By Jason Tanamor
When “Last Comic Standing” winner Iliza Shlesinger won the NBC reality show, the following week the comedian was back to work hosting her Monday night show at the Comedy Store. “Just because you get on TV doesn't mean you've made it. You'll never make it, in fact, if you think there is one thing you can do to ‘make it,’” said Shlesinger. Since the show concluded, Shlesinger, who gained a boat load of notoriety, still works her ass off to not only “make it,” but to stay in the limelight.
Before an upcoming performance at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, IA on March 5th, the comedian stopped by to chat about life as a comedian and the fact she was the first woman to win “Last Comic Standing.”
Q – Real quick, where are you from and how did you first get involved in stand-up comedy?
A - I'm from Dallas, TX and I got involved in stand-up by doing it.
Q – What was it like winning NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” (LCS)?
A - Fucking awesome.
Q – How much more notoriety did the show give you in terms of touring and visibility?
A - It gave me a career. I went from having no one know who I was to having, well, not everyone knows me - but all the viewers. It gave me the notoriety I was looking for and needed outside the Los Angeles comedy scene.
Q – You were the first female winner of LCS. How exactly are women treated differently than their male counterparts in stand-up?
A - "Women aren't funny" so they have to prove that they are. Honestly? Most women aren't funny - but most people aren't funny. There are just fewer women doing stand-up, so when the one girl on a show sucks, people tend to generalize. No one is going give you respect right off the bat. Guys will hit on you, they will invite you on the road and try to sleep with you, club goers will think you are the waitress - all sorts of things. But your jokes speak for themselves and so does one’s work ethic. When you are funny, you are funny. End of story. They can dislike you, but they respect you in the end. At least to your face. It's really about the way you carry yourself and conduct yourself offstage that determines how your coworkers will treat you.
(Photo by Brad Barket)
Q - What obstacles do you face being a woman in comedy?
A - Eh, I don't see "obstacles." I think being a woman who is good at stand-up makes you a rarity and therefore a sought after commodity as long as you have the jokes to back it up. Too many girls see being a girl as an obstacle and then love that it can be a stepping stone when it works in their favor.
Q – With all the venues for stand-up comedy (cable, Internet, network TV, etc.), do you think that the stand-up market is oversaturated with comedians when years ago there seemed to be only a few in the business?
A - I don't think anyone has ever thought there were only a few stand-ups out there. Any fun job is always going to have an oversaturation of applicants because it's an awesome job. You only hear about the good ones - it takes nothing to claim to be an artist: actor, singer, writer, producer, dancer. It takes a lot of work to make a career out of it and it takes everything you have to be well known and stay in the limelight. I'm working on the last part. :)
Q – Which comedian would you say influenced your life or career the most and why?
A - Comedic actors and shows did it for me: Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, Chris Farley and shows like “In Living Color,” SNL and “Kids in The Hall.” That show was huge for me.
Q – I think the general assumption is that stand-up comedians only work for an hour a night when in reality you are spending a lot of time on the road traveling or in a hotel. Aside from actually being on stage, what would you say is the most important part of being successful at your job and why?
A - I'd say the drive to work. You can see the comics that have been doing the same 10 minutes for the past 2 years. You have to keep writing and thinking. Too many people write a bit, do the bit and then sort of just keep doing the same bit - never changing it, never adding to it, never writing more. I've seen first hand that this is a business where you can't rest on your laurels. You need to always have a few projects on the back burner. If you aren't swimming, you are drowning. I don't believe in treading water. The week after I won LCS I was back at the Comedy Store hosting my Monday night show. I still do it. Just because you get on TV doesn't mean you've made it. You'll never make it, in fact, if you think there is one thing you can do to "make it."
Q – A lot of comedians find themselves on television. Is this something that you strive for – your own sitcom?
A - I'd love to have a long career in making people laugh, in whatever capacity. I do my own news shows; have been for more than 2 years. It's called “The Weakly News” and it's on www.TheStream.tv. We'd love to get that show on a network. I'd love to host a late night irreverent talk show. I'd of course love to be on an awesome TV show and do movies but I'd also love to have my own stand-up tour and just fill it with my friends. I'd also like to be a fashion model but I don't have the bone structure, or the height, or the weight.
Q – Anything you wanted to add?
A - Check out my website www.iliza.com and please add yourself to my Facebook fan page!
Jason Tanamor is the Editor of Zoiks! Online. He is also the author of the novels, "Hello Lesbian!" and "Anonymous." Email Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Jason Tanamor