You may know her as the Elder Millennial, but Iliza Shlesinger has gone through plenty of changes since becoming a breakout comedy star on Netflix. The Dallas native branched out into the acting world, starring opposite of Mark Wahlberg in the recent Spenser Confidential, and took on a more serious role in the upcoming drama Pieces of a Woman with Shia Labeouf. She’s still a comedian at heart, though, and after months of entertaining audiences from home through her and her husband’s Don’t Panic Pantry cooking series, she’s hitting the road and getting back to stand-up.
Shlesinger is embarking on a cross country, drive-in comedy tour this fall, which will bring her to Fort Worth’s Coyote Drive-In on October 10. Though the pandemic has changed the nature of live performances, the comic was itching to get back on stage however she could.
“The desire to entertain people is one that I think is at the core of being a stand-up comic,” she says. “COVID hit and nobody really knew what was going on in this landscape, and the opportunity presented itself to entertain people safely and be on the road and meeting fans and working on material, and so I took it.”
Her shows will be like drive-in movies, with the audience watching from the safety of their cars. The format is different from any stand-up show in the pre-COVID world, but it’s something the comedian is learning to adjust to.
“It’s a little bit harder to do crowd work but I’ve found with a couple that I’ve done that you can talk to the first row. While you may not hear the laughter like you would in the theater, I still know they’re there and you can still feel the energy,” says Shlesinger. “What’s important is that I’m getting to work on the stand up and I’m getting to [give folks] an outlet to be entertained. I think one thing that we forget about in emergencies like this is you need to feed your soul, and people need to find ways to feel good and relax.”
Of course, as grim as this burning dumpster fire of a year has been, it also provides some pretty good material. Shlesinger isn’t a particularly political comedian, but it’s pretty much impossible to do comedy in 2020 without getting into politics.
“I love calling things out, and why my crowd is so great is that I have such a diverse audience. I have granola snorting liberals, I have gun clenching conservatives, and I have all the people in the middle who think everyone else is crazy,” she says.
She grew up in Texas, went to school in Boston, and now lives in Los Angeles. It’s a spread of the country that provides a unique perspective. She doesn’t want to alienate anyone in her audience, but she’s not afraid to challenge their beliefs.
“I believe that the true comedy comes from finding the middle ground, and for making fun of people in a way that they think you’re talking about everyone else. Everybody thinks that everybody’s gone crazy,” Shlesinger says. “And I’m taking this as a chance to not make it political, but make it personal and social, talk about personal things that I’ve been through. That’s all you can do as a comic, talk about your own experiences and try to relate to people.”