(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")
SAM SANDERS, HOST:
Sam Sanders here. IT'S BEEN A MINUTE. It's Tuesday, which means it's time for our deep dive of the week. And today I'm talking to Iliza Shlesinger. She's one of my favorite comedians of the moment, and we talked about her new book. It's called "Girl Logic: The Genius And The Absurdity." It's Iliza's take on why women do what they do and how she finds humor in that. It's the same stuff that she tackles a lot in her comedy.
So a bit about Iliza. She was the first woman to win NBC's "Last Comic Standing." That was back in '08. And since then, she has put out three big comedy specials. There was one in 2013, one in 2015 and one last year, in 2016. They're all on Netflix. Also, Iliza is currently on tour with new material so she works V hard. Thankfully, we found some time to talk in person. We met up last week at NPR studios in New York, and Iliza brought her dog, Blanche, the second cutest dog in the world, second to my own. But, yeah, Blanche was adorable and a sweetheart. Anyways, let's get to it. Here's me with Iliza Shlesinger. Her new book is called "Girl Logic." Enjoy.
(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")
SANDERS: Blanche is chillaxed.
ILIZA SHLESINGER: She's passed out. She's not even here.
SANDERS: Hey, girl. Does she ever bark?
SHLESINGER: If someone knocks at a door, she'll bark. Or, if you ignore her while you're eating. She'll be like, hey. I'm down here.
SANDERS: (Laughter). So I guess my first question for you is, like, you a working comic. You work at night.
SHLESINGER: I work at night.
SANDERS: How the hell did you swing a 9 a.m. interview? And you were on time.
SANDERS: How did you do this?
SHLESINGER: Being on time is very important to me. I think...
SHLESINGER: Part of why I wrote this book was, we always paint women with these broad strokes, especially in their 30s, of, like, you know, martinis at noon, pizza, hung over - can't adult today. And I'm like, I was up at 6 to de-puff my face for 6:30 to be on a phone interview at 8:00, to be here by 9:00.
SANDERS: And you did it.
SHLESINGER: And we did it, and, you know, and that required last night, you know, not doing something fun 'cause I had to get that sleep. I just think, you know, if people are taking the time to interview me, like yourself or the billion interviews we have today, you do the respect of showing up. You're not going to push my book if I'm not interested in it.
SANDERS: There you go.
SHLESINGER: I think it's all about respect for your art and the people that are taking time out of their day to...
SHLESINGER: ...Do that for you.
SANDERS: Well, and it's like there's this whole cottage industry of calling doing that stuff, like, adulting. It's, like, no, it's just, like, what you're supposed to do.
SHLESINGER: It's just earning taxes. And paying them. It's what you're supposed to do. I definitely have the kind of job, I could show up drunk and stoned and high and it would be OK 'cause I'm a comic.
SHLESINGER: But that's not who I am.
SANDERS: That's not you.
SHLESINGER: It just isn't.
SANDERS: Which is funny because, like, a lot of your comedy deals with the party goblin inside of us all...
SHLESINGER: (In party goblin voice) Yeah.
SANDERS: ...Which is a hot mess that doesn't like to adult.
SHLESINGER: Doesn't like to do it. The party goblin, I think why people like her so much is she lives in all of us. And we're all allowed that night, maybe it's once a week, you know, where you're just, like, I didn't think that party was going to happen, and, oh, my God. I ate the whole thing. Yeah.
SANDERS: For those that have never heard party goblin...
SHLESINGER: Party goblin is this creature that lives - it's like this alter you that's inside of all of us. And it's that night where you don't think anything's going to happen. You're like, I'm having all these drinks, this is boring. And it's that switch that gets flipped where your night goes from, like, snore to, oh, my God. We left the state.
SHLESINGER: And it's just this inner you. And, like, the next day, you wake up and you're like, my party goblin got me. It's the voice. It's like, do that fifth Fireball shot. Go with that guy. Eat that hot dog off the floor. And she doesn't say much. She just kind of says, like, (in party goblin voice) OK. Yeah. OK. Like, you can ask her anything. (In party goblin voice) OK. OK.
SANDERS: Let's do it. She crouches over.
SHLESINGER: She crouches over. She's got a snaggletooth, a tiara, a Solo Cup, a red Solo Cup for a crown...
SHLESINGER: And she's - I just love her so much 'cause she just wants what's best for you in the worst way. At 34, I don't see her as much as I used to.
SHLESINGER: But she's around.
SANDERS: Do you miss her?
SHLESINGER: No, I don't miss her.
SHLESINGER: 'Cause I like not having bags under my eyes.
