Shalom Life | September 02, 2014

EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Comedian & 'Excused' Host, Iliza Shlesinger

Iliza talks Last Comic Standing, Excused, being raised Jewish in Texas, and her plans for the future

By: Ashley Baylen

Published: May 4th, 2012 in Culture » Society » Interviews

EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Comedian & 'Excused' Host, Iliza Shlesinger

Raised in Dallas, Iliza Shlesinger moved to Los Angeles after graduating from Emerson College, to pursue a career in comedy. Iliza is the youngest and only female comedian to win NBC's Last Comic Standing. She has made guest appearances on NBC'S Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Comedy Central's Live at Gotham, E! Network's Chelsea Lately, The Soup, NBC'S Last Call with Carson Daily, Showtime's Pauly Shore and Friends, Showtime's Bridging the Gap Comedy Festival, and she is featured in the comedy documentary I am Comic.

Iliza had her own half hour comedy special on Comedy Central, and has performed stand up at hundreds of clubs, colleges, and festivals including Montreal's Just For Laughs.

Iliza is currently the host of CBS' syndicated dating show, Excused, which is going into second season, and is in development for her own late night talk show pilot for VH1. Iliza also writes and stars in her comedy news show, The Weakly News, on www.thestream.tv, and just completed filming a role in Diablo Cody's latest, Lamb of God.

Iliza sat down with Shalom Life to discuss being raised Jewish in Dallas (only 45,000 Jews with over 2 million population), being a woman in the comedy world, and her plans for the future.

Fore more info on Iliza, check her out at www.iliza.com or @iliza.

Ashley Baylen (AB): What initially sparked your interest in comedy?

Iliza Shlesinger (IS): I've always been funny. From the time I was little, I just always knew I'd be funny for a living- which is a blessing and a curse. Would have been fun to try and do something else for a living, like be normal...or office management.

AB: What comedians were you inspired by growing up, and now?

IS: I loved sketch comedy. So for me it was sketches- SNL, Kids In the Hall, In Living Color etc. It was always the colorful characters created by the people on those shows more than actual stand up comedians. But I did love Paula Poundstone and Ellen.

AB: What was it like growing up Jewish in Texas?

IS: It was, weird...at times. It's weird when all your friends are Christian and they do fun church events and have their Christian organizations and all bond over that and you can't do their events because you have Hebrew school on Wednesday nights. I'd feel left out. I was never ashamed of being Jewish but one tends to feel left out and a little out of place when you're prayers involve a foreign language.

When I switched from a gigantic public middle school to a smaller private school, where there were more Jews (duh) and I felt more a part of something. For every synagogue in Dallas there are fifteen churches...on that block.

AB: You were not only the first female winner of Last Comic Standing, but also the youngest. Do you believe female comedians are viewed differently in the comedy world?

IS: I didn't, for a long time- but now I do. I think women are put on pedestals in our society and when a woman doesn't fall within the confines of what they're expected to be they can be ridiculed for it...or praised. You can watch my act and think "wow, she's aggressive...I hate that" or watch it and think "wow, she's aggressive, this is hilarious"- so really, while a girl might have a bit more to prove to an audience, as long as she's funny, it doesn't matter. Truthfully girls have an advantage over guys because a funny girl (really funny, not shocking dick joke funny- like most of the garbage out there) is a rarity and will, therefore, get more attention. If women comics spent their time writing better jokes vs complaining and writing "morning after pill jokes" they'd be a lot farther in their careers.

AB: I know you studied film in college. Are you still interested in pursuing a career in the movie biz?

IS: No, I hope to host a dating show until I'm 50 then come out with a line of cat inspired negligees. Kidding. I audition for a lot of major movies- and the past spring I got one, I got a small part in the new Diablo Cody directed movie "Lamb of God" with Russell Brand- I've very excited to see it. I've also currently pitching a screenplay and it's looking promising.

AB: How did you land the gig hosting Excused?

IS: I auditioned for it- I went in, made up my own jokes and was just myself. They said "can we put make up on you?" I said "maybe" they said "you're hired"

AB: Do you think the selection process on Excused accurately depicts how we decide to pursue potential suitors in real life?

