Comedy queen Iliza Shlesinger is doing it all, but she still wants more

Comedy queen Iliza Shlesinger is doing it all, but she still wants more

Words by David James Young

There was a time when comedians were frequently compared to rockstars. The ins and outs of live performance between the two, however, couldn’t be more different.

A rockstar is obliged to get up there and sing every song that you know. If a comedian gets up and does a joke they’ve performed on TV, however, they can’t even get to the punchline before someone yells, “Heard it!”

It’s an all-too familiar and hilarious double standard, and one that’s not lost on comedian Iliza Shlesinger – someone with enough rockstar cred to her name that she’s practically a mononym within the comedy world.

“If people come and feel shortchanged by hearing a joke they’ve already heard, they should probably just stay away from live comedy,” she says. “It’s so irrational! That said, it’s definitely a mix with crowds on this kind of tour. Some people, who are more casual comedy fans, genuinely do come along expecting – quote unquote – ‘the hits.’

“They’re peppered in with the people who are expecting something completely brand-new. The idea is to keep everything feeling fresh, exciting and energetic. You have to make something special there that night – every night is unique.”

The tour Shlesinger is alluding to is the Forever tour, her latest hour of stand-up which is taking her all over the world once again to perform for her extensive global audience.

It’s one of the many, many things Shlesinger has in rotation right now – she’s just wrapped a new sketch show, stars in the upcoming Spenser Confidential and recently filmed a new drama entitled Pieces of a Woman. No matter what medium she’s working in, however, Shlesinger is focused on the same disciplines as a creative.

“The ground rules are always to show up early and show up prepared,” she says.

“You have to do your job at 1000 per cent – after all, you’re lucky to be in a job to begin with; to get to do this. It’s also important to approach everything differently – a film is a group sport, stand-up is a solo sport. Writing changes whether you’re with a partner or on your own.

“There’s so many different kinds of comedy, too – no matter what kind I’m working on, I’m almost definitely daydreaming about doing another. Whenever I’m on tour, I wanna book a movie – and when I’m shooting a movie, I can’t wait to go out on tour.”

Shlesinger laughs to herself, before concluding: “The moral of the story is that I’m never satisfied, but I’m always happy to be doing what I’m doing.”

Indeed, what she’ll be doing next is making a return to Australia to bring the Forever tour to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Although she’ll be performing in some of the country’s most upmarket and illustrious venues, the LA-based comic is not daunted by the task at hand. Rather, it’s something that she finds herself thriving on as a performer.

“The size of the venues aren’t that dramatic a shift from what I’m doing in the US and through Europe,” she explains. “I’m not really overwhelmed by the size of venues at this stage.

“Lucky for me, my act is very energetic and takes up a lot of space. It lends itself quite well to a large audience. When we first started, doing a 1200-capacity room was huge to us – and now, it’s weirdly on the smaller end of the scale.”

More than anything, Shlesinger is thankful that what she’s doing as a comedian has grown to the point where her show can comfortably translate even when she’s performing on the other side of the planet.

“It’s really rewarding to come back into a foreign market and see it grow exponentially the way that it has,” she says. “People that are not like me, who are not from my country, connected with my art – I’m incredibly grateful for that.”

Iliza Shlesinger brings her Forever tour to Hamer Hall on Saturday February 15. For tickets and more information, head to the Arts Centre Melbourne website