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The Jester Interview: Iliza Shlesinger

If you missed her appearances in New York last month, you may have to wait awhile for her to come back. Iliza Shlesinger, the most recent winner of “Last Comic Standing,” has been touring extensively with her winning material and at the same time has been active as a performer in web comedy shorts and producing material for the web like “The Weakly News.” During the LCS season last year, Jester’s Blog pegged her as one of the more talented on the show, before she went on to win the competition. This past week, Jester got an update from Shlesinger directly on what she’s up to and how she sees the development of web video compared with T.V. and live performance, and competition or contrasts between all three.

Jester: How reflective of the competition was what ended up airing on “Last Comic Standing“?
Iliza Shlesinger: What you saw on the show was exactly how it was. They left out a lot of the fun times we had at the house, and of course edited down the challenges that took eight hours into neat little eight minute segments, but it was all pretty much the same on T.V. as it was in real life.

J: How did being on the show and winning change your life and also improve your career as a comedian?
IS: Being on the show has led me to do exactly what it was I came on the show to do, be a working comic. I got a chance to share my comedy with the world and gain some fans. It’s helped me to speed up a process which would have taken slightly longer in terms of getting recognition and getting to headline in clubs.

J: What is your process for coming up with ideas?
IS: I don’t come up with ideas, they come to me. I write them down and try to convey what's wrong with me to the audience as best I can.

J: How do you decide what may go to stand-up or what might become a web short?
IS: Everything goes into stand up. My initial influence in life was sketch comedy, so for years, I saw everything in terms of characters and sketches. When I see a joke or have a funny observation, I usually see it playing out as a sketch in my head and I condense it into a joke, which is why a lot of my jokes involve voices, characters and are physical. Fact is, it’s easier to get on stage and tell a joke then it is to get a camera, get a lighting guy, write a sketch, do it, edit it, post it, etc. Only certain ideas are conducive to that art form. But they both feed each other.

J: How did the Candy character [whom Shlesinger plays in a series of online shorts] come about?
IS: Candy came from me doing a program called ‘Semester At Sea.’ I was on a boat with 600 other college kids for about four months. And there were all these girls from huge schools that all possessed any annoying girl quality imaginable. So I started imitating them, thing is, they didn’t know it was them I was making fun of, so they laughed. That girl voice became Candy. She embodies all that is wrong with girls in our society.

J: Where do you think things are headed as far as comedy on the web vs. comedy on conventional T.V. as we know it?
IS: I think for a while there was this rush to get online content -- make sketches, get them on a site -- get a development deal. Well, since that happens once in a blue moon and no one can figure out how to really make money off online content, the whole thing has slowed down. I focus on live comedy, then I tailor it for TV and if someone wants to throw it on the web, great, but I think it’s an annoying rat race, this whole ‘online content’ thing. Get serious -- you only watch online videos when you are bored at work.

J: Not that I’ve actually gotten to see it, but is “Gadget or the Girl” [a Playboy Channel reality/game show that Shlesinger hosted last fall] returning?
IS: I don't know if ‘Gadget or the Girl’ is returning. I don't think very many people knew it was here when it was.

J: How extensively are you touring? … Are there more web or TV projects in the works?
IS: My touring is ongoing. I haven’t stopped since I got off the ‘Last Comic Standing’ tour. I’ve been doing clubs all over the country, I’m writing this email from a hotel in Tempe because I’m at the Tempe Improv this weekend. My fall is completely full with colleges and clubs. It’s awesome ... and exhausting. I continue to do ‘The Weakly News’ on because it’s a labor of love, and we hope to sell the show to a network. Other than that, I have auditions for shows and movies coming up, which is great. I’m currently writing a coffee table book and pitching a couple of show ideas -- all good stuff. 



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