that women aren’t funny, and it’s not about one (gender) being funnier than the other.
“It’s that most people aren’t funny. I don’t do comedy for women, and I don’t do it to pave the way for other women. I do it because I’m a funny person, and it’s what makes me tick.”
We grilled Shlesinger in advance of her headlining sets at Comedy Works today through Saturday.
Warning: This video contains mature subject matter.
Do you have a joke you used to love to tell but now can’t stand?
I’ve forgotten probably more material than I’ve written. I will tell you this, here’s a joke I don’t do anymore that I should. I used to have a joke about how Americans will eat anything — buy any two pizzas and get a free cheesy bread and marinara sauce. Uh, that last part? That’s pizza. Another punchline is about midgets, and it’s hacky, but people like it so I continue to do it. At the end of the day, I do an hour-plus and only one joke is hacky? That’s not bad. I wish I hated myself more so I could be a proper comic.
What was your first time on stage like?
It was fantastic. A lot of people have that story where they bomb and it’s horrible and their friends shun them and they lose their job. But I had great experience and all my friends were there. But had it not gone well I would have still wanted to do it.
How would you describe your audience?
Most people know me from “Last Comic” and, as of the last couple years, a lot of people from the reruns of my half-hour special on Comedy Central. I have been doing the road for over two years and I do the road more than most of my friends. Week in, week out, I’m going into these cities, going into colleges and I’m just now starting to reap the benefits, now that I’m going into cities for the second and third times.
But what about demographically?
It’s really a large spectrum of people in (my audience). We have groups of girls out for girls night, frat guys, lesbians, a lot of older and younger married couples. So I think my humor can be appreciated on a lot of levels.
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever felt bad laughing about?
I don’t laugh at a lot of things, and I actually have a pretty big conscience about things. You can make fun of anything and the right person can make something funny, or the wrong person can make something that’s funny unfunny. And zebra rape is funny. But I don’t tend to like race jokes. I don’t like Jew jokes and black jokes, and they make me very uncomfortable, probably because I’m both. Well, I’m not black — but if I was then I could dance better.
Tickets for Iliza Shlesinger’s shows at Comedy Works on Larimer Square today, April 7 through Saturday, April 9 are $17-$25. Visit comedyworks.com for tickets and more information.
John Wenzel is an executive editor of Reverb and an award-winning A&E reporter for The Denver Post. He is the author of “Mock Stars: Indie Comedy and the Dangerously Funny” (Speck Press/Fulcrum) and maintains a Twitter feed of completely random song titles and band names.