SANDERS: There's that.
SANDERS: There's that. Let's talk about the book. It's called "Girl Logic."
SANDERS: Girl logic is a theory that you lay out in the book, I suppose. What is girl logic?
SHLESINGER: So women are expected to be so many things to so many people at once. In one stride, you are expected to be sexual but demure, out there but conservative, a good daughter, a good sister, mother, wife, by whatever expectations those are. At work, maybe you're supposed to be ball busting but also being respectful but also standing up for yourself but also staying quiet. We're such complicated creatures, and we are expected to do and be so many things from so many people, and that factors into the way that we intake stimuli and process all of the things that we have to do all day.
And so people are always like, just do you. Live your life. And it's like, when you're a woman, it's not that easy because other people's expectations can have drastic effects on your life. So this is all about considering past, present and future and every tiny decision we make and how we do it effortlessly in order to navigate life.
SANDERS: Yeah. And I love how you outline in the book in a way that I just don't think about as a guy simple decisions that women have to make every day are actually very complex because there are so many variables involved. Like, it's not just, do I have this slice of pizza or not?
SANDERS: It's like, do I look cool if I eat the pizza?
SHLESINGER: (Laughter) Do I look cool if I eat the pizza?
SANDERS: You know, can these jeans accommodate the pizza if I eat it?
SHLESINGER: Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, I boil it down to pizza. So that's sort of like my one-plus-one-equals-two example. But the pizza one's a great one because, yes, there are days where you're like [expletive] that. I'm starving - whatever. I'm going to eat that cake. But in general - you know, and that kind of goes back to the age-old debate - men and women, like, what do you want for dinner? And it becomes World War 3. It's not that women are choosing to be difficult. Not only do you - and this is not always, but this is an example.
SANDERS: And not all women and not all men.
SHLESINGER: And not all women, right - which, in this day and age, we have to have that disclaimer. This might not be you, but it's my journey. Do I want pizza? OK. Am I on a diet? Did I eat pizza already? Am I feeling bloated? Am I wearing a swimsuit later? Am I going to the gym later? Did I already go to the gym? You're just factoring in things.
And the aesthetic aspect of being a woman does play a big part into it because it does affect how you're judged. And you can completely disregard that, but - or discard that, rather. But it is a factor. And we like to think about that. So that's sort of the boilerplate example of it. So you're factoring in all these things in order to get the best version. Last time I had pizza I got sick. Oh, maybe I have a dairy allergy. I don't want my nose to run. My nose runs when I eat cheese.
SANDERS: Oh, that's a hard life.
SHLESINGER: I don't care. I eat the cheese.
SHLESINGER: And all girls - and by the way, I'm not inventing this. I'm simply commenting on what I've experienced. And I think comedy, when it comes from an authentic place...
SANDERS: It works.
SHLESINGER: So it's coming from love.
SANDERS: Yes, like the flatbread stuff.
SHLESINGER: Yes, I have been the girl that's like, let's just order a flatbread and split a soda. Like, do you want to split it? And it's me saying, I'm not better than you. I am that girl, too.
SANDERS: I eat the flatbread.
SHLESINGER: And that's how I know you exist.
SANDERS: Also, screw flatbread. It's pizza.
SHLESINGER: It's pizza.
SANDERS: Flatbread is pizza, and wraps are just sad burritos.
SHLESINGER: Absolutely. Wraps are just cheese-less burritos.
SHLESINGER: Non-Latino burritos.
SANDERS: (Laughter) Yes.
SHLESINGER: So that - you know, those things factor in. I had another point. But to - and we do this in a microsecond. And this also - you also have to take into account women have these fantasies about what dinner was going to be like that night. All girls have this thing where you get like a feeling. You're like, you know what? I'm feeling sexual today. And then you imagine this version of a restaurant that you've never heard of.
You're like, it's tapas, but there's candles. But it's, like, Mexican-inspired. But there's, like, fun French food. But it's, like, Spanish because the plates are small. But there's Christmas lights. You know, and you have this night planned. And then your boyfriend's like, do you want to just grab pizza? And then you're like, I had a whole idea...
SANDERS: I had dreams.
SHLESINGER: ...About how I was going to look eating the pizza and what you were going to say to me. And you looked different. And that's because of this constant inundation of what our lives are supposed to look like from media. So you're taking into account all these things at all times.
SANDERS: It's never just pizza.
SHLESINGER: It's never just pizza unless it's like you're drunk. Then it's just pizza.
SANDERS: Then it's just pizza. Then it's just give me the pizza.
SANDERS: It's a really interesting time to have a book about the way women think and see the world when we're having these big conversations...
