Iliza Shlesinger to headline the Wheeler Opera House
IF YOU GO …
Who: Iliza Shlesinger
Where: Wheeler Opera House
When: Friday, March 16, 7:30 p.m.
How much: $45/general admission; $65/VIP
Tickets: Wheeler box office; http://www.aspenshowtix.com
In the 10 years since she won NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” Iliza Shlesinger has solidified her place as one of the smartest comedians on the stage today. Her sets on “The Tonight Show” and across four comedy specials have showcased her keen eye for the bizarre and the unspoken. Last year she published her first book, “Girl Talk.”
She describes her act as “a dose of reality wrapped in whimsical sugar,” through which she can tackle social issues and talk about feminism while also getting silly and busting out her popular “party goblin” character (“She waits on piles of regrets, and rags and old Tiger Beat magazines. She will awaken when she hears you say, ‘I guess I’ll just come out for one drink.’”)
Shlesinger will make her Aspen debut today when she headlines the Wheeler Opera House. She also plays Fort Collins on Saturday.
The comedian is getting married in May, which has provided fodder for a forthcoming Netflix special — her fourth — and the set she’ll bring to Aspen. She also recently trademarked “party goblin” and expects to make news soon about a goblin-themed project, and was cast in the film “Instant Family” alongside Mark Wahlberg, Octavia Spencer, Tig Notaro and Isabelle Moner.
During a recent tour break, Shlesinger called the Aspen Times from Los Angeles. These are excerpts of our conversation.
Andrew Travers: You recorded your second special, 2015’s “Freezing Hot,” at the Gothic Theatre in Denver. What brought you out here for it?
Iliza Shlesinger: You always try to pick a city that loves comedy. I had played Denver several times before and the fans were so wonderful, the crowds were always so great. So I picked Denver because they know what good comedy is.
AT: What are you talking about in the act these days?
IS: I just got engaged, so this act is very inclusive. It talks about that and the fears around that. I talk about being single all the way through getting engaged and up through wedding dress shopping and how awful that is. We’ve got some goblins in there, some other creatures.
AT: Much of your previous material has been about the single life.
IS: A lot of it was never about being single, it was about the way that human beings interact with each other. So there’s some of that in this. Men and women come out of the show saying, ‘Oh my god, I did that!’ ‘I’ve seen that!’ or ‘I’ve been that!’ It’s all about pointing out things that nobody has ever pointed out before and reveling in the awkwardness.
AT: Where did the physical aspect of your stand-up develop? How did you hone the voices and party goblins and the way you transform yourself on-stage?
IS: My whole life I’ve been a big fan of cartoons and been a big fan of physical people like Jim Carrey or Chris Farley. When I tell stories I have these ideas about cartoons in my head and this gross fairy tale world I’ve created of party goblins. So my body just moves into the shape of those words and I see clearly what that character or what that scene looks like. It’s a physical manifestation of the words I’m saying. It just comes out that way. I never set out to do it. It’s just he way I perform and people started noticing it.
AT: Through your stand-up, what kind of role do you want to play in the #MeToo movement or the new wave of feminism?
IS: I hope that people leave my show feeling entertained and uplifted — men and women, because you can’t have feminism without men. That’s just a bunch of women yelling at each other. To hope to play a role seems selfish. You’ve just got to hope to leave people better than you found them. And that’s the most I can say without sounding like a cult leader.
AT: I hear from a lot of road comics about the struggle between entertainment and escapism versus getting political in the Trump era. A lot of comics are nervous about alienating or angering crowds these days. How do you handle it?
IS: I think you just do. You just say what’s on your mind. I speak from my heart. My agenda is not to get up there and bash the president, even if I don’t like him. That’s not where my strong suit lies. I think there are ways to subversively get your agenda across. I think that digestible feminism is important and I think entertainment is important. I’m not doing a political late-night show, I’m up there looking at my audience of 20-something girls out on a girls night and people on first dates and old married couples. I give them a dose of reality wrapped in whimsical sugar. Politics, while I want to change them, are not where my heart lies. My heart is in entertainment and social commentary.
AT: You’ve worked in seemingly every media format in recent years, between your book “Girl Talk,” your TV show and podcast “Truth and Iliza,” your web series “Forever 31” and some acting. Is stand-up still your main focus?
IS: Stand-up is the thing that still works best for me. I was talking to another comic, Anjelah Johnson, about this yesterday and we were saying, ‘If we didn’t have stand-up we would be waitresses.’ I think I’ve booked like one acting gig ever, and its not for a lack of trying. I’ve read for a lot of the major movies that you see, a lot of shows you see on TV. I’ve had five of my own late night pilots. But it’s not the public’s job to see that. When you see an Olympic athlete you don’t see them training for years, you just see them on the Olympics. Behind every celebrity you see, there’s a lot of failure.
I’m lucky to have supportive fans who allow me to express myself on stage and pay me for it, which is the insane part.
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