Iliza Shlesinger is an American stand up comedian who is making her UK debut this month as she brings her show Freezing Hot to the Soho Theatre. Shlesinger is a sharp and powerful force in the world of stand up comedy, particularly as a result of her damning observations regarding gender stereotypes and admirable onstage fearlessness, ensuring that she will make waves on the British comedy scene.
I asked Iliza these seven questions…
1) What inspired Freezing Hot?
I was extremely motivated to put out a sophomore comedy special that blew the first one, War Paint, out of the water. I wanted Freezing Hot to serve as not just a piece where I made observations, but where I took those observations and dove deeper, offering explanations for behaviours, not just making fun of them. I really wanted to offer some insight to the way girls think and feel, I wanted to make some statements and be mindful and, dare I say, even intelligent about what I was saying. So many comics, male and female, go for shock or think just by being crass then that’s enough, but there’s not love behind the jokes, no personalisation. Every scenario I talked about I lived through, physically or in my own head, the thoughts are all uniquely my own- I love Party Goblin and I wanted to share her with the world. My inspiration was just to share in the most authentic way possible and expose my brain, heart and soul to the masses… and also a little bit of side boob.
2) What motivates you to work hard?
The fear of failure. Not by anyone’s measure other than my own. I just want to be heard on the biggest stage possible, whatever that ends up being. The fear of going unheard or unexpressed saddens me. I’m not good at much- math, sports, decorating- but I am good at being funny and I think to waste the talent I have by settling for anything less than I know I’m capable of would be a shame. This rule should apply to anyone; unfortunately, most people are feckless and convince themselves that their goals aren’t worth the effort. Also, somewhere weird in my head, I think if I make enough money I can turn my long haired dachshund into a tiny hair covered person and I can send her to private school.
3) Have you met your comedy idol?
I have a few, some I’ve met, some I haven’t. I was going to do a deal with Will Ferrell’s company, I would have met him, he is amazing. I saw Adam Sandler from across The Comedy Store once, and I teared up. I love Billy Crystal- I’m sure meeting him is in my future, I tweet him enough. I sat at a table next to Tina Fey at an AFI event… So that’s something. I’ll never get to meet Chris Farley, sadly. I’ve met others who I looked up to as a kid but… a lot of comedy stars burn bright and in person aren’t that funny, which is sad. I often wonder if it’s better to never meet your idols. Also my dad is hilarious, I’ve met him a few times.
4) Do you have any nicknames?
In high school we did a play and my character was named Bernice. So like, 3 people in the world call me Bernice. Aside from that, my close friends all call me Mew and I call them Mew, it’s a term of endearment. Oh, sometimes random dudes will call me “super hot” but that’s less of a pet name and more of a superlative… Also ridiculous.
5) Do you enjoy musicals?
Yeah, I guess I do? Always loved Guys and Dolls… Am I missing something with this question?
6) Who is the most inspiring person you know?
I’m supposed to say my mom, right? Isn’t that what everyone says? I don’t get inspired by people, I get inspired by situations and potential outcomes. That being said, my cousin has Cystic Fibrosis and I’ve always enjoyed watching how much she loves life and lives hers, seemingly, unfettered by her illness. Watching someone who has been dealt an unfair hand be happy is always inspiring.
7) What is your biggest complaint about modern life?
Oh God, where do I start. Too many people have access to broadcasting tools- every idiot who was ever told they did a good job thinks they should be famous and they have a podcast or a web show- it saturates the market, there should be a comedic aptitude test you have to take before you’re allowed to make an account for anything from Twitter to Youtube to Periscope. We should have a boot camp that breaks people down to see how much they really want it, then again, I guess that’s sort of what Hollywood does. I hate passwords. I think it’s insane that I should have to remember so many AND if and when I do forget, I’m never able to simply “find out” your password, no, I have to reset it. I can never use old familiar passwords so all of a sudden I find myself straying into weird parts of my brain in an exasperated effort to create a new password that first the security criteria like PANCETTAcatFART##1492 and that’s insane to remember because those words mean nothing to me, on a personal note. Can we please hurry up and have retinal scans on our phones already?