SANDERS: ...About men and the way they think and see the world and their lack of logic in a lot of situations. I'm thinking about Weinstein. I'm thinking about Kevin Spacey. I'm thinking about how there's a VIP in our newsroom that got caught up in some allegations recently and got fired for.
SANDERS: What's it been like to put this book out into the world at a time when a lot of the conversation has been about men behaving badly towards women?
SHLESINGER: You know, these are things I've been talking about in my standup dating back to "Freezing Hot," which was the second special, and the "Confirmed Kills," my most recent one, and just women's fear and sort of talking about that and touching on that. I do believe you have to have men to have feminism. Without men agreeing, yes, we should treat women well, then it's just women arguing with each other. You know, Black Lives Matter is a great example. If white people don't get that...
SANDERS: Yeah, what's the point?
SHLESINGER: ...Then it's just black people saying black lives matter, right? So you need the opposition to agree with you to make - to further your agenda.
SHLESINGER: So you need men. And a great way to bring men in - and I enjoy doing this in my comedy - is explaining my point of view in a non-confrontational way. I'm not - I don't hate all men. This book is a love letter to women. And it's inviting men in just so you can see it. And I think in doing that from a perspective of love and intelligence and explanation, guys want to hear a little bit more. But when you get up there and you're like, I'm a feminist, men are disgusting, then that makes good guys even be like, you know what? I don't care what you have to say.
So in dealing with what's happening right now, these are not new concepts - the harassment, rape, all of these things. And these are not new things women are having to deal with. We're finally getting not so much the strength, but the numbers to be able to come out and say, I - this happened to me and have someone listen.
So this book is at times about inner strength and my personal struggles with being perceived in a certain way because of that strength, because I refuse to back down. And sometimes it's received in a good way, and sometimes it's not. But, you know, as a woman, I think what we're getting from this time is, you know, your story is yours. And you have a right to your life.
SHLESINGER: And to - you know, and that's - you know, we say yeah, but I think a lot of women feel shamed. And I think a lot of the shaming also comes from other women. A big theme of this book is what if - and by the way, there's a lot of judging in my book. But one of the themes is, what if we just let women be? What if you didn't judge someone for their parenting skills? Or, you know, what if you just walked up and said hi and gave a compliment?
SHLESINGER: Just giving that chance and realizing that women don't have to be your enemy, which is a paradigm sort of created by men.
SANDERS: Because a lot of times men are just kind of like, all right, dude. You're cool.
SANDERS: We - I don't speak for all men, but I feel like...
SHLESINGER: You are today.
SANDERS: Today I am the men. But we walk through the world less looking for male enemies, I think. And it's like...
SANDERS: ...You're just a dude. That's a dude.
SHLESINGER: Don't even think about it.
SANDERS: That's a dude. That's a dude.
SHLESINGER: That's a dude. And for women it's like an animal just, like, spotting another animal. Like, what is she wearing? What does she have that I don't have? How is she going to take what I have from me? And this becomes - this is a constant thing. And it's - I say it's constant, but it's not for every single woman. woman, but we judge. And, sometimes, it's a nice judgment. Sometimes, I scan a woman. I'm like, oh, my God. She looks amazing. And I'll walk up, and I'll just say, you have beautiful hair.
SANDERS: You look beautiful. Yeah.
SHLESINGER: It's nice to do.
SHLESINGER: It makes the other - and I close the book by saying, you know, pay a woman a compliment, knowing she took as long to get ready as you did.
SHLESINGER: We all share this heart, you know?
SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah.
SHLESINGER: And giving women that opportunity - and I do think, you know, women love to say this - like, there's enough to go around. There isn't.
SHLESINGER: However, if we can teach the women in our lives, if we can teach our daughters that you have something special, and no one can take that away - when you have true confidence, you aren't threatened. When you have true confidence in your ability, you bring in other women. You want to help people because you know they can't steal your light 'cause it's yours.
SHLESINGER: And that is easier said than done.
SHLESINGER: And it takes a long time to realize that.
SANDERS: Yeah. Briefly, just before we wrap up the Weinstein portion of this conversation...
SANDERS: ...The book is published through Weinstein Books.
SHLESINGER: Happy to talk about this.
SANDERS: And you've talked about how you're not going to let his drama stop your shine. Explain that to me.
SHLESINGER: Stop my shine. So this book was initially - you know, and I'd been working on it for about a year and a half with Weinstein Books. I've never met Harvey Weinstein. I, you know...
SANDERS: Be glad (laughter).
