JFL NorthWest comedy festival profiles – Iliza

Comedian Iliza plays the Vogue Theatre Feb. 17 as part of JFL Northwest.

Big things are coming in 2017 from Iliza. The comedian, born Iliza Shlesinger in Dallas in 1983, already has three Netflix specials and her first headlining theatre tour (along with countless nightclub appearances) to her name.

But the new year will add a talk show and a book to the resumé of the 2008 (and, so far, only female) winner of NBC’s Last Comic Standing. More theatre dates are also coming, including an appearance Feb. 17 at the Vogue Theatre (918 Granville St.) in Vancouver as part of the JFL NorthWest comedy festival (Feb. 16-25). We chatted with the Dallas-born, L.A.-based comic about leaving politics out of her stand-up, fan-made swag, and keeping her dog Blanche warm on tour.

Q: This is your first headlining theatre tour. How has that been going?

A: We sold out about 1600 at the Nourse Theatre in San Francisco, and we had about 1400 in Seattle the night before. The crowds were great. It’s nice to be able to travel around Christmas time. It’s a mini-vacation. And I love Seattle because it’s close to Vancouver. I think Vancouver might be my favourite city in North America. I love going to Vancouver. I look forward to those gigs every year.

Q: You don’t do a lot of political humour onstage, but you are political elsewhere, like your Twitter feed and podcast (Truth and Iliza). Are you selective about where you air your views?

A: For sure. Before the election, there was almost this blanket of acceptance. We were allowed to scream and shout over Twitter. You wanted to make your position heard. Your Twitter account is yours and people don’t pay for that. And it’s different if people pay to see you and you’re just going to go off. If you don’t like my Twitter account, whether it’s political opinion, social opinion, views on women, pictures of my dog, you don’t have to follow it, I invite anyone to unfollow that has a problem with that.

But yeah, I definitely choose where it’s appropriate. People are also more vocal online, and then more subdued in person. But I definitely keep it to myself onstage. Nothing divides a room more than politics, and I’m trying to bring everyone together. I’ll say, “I want to talk about Donald Trump.” And half the room will cheer, and half the room will boo. And then I’ll say, “I’m just kidding. I want to talk about my last trip to Las Vegas.” And everyone’s almost relieved that we’re going to talk about something with some levity. That’s my job – my job is to make people aware, but I also have a social agenda. I want people to feel good, I want women to feel good. I want my generation to be better. There’s a lot of things I insert in my own comedy. But first and foremost, you make them laugh. You can make any political point. As long as it’s funny.

Marteen Deboer photo.

Q: For a long time, a dream of yours has been to have your own talk show, and that’s about to happen. How is that going?

A: It’s going great. We’re not making a pilot, we’re delivering a script bible. That’s where you write out your ideas for the show, you outline several episodes detailing what kind of segments you want to do. We’ve written that, we’ve hired some writers. We’ve gone set shopping. So we’re looking forward to the first quarter of 2017, or maybe spring to get that going. It’s been a dream of mine. It’s pretty much all I’ve wanted. I’ve done four pilots before. So this didn’t happen overnight.

Q: There’s this thing among your fans where they make their own swag, like T-shirts. How did that come about?

A: I don’t know. In my second-to-last special, Freezing Hot, I put in all these hashtags. I put in hashtags because I wanted people to follow along and interact with it. It kind of took on a life of its own. Maybe because I didn’t have T-shirts, people just started making them. It just became a thing. And now it’s kind of snowballed, where people make costumes for the show. They not only make shirts, they bring gifts, they even bring gifts for Blanche. I was in Edmonton and somebody made her a scarf so she wouldn’t be cold. It’s just so thoughtful.

And I think it speaks to – the greatest pleasure in my life is relating to people. I think that people hear the jokes, and the jokes resonate with them, whether in content or shape of the words, and people like to be part of it. So they take their favourite bits and make these shirts. What’s so cool about it is, I have my favourites, and it’s interesting to see what people gravitate towards. It reinforces the idea that the art, once you put it out there, is theirs now, it’s no longer mine.

Q: How is Blanche enjoying her scarf in Los Angeles?

A: We were just in Seattle where it was chilly. So I had her wearing one of her sweaters.

For more info on JFL NorthWest, including a full lineup, schedule, and tickets, visit jflnorthwest.com.

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