It turns out, you can go home again—every other year or so, to be exact. At least, that’s the case for comedian, writer, and actress Iliza Shlesinger, who grew up in Dallas. During a phone call earlier this month from New Zealand, where she was vacationing with her husband and daughter while working on a secret project, she said that she gets to Dallas “about every year and a half.”
Her latest visit comes this weekend, when she plays the Texas Trust Credit Union Theater in Grand Prairie Saturday night as she kicks off her Hard Feelings world tour.
The Greenhill School grad says her dad and stepmom still live in Dallas. Even though the stops in North Texas are usually while she’s on tour—and are a little more hectic—she still has opportunities to catch up with them, too.
And she has been busy. The lengthy list of things she has knocked off her to-do list in recent months: guest starring in Season 3 of HBO’s The Righteous Gemstones, writing and starring in the Netflix comedy Good on Paper, appearances in movies like the Mark Wahlberg flicks Spenser Confidential and Instant Family and the indie drama Pieces of a Woman. She also managed to squeeze in a Netflix special (Hot Forever) and a book (All Things Aside).
Oh, and she gave birth to a daughter, Sierra Mae, with husband Noah Galuten, who is a chef, last year.
Our conversation with Shlesinger, edited for clarity and brevity, follows:
So what is it like coming back home? I feel like it’s always a little surreal to return to where you grew up because nothing seems like it’s where it’s supposed to be.
Yeah, it’s always like walking into a weird dream. You know, the Metroplex has always been this expansive, ever-shifting thing. I mean when I was growing up, I remember my house abutted, like, a field where in my mind I remember them having buffalo? But I could be wrong, but there were a lot of fields and farms there. And now there’s so many restaurants so many huge new neighborhoods that didn’t even exist 10 years ago.
But for me, it’s always about when I land at DFW, my dad picks me up. And we hop on the George Bush and we go to his house, which is almost in Richardson. And then I just hang out there until it’s showtime. I’m not out a ton. But I mean, I remember when people were very afraid to go to Deep Ellum and now it’s no big deal, right?
I have to tell you that your Instagram show, Don’t Panic Pantry, that you did with your husband during the pandemic was one of the things I would watch when I was taking breaks from doing fourth-grade math with my son. What made you guys decide to do that?
Whether people believe in the pandemic or not, it it happened and it was real. We wanted to, at the very beginning, just create something safe and comforting for people—kind of like when you watch your favorite sitcom, like an appointment TV kind of viewing. And it was meant to be a place where you could get productive information and maybe be encouraged not to go out and shop every day.
So we just started cooking with what we had, and we kept at it for a little over two years, for better or worse, and in the end he got a deal to write the Don’t Panic Pantry cookbook, which will actually be on sale at my show in Grand Prairie. I’m really proud of it. And now he continues to do the YouTube show now that we’re all out breathing on each other, but it was a real labor of love and it really brought people together. It was a great way to do something positive and funny.
You have a baby now, and you’re married, but your fans have been with you since you were single and dealing with dating and everything. How have these life changes impacted your career, or even your approach to comedy?
I think any career is about an evolution. I think that’s true for anybody who has any staying power. It’s about evolving as an artist. You’re gonna put out evolutions of yourself that people love and you’re gonna put out versions that some people resonate with. It’s always about trying to find the next version of yourself and shedding your old perspectives and evolving. When I started in my 20s with almost no role models and just me, I was talking about whatever came across my mind because no one said I couldn’t. But at the same time, no one said I could, either. I just did, and I was talking about going out and dating and men and women and stuff like that. And I knew that as I got older, and when I’m hopefully married, I’m not still talking about dating.
But the lens does shift, I think, and it becomes more about standing up for women, and that small voice in their head that tells you that you’re crazy and I’m like, ‘You’re not crazy, you’ve just been gaslit into thinking you’re crazy.’
It’s about shedding light on and laughing about all the things that are designed to make us feel bad, but really shouldn’t, and calling things out, but always trying to walk a fine line so that no matter who you are—male, female, conservative, liberal, total lunatic, whatever—everybody leaves feeling like I was making fun of the other person. And I think that’s what makes my shows enjoyable for everyone.
Is that tougher to do in more conservative places though, like Texas or Florida, for instance?
You know, my parents are from New York. I live in Los Angeles, but I’m from Texas and so I have the benefit of coming from a place where I do understand people’s hearts. I have traveled enough and I’ve been doing this long enough and I really take time to get to know people in a place. I’m not a political comedian. So you can guess how I vote by the life I lead—the rescue dog, by how much I want to save the planet, and all of that. But this is not a black or white thing, and nobody pays to feel vilified. I like to explain my side as a girl. I always want women to leave the show feeling a little bit better and I always think men leave excited that they kind of get their partner a little bit better.
Final question: I know you don’t get to spend a lot of time just roaming North Texas when you visit, but what still stands out to you as some of your favorite things about the area?
There are two things: I still marvel at Central Market and the amount of food that is there.
And the last couple of times we were in Dallas, we did manage to get downtown, and I would just like to give a shout out to Adair’s Saloon and that hamburger. There is nothing better than that burger and, like, a vodka soda, a little bit of line dancing. Going to downtown Dallas reminds me of being a teenager again and going to Trees and stuff like that.