SHLESINGER: Right, for sure - definitely now. Happy for that. And when the story came out, I was like, my luck, selfishly. That happened. And so my book is actually the last book to have the Weinstein insignia on it.
SHLESINGER: So I was like - I was talking about this yesterday. I liken it to, like, when your grandfather, like, brought home some Nazi dinnerware from the war.
SHLESINGER: Like, somewhere in some people's house, there's, like, a plate with a swastika on it. You're like, isn't this cool? Like, they don't make this anymore. So I've got this print. This run of this first edition has the Weinstein W on it.
SANDERS: Side note - she's Jewish. It's fine (laughter).
SHLESINGER: It's totally fine to mention the word swastika. So yeah. So that happened. And I - you know, I released a statement to say, I completely condemn what he did. It's disgusting. But Weinstein Books as it was - it was two women. It wasn't a huge conglomerate. It was a - you know, a small company within a big one.
SANDERS: So you were working with the women doing this book?
SHLESINGER: I was working with women. And I said, why would I ever allow his deplorable actions to overshadow this strong, friendly, feminist, amazing message that's in the book?
SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah.
SHLESINGER: So it's another example of a man doing something horrible and a woman paying the price, as you said.
SHLESINGER: So that was big for me. And I was like I'm not going to back down, especially when I've done nothing wrong.
SHLESINGER: And so now it's Hachette Books, and we won't speak of the dead.
SANDERS: All right. Time for a quick break. When we come back, Iliza will talk about something near and dear to me, growing up in Texas - also wokeness and being woke and how she deals with that in her comedy, even though, as she says, she's a bit tired of hearing that term. Spoiler alert - me too. All right. We'll be right back.
(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")
SANDERS: So we are both Texans.
SHLESINGER: Where are you from?
SANDERS: I'm from outside of San Antonio.
SANDERS: Like, one, we Texans are everywhere.
SANDERS: We are everywhere.
SHLESINGER: I know.
SANDERS: Like, everywhere I go, I meet some Texans. I love it. Like, how much of your Texas upbringing still influences you, or does it?
SHLESINGER: I think it's...
SANDERS: You're from Dallas, right?
SHLESINGER: I am from Dallas.
SANDERS: Dallas area.
SHLESINGER: No, I'm from Dallas.
SANDERS: Did I read Plano in the book?
SHLESINGER: I did attend Plano public schools for middle school, but make no mistake - Dallas.
SHLESINGER: It's like if you're from New York and they're like, oh, Staten Island? You're like, Manhattan.
SANDERS: Yeah (laughter).
SHLESINGER: But I think - I don't know. That's a good question. I - you know, you grow up in Texas. There's sports everywhere, there's - what's attractive. I think our childhoods stay with us to an extent, so I'll always think blonde hair is the way - is the way to go.
SANDERS: (Laughter) Yeah.
SHLESINGER: I'm Jewish, so it's not like I grew up, like, roping cattle or anything. 'Cause I don't want - like, I think you can look at me and be like, oh, she was a head cheerleader - yes, ma'am. None of that - my parents are like New York Jews.
SANDERS: What brought them to Texas?
SHLESINGER: It's called an in-migration. In the '80s, a lot of people were moving from the East Coast to places like Dallas for - 'cause land was cheap...
SHLESINGER: ...And there was industry and things like that.
SHLESINGER: I only know it was called an in-migration 'cause I researched it when I wrote a pilot about it. It did not go. So I don't know. There's like - it isn't as if other people don't have this, but, you know, a fondness of country music, at least for me.
SHLESINGER: And you know what's so strange? After the Las Vegas shooting - and I love country music - I haven't had the desire to listen to it.
SHLESINGER: In the - it's the - like, almost like when you stop eating sugar for a little bit, then you don't want it in your coffee.
SANDERS: Yeah. Wow.
SHLESINGER: I just - and I planned on having it at my wedding. And I listened to it all the time. And ever since then, it just feels...
SHLESINGER: ...It went from feeling warm - I don't know. Like, it's a weird equation in my head. It just stopped feeling good for some reason.
SANDERS: Who's your favorite country artist?
SHLESINGER: Oh, there's so many. I really enjoy Miranda Lambert. I don't care what people say. I like Florida Georgia Line.
SHLESINGER: And there's a lot - I'm more song-based than artist-based.
SHLESINGER: Darius Rucker has some good songs I like.
SANDERS: He's real good.
SHLESINGER: Garth Brooks is great. Carrie Underwood's great.
SHLESINGER: Blake Shelton. Like, all these people. Like, you know, and then '90s country. But anyway - but - so I don't know, a healthy respect of sports and...