IS: That's a good question. Obviously it's a bit more superficial, for comedy/time sake on our show but I think first impressions are key. Usually on our show, someone is given a chance because they're hot, but...if they prove to be annoying, they're often excused. Good looks only go so far...unless you're REALLY good looking- then you can pretty much do what you want...sadly. In terms of first impressions and looks being important...Our show often proves that personality is ultimately most important but, you can't check out a personality from across a room. That's why looks get you past the front door, but attitude keeps you there.

AB: Do you ever feel guilty throwing insults (witty, mind you) at the people that are rejected on the show?

IS: No. If you get rejected it's on you, I didn't reject you, the other people on the show did, I just break the news to you. I would also never hit below the belt. I'd never call a girl fat, I'd never say a guy is ugly- there are certain things you just don't do. I can only make fun of what you provide me with...so if you act like jackass, you'll get treated like one. I've had my share of polite "excusals"- people usually leave the house with a smile. If they can't take a joke, that's on them.

AB: What's next for you?

IS: We are currently shooting the 2nd season of Excused. We're doing 100 episodes, last year we did 130. In addition to that I just did a set on Comedy Central's "John Oliver and Friends" and I just shot a late night talk show pilot for for VH1, so fingers crossed. I also just had a part in the new Diablo Cody movie "Lamb of God" which should be out soon. In addition to that in the next few months I'll be shooting my second comedy CD as well as my hour special. I also hope to figure out a way to mouth kiss my dog without her feeling violated.

Joan Rivers to Remain on Life Support Joan Rivers to Remain on Life Support TrendingMelissa Rivers is “Keeping Fingers Crossed” For Joan’s Recovery Melissa Rivers is “Keeping Fingers Crossed” For Joan’s Recovery TrendingLena Dunham: Leaking Nude Photos is a Sex Offense Lena Dunham: Leaking Nude Photos is a Sex Offense Trending
 

Belgian Activists Pour Fake Blood at Airport in Protest of Israel

September 02, 2014 | By Daniel Koren
Belgian Activists Pour Fake Blood at Airport in Protest of Israel

Members of Lilith, a Belgian-based women's rights movement, claim the airport is being used to transport arms to Israel

Read More

Howie Mandel Asks Fans For Money to Bring Back ‘Bobby’s World’ [VIDEO]

September 02, 2014 | By Ashley Baylen
Howie Mandel Asks Fans For Money to Bring Back ‘Bobby’s World’ [VIDEO]

The 'America's Got Talent' judge wants you to pay for the return of his popular animated series.

Read More

Sarah Silverman on Joan Rivers’ Coma: Stop Being Ridiculous!

September 02, 2014 | By Ashley Baylen
Sarah Silverman on Joan Rivers’ Coma: Stop Being Ridiculous!

The 'We Are Miracles' comedian urges Rivers to get better the only way she knows how humor.

Read More

Joan Rivers to Remain on Life Support

September 02, 2014 | By Ashley Baylen
Joan Rivers to Remain on Life Support

Rivers' daughter Melissa has confirmed that her mother will stay on life support at this juncture.

Read More

Charlie Sheen Condemns Danish Government Over Whale Slaughter

September 02, 2014 | By Ashley Baylen
Charlie Sheen Condemns Danish Government Over Whale Slaughter

The 'Anger Management' star accused Danish authorities for being complicit in the "brutal slaughter" of pilot whales.

Read More

Jay Leno to Perform at Launch of UJA Campaign 2015

September 02, 2014 | By Dan Horowitz
Jay Leno to Perform at Launch of UJA Campaign 2015

The iconic television personality and former Tonight Show host will be in Toronto for the September 10 event

Read More

Infamous Canadian Nazi Running for Office

September 02, 2014 | By Daniel Koren
Infamous Canadian Nazi Running for Office

72-year-old white supremacist John Beattie, who founded the Canadian Nazi party decades ago, is running for deputee reeve in the small cottage-country town of Minden Hills

Read More

Israeli Designer Showcased in New Hunger Games Film

September 02, 2014 | By Ynet News
Israeli Designer Showcased in New Hunger Games Film

One of the new characters to be introduced in Mockingjay will be wearing an Alon Livne dress

Read More

More Headlines