No Excuses: Iliza Shlesinger
by Jonny Moran
If you’re stuck with broadcast television and ever find yourself drunkenly flipping through the channels at 2am, you’ve probably landed on the dating show Excused. At first glance, it looks exactly like your generic dating game show— and in many ways, it is. If it weren’t for the #excused hashtag in the corner, you might think you were watching Blind Date. But if you stay on the show for more than a few minutes, you immediately see why Excused is such a departure from the rest of reality hookup shows: the host is f’ing funny. Iliza Shlesinger, winner of the sixth season of NBC’s Last Comic Standing (the only female to ever win the show), is quick on her feet. Rather than being fed lines from cue cards, Shlesinger essentially plays the role of both host and audience. She says what you’re thinking, but funnier. In this way, Excused is the first show of its kind to develop a format where the audience can relate to someone on it. Last year, she released her first stand-up special, War Paint, on Netflix. She’s filming another one this July, and she’s ready to top it.“Your sophomore album is, I think, your most important album, because anybody can do a good first album,” Shlesinger says. “You have to be able to follow it up.” Clever and cutting, she’s also a nuanced physical comedian. Much of her act is focused on dating and the biological differences between men and women. Shlesinger’s act is fast-paced and polished as she readily jumps into different characters and personas. “For me, it’s never been [as much] about stand-up as it has about sketch comedy. I loved Chris Farley, Adam Sandler, and then a little bit later Will Ferrell—and prior to all that, In Living Color, and I think that’s why my stand-up has so much texture to it. There’s a lot of voices and sketch.” Growing up, Shlesinger did sketch comedy at her private school, but found that group work was not for her. “I ended up being the only girl writing sketches consistently, and all the other girls were just getting the parts. And I thought, like, ‘Why am I writing for everyone when I could be writing for myself and make my point?’” Arguably the funniest project Shlesinger is working on is also her least well-known: Unnecessary Items: A Catalogue of the Absurd is a satirical shopping catalog which markets the ridiculous items found on Pinterest and Etsy. “It’s a pet project of mine,” she said. “I’m currently writing a one-man show about it. I’m trying to figure out how to do that on stage without just reading from my blog.” She’s currently on tour, honing material for her next special, and is performing three shows Thursday-Saturday (Mar. 20-22) at Helium Comedy Club. Tickets are $15.