SANDERS: OK. You played lacrosse, right?
SHLESINGER: I played lacrosse - not well, but I was on the...
SANDERS: Were you like - so you're like a lax bro.
SHLESINGER: I'm a lax bro.
SHLESINGER: I don't - I think women should be in the kitchen cooking. I'm a lax bro. I was a very aggressive player.
SHLESINGER: I don't know. I think growing up in Texas, you know, you are - you're in Texas. You are in it. Like, Texas lets you know that.
SHLESINGER: And I think it helps a little bit with a respect for people who aren't quite like you when you are a coastal elite, you know, in that not everyone is a slack-jawed yokel, and just 'cause you're from the South doesn't mean you're dumb.
SANDERS: Yes. Yes.
SHLESINGER: And also, you know, being Jewish, being told you're going to hell a lot (laughter).
SANDERS: Oh, lord.
SHLESINGER: So - but I think Dallas overall is a lovely place to grow up in.
SHLESINGER: And I had a nice childhood.
SANDERS: You write in the book about not being the coolest person.
SANDERS: And like, people might see...
SHLESINGER: Who's laughing now?
SANDERS: ...People might see you now and be like, you were always the cool girl. And you write at length about how, like, you weren't. You had a hard time making friends, you said. You were the school mascot at one point.
SHLESINGER: In high school, yeah.
SANDERS: Yeah. You did improv and that, like - like, so you were - I love - there's just one line where you write in the book, I am nothing like the girl who rejected you. It's really powerful.
SHLESINGER: Thank you.
SHLESINGER: It's an interesting thing. You know, people look at any girl who isn't ugly...
SHLESINGER: ...And they're like, you must've been a [expletive]. And it's like, you think I got this personality by, like, rejecting dudes? No. And I by no means was ugly and a dork and rejected. I always thought I was cool. I didn't understand why other kids didn't get on board. My whole life I've been like, I'm dope. Why is nobody getting this? And by virtue of that fact, you know, like, I would be annoyed when, like, cool kids, like, didn't care. But there was always kids that were like, come sit with us. I'm like, no way. I'm too cool for you. I'd rather sit alone.
SANDERS: Oy (ph).
SHLESINGER: I just always - I never said that. I always sort of had just a very clear - I just like - I know I'm not a loser. I know I deserve respect. And I definitely am not as hideous as some people, but I'm - I knew I wasn't as hot as others. And as a woman, you're never allowed to say that. You're never allowed to be like, she's prettier than me because people will be like, stop it. You're beautiful. I'm like, no, no, no. She's a model.
SHLESINGER: That's OK.
SANDERS: No, that's Beyonce.
SHLESINGER: Yeah, that's Beyonce.
SANDERS: I don't look like her (laughter).
SHLESINGER: I never will, try as I might. So I think that I had always had, like, a healthy self-awareness.
SHLESINGER: But, you know, I think because we love to paint women with broad brush strokes, I think especially in Hollywood, in LA, you know, a guy looks at you and because you make him feel insecure, because you carry yourself with authority, people tend to look at you - we love archetypes. We love to think jock, nerd, cheerleader, debate team queen or something.
SANDERS: Yes. Yes. Yeah.
SHLESINGER: But really, again, people are complex. You can be a jock and president of the math club. You know, like, life isn't "The Breakfast Club."
SANDERS: Although some days I wish it was (laughter).
SHLESINGER: Some days I wish it was. I want to be Ally Sheedy in that so bad...
SHLESINGER: ...And leave with a hot jock. But, yeah, so I did - I always wanted to be funny, so I sought out improv wherever I could.
SHLESINGER: And I did that.
SHLESINGER: And I would have been a cheerleader, but I missed the tryouts 'cause I thought my family was moving.
SHLESINGER: And then I didn't get to do it. But I got to be the mascot, which I enjoyed so much more. I wanted to wear the hornet...
SANDERS: What was the costume? A hornet?
SHLESINGER: It was a hornet. I had a big stinger.
SANDERS: How heavy was it? How hot was it? It was Texas.
SHLESINGER: It was very hot. First time in my life I wore, like, a do-rag.
SANDERS: (Laughter). I'm imagining you in a do-rag now.
SHLESINGER: You had to.
SANDERS: Did you get the line? I used to wear one for - remember when, like, black guys had the waves in their hair?
SHLESINGER: Oh, yeah. Remember?
SANDERS: Yeah. And I would wear...
SHLESINGER: They don't do that?
SANDERS: They still do it - well...
SHLESINGER: Well, not - you don't do it.
SANDERS: I don't, obviously. But I would do, like, two of my mother's old stockings with the top cut off and tie it up and then the do-rag on top of it. And you'd sleep in it with grease on so you'd wake up with the waves. Then you had that crease in the forehead.
SHLESINGER: I'm going to go with that is a cultural experience...
SHLESINGER: ...Particular to you.
SANDERS: Particular to me (unintelligible).
SHLESINGER: I was just sweating.
SANDERS: You were just sweating.
SHLESINGER: I will tell you this - my brother, you know, I think we're talking about, like, not so much appropriation but, you know, wanting to be, like...
SANDERS: It's all together. Yeah.
SHLESINGER: Well, he's white, obviously, and he wore...
SANDERS: He could be adopted. We don't know. But he's not.
SHLESINGER: I have a fully black brother.
SHLESINGER: But he would - like, you know, he...
SANDERS: He would wear a do-rag?
SHLESINGER: Yeah, in high school.
SHLESINGER: Like, you know, kind of like - that's like - whatever.
SANDERS: That was the thing.
SHLESINGER: Under the throwback hat, whatever.
SANDERS: Yeah, with the tag still on it.
SHLESINGER: Yeah. So he had this, like, you know, under - 'cause it's the look. I don't think...
SANDERS: It is the look.
SHLESINGER: I don't think at the time, and especially when you're younger, you don't know...
SANDERS: You don't know.
SHLESINGER: ...Why black guys wear that. You just know that they do.
SHLESINGER: And that's cool. And you're cool.
SANDERS: And you want to do it, too. Yes.
SHLESINGER: So he was doing that. And we got in a fight and I ripped off his hat, and it wasn't a wave cap. It was a sleeve from a shirt that he had just put over his head for the look of the part around your forehead.
SHLESINGER: And it was just sticking straight up...
SANDERS: Sticking up like a little cone?
SHLESINGER: Like cut - like Bart Simpson. And I to this day - like, I take him seriously. He's, like, a serious - he - you know, he works hard, whatever. He's got - but that's how I think about my brother, me ripping off a hat and being like, what is that?
SANDERS: (Laughter). I love it. I hope he's listening.
SHLESINGER: There's no way he knows what NPR is, so it's OK.
SANDERS: (Laughter) So walk me out of Texas. You studied and did enough in school to make it look like you were at least trying.
SANDERS: But you weren't, like, valedictorian. That's fine.
SHLESINGER: Really - I went to a really lovely, because of my parents, private school. So all my friends went to Ivys and Ivy lookalikes, and I thought I might as - I might, too. But...
SANDERS: Were your grades up there?
SHLESINGER: I just thought I might because I was positive that once I applied they would see me and I'd talk about...
SANDERS: Could see the real you. Yeah.
SHLESINGER: They'd see that I was so smart and couldn't be confined by the shackles of academia, I needed to roam free, when really - can't do basic algebra.
SHLESINGER: Still can't.
SANDERS: So you - OK, so you apply to a bunch of schools. You end up in...
SHLESINGER: University of Kansas.
SANDERS: ...The place where hell freezes over, you wrote.
SHLESINGER: Yeah. You did - I love that you read...
SANDERS: I read the book.
SHLESINGER: I know you - you're very prepared. University of Kansas.
SHLESINGER: Where I was - I didn't want to go. I was let down. I didn't get into any of the film schools I wanted...
SANDERS: Did you want to do film?
SHLESINGER: I wanted - I was going to be a film major just because I - to me that seemed like a creative path.
SANDERS: But you were doing improv in high school.
SHLESINGER: I did improv because, like, you're in Dallas, Texas. You're not - you can't audition for stuff. You know, like, maybe a commercial, but my mom definitely wasn't down to, like - she's like, I have to work. So I just sought out comedy, you know, while giving myself my own education and writing scripts for my friends and sketches. And I invite all the girls over.
SANDERS: Oh, that's cute.
SHLESINGER: In our Banana Republic outfits...
SHLESINGER: ...We would, like, re-enact like, Cajun Boy (ph) from "SNL."
SHLESINGER: Like, we would do - and I was always the one bringing them together to do this...
SHLESINGER: ...Because I was - we wanted...
SANDERS: You're just drawn to comedy.
SHLESINGER: Yeah. You want to get that art out.
SHLESINGER: And you want to imitate it and replicate it...
SHLESINGER: ...And whatever. And so went to KU. I made a film there.
SANDERS: What's the film?
SHLESINGER: Oh, my God. It was called "The Stage Manager."
SANDERS: What's it about?
SHLESINGER: And it was about the emotions in our head that rule us and...
SANDERS: Girl logic.
SHLESINGER: About girl logic. But it definitely - the star was a boy.
SHLESINGER: It was - he dies in the end.
SHLESINGER: Everybody dies.
SANDERS: Did you like it?
SHLESINGER: I was proud. It was - you know what is so fascinating? And I wish - whenever people talk about children, they're like, kids just think. Childlike sense of wonderment. They just go. And I didn't know the limitations of filming anything. I didn't know what you could and couldn't do. I didn't know about sound design. I taught myself editing.
SANDERS: Oh, wow.
SHLESINGER: So I just made this really long film because no one said I couldn't.
SHLESINGER: The film club gave me money.
SHLESINGER: And I just made it. I just set up the camera. Like, you just do it guerrilla style.
SANDERS: Oh, yeah.
SHLESINGER: And you learn as you go. But when no one tells you you can't - and this is what school is great for - then you just do.
SHLESINGER: And I did that with stand-up, as well. I just did.
SHLESINGER: And that's a big part of it. People always ask, like, well, how can I get started? Just go.
SANDERS: Just do it.
SHLESINGER: Norman Lear - I'm buddies with him.
SHLESINGER: And I read his autobiography. And he always said that his grandma would always say, go know, which means just go. Go do it. Go figure it out. Go experience it.
SHLESINGER: I can't believe I just quoted Norman Lear. That's so dorky.
SANDERS: That was awesome. My favorite is someone would tell me, there is no secret. Just keep going.
SHLESINGER: It's absolutely true. And when people ask you, can I pick your brain? I'm like, I can't make you famous.
SANDERS: (Laughter) I can't give you a job.
SHLESINGER: I can't help you.
SHLESINGER: Just go do it.
SANDERS: Just do it.
SHLESINGER: And people always be like, can my sister sit down? She's thinking about comedy. I'm like, talk to me in five years when you have something that I can...
SHLESINGER: Critique - or something that I could actually give you advice on...
SHLESINGER: ...Because you don't - what am I going to tell...
SANDERS: You haven't done anything yet.
SHLESINGER: You don't know what - it's like you're going into high school, thinking about being a doctor. Can I sit down with a brain surgeon? He's like, why don't you finish your gen eds first?
SANDERS: (Laughter) Yeah.
SHLESINGER: So you have to just go do it.
SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah. So you're at Kansas for - what? - a year.
SHLESINGER: A year.
SANDERS: Then you end up at Emerson.
SHLESINGER: Yeah. And I reapplied to Emerson.
SANDERS: OK. Oh, because you'd applied the first round.
SHLESINGER: Oh, I applied the first time...
SHLESINGER: ...Waiting for some of the losers to drop out and make room for me.
SANDERS: Aha. OK. Did you like Boston?
SHLESINGER: I loved it.
SHLESINGER: I'm going back in a couple weeks...
SHLESINGER: ...To play there. Boston's a great town to go to school in.
SANDERS: A lot of students there.
SHLESINGER: A lot of students.
SHLESINGER: You have no idea where anyone goes to school because you're just out and about.
SHLESINGER: You know, there's so many colleges. It's just fun. And, you know, it's a great starter city. The T - like, their - I guess their train - is super easy to use. And because there's a lot of students, it's just - when you're out on your own, like, it's a good - it's safe.
SHLESINGER: You know, it's not - I mean, obviously, tons of kids go to NYU. But, like, New York City is, like, belly of the beast, heartbeat. Like, make it or break it. And Boston - they probably wouldn't like it. But, like, it's great.
SHLESINGER: And it's fun.
SANDERS: And Boston pretends to be a big city. It's not.
SHLESINGER: All right.
SANDERS: It's a quaint, little town...
SHLESINGER: It's not. It is very small.
SANDERS: ...Which is more tolerable...
SHLESINGER: It's easier.
SANDERS: ...Than, like, a New York.
SANDERS: So you did film. You finished school. Did you go right to LA and were like, I'm doing comedy? Or what? What happened?
SHLESINGER: I did a Semester at Sea, which is a little...
SANDERS: Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. That's a whole hour. Is it as much of a hot mess as I hear it is?
SHLESINGER: Oh, it's so great.
SHLESINGER: I mean, you are a hot mess when you're on it...
SHLESINGER: ...Because it starts off - every day, you're jogging. You're working out. And then by the end, you're like, why is my face so fat? And it's like, oh, cause you're getting (expletive) canned in every country.
SHLESINGER: And you're with students from other schools.
SHLESINGER: But, you know, I'm at Emerson in film school. When am I going to meet a kid from Arizona State? You know, but we all...
SHLESINGER: You're all together. And you're all so close.
SHLESINGER: And you're experiencing the world.
SHLESINGER: Like, the world is at your doorstep.
SHLESINGER: You are - and you're just there. And, by the way, some kids get kicked off. Like, you have to be safe.
SANDERS: Oh, snap.
SHLESINGER: Like, they tell you on the first day - they're like, if you do drugs in another country, the most we can do for you is bring you magazines when they throw you in jail.
SANDERS: Because they're going to throw you in jail.
SHLESINGER: Yeah. Like, it's not a joke.
SANDERS: They might cane you. Yeah.
SHLESINGER: And, you know, a lot of kids are like, oh, my dad's got money. It's like, you know who doesn't care? Cuban government.
SHLESINGER: So, you know, you get sort of a healthy respect for other cultures...
SHLESINGER: ...Because you're in them, and you see what India looks like.
SHLESINGER: You see China. You see...
SANDERS: And you've got to respect it because you're a visitor.
SHLESINGER: You're a visitor. And you - for the first time in my life - and I'd been to Europe before, and I traveled - you understand why people call us ugly Americans. Even just speaking at the volume I'm speaking to you at - so loud...
SHLESINGER: ...In a Japanese subway. So loud.
SHLESINGER: So you just kind of get, you know, that.
SHLESINGER: And I did that for a year. I - we would do open mic nights. And I started writing observations about...
SANDERS: On the boat.
SANDERS: I love it.
SHLESINGER: About girls...
SHLESINGER: ...And the way that they would talk to the guys on the boat. Everything - there always - you don't know when you're that young that men should chase you. So they were these, like, hot guys that I was friends with. And all the girls were always trying to get into their room. They'd be like...
SANDERS: What would they say?
SHLESINGER: They'd be like, hey, did I leave a book in here earlier? I'm like, you know you didn't leave a book.
SHLESINGER: Did I leave my pants?
SHLESINGER: Just anything to get in there and be around them...
SHLESINGER: ...Because these guys are like, yeah, I'll take you. Like, whatever.
SANDERS: Oh, man.
SHLESINGER: And they were nice guys. But that voice started there. That girl voice started with those girls and observing them. And then I made observations that are ship-centric. So those are not jokes that I would do. But I started sort of making fun like a comic does of the things around us.
SHLESINGER: And I took a couple of those jokes. And when I got to LA, I did something called the LA program that Emerson has, where you do your last semester of school in Los Angeles.
SANDERS: Got you.
SHLESINGER: And you intern.
SANDERS: What part of LA were you in? Where'd you live?
SANDERS: Oh, I'm...
SHLESINGER: Well, technically, it's like this Middle Earth area between Burbank and Hollywood. But you intern. They make you get head shots. And then you're in LA. So you kind of ease into it a little bit.
SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah.
SHLESINGER: And I just started doing - I got a - I just got a day job - whatever it was. And I just...
SANDERS: What was the day job?
SHLESINGER: The first day - I was a temp. And then I got hired to - it was just - it was - I was a copywriter. I got promoted to copywriter.
SANDERS: Look at you.
SHLESINGER: I was an assistant.
SHLESINGER: And then they let me go and...
SANDERS: Screw them.
SHLESINGER: Screw them. That's fine. I was like, can I keep the computer? They were like, absolutely not.
SHLESINGER: And then I was an assistant to someone in the marketing department of another company. It's not interesting in the slightest. But I would spend my days - because it wasn't, like, a busy office. And I would make - I would call comics that were bigger than me.
SHLESINGER: It's not bigger. They just, you know, had done it longer. I'd say, can I make your comedy - can I make the flyers for your show?
SHLESINGER: I would do anything I could to get close, hoping I could get some stage time.
SHLESINGER: I would make the flyers for them. I would spend all day looking up other shows. I would submit tapes to comedy contests. Myspace - I won the Myspace Comic.
SANDERS: Well, and side note - you ended up winning "Last Comic Standing."
SHLESINGER: "Last Comic Standing." Eventually, yeah. But I would do all this...
SANDERS: Yeah. But you would just - yeah, go ahead.
SHLESINGER: But people always wonder - and you're like, how can I get into it? The answer is just carve out something for yourself. I started running my show - just a show at a bar.
SHLESINGER: Go to a bar.
SANDERS: Which bar?
SHLESINGER: It was called the Cat Club.
SANDERS: Where was that?
SHLESINGER: It was a famous - it was on the Sunset Strip.
SHLESINGER: Which - no one ever went because the parking was impossible.
SHLESINGER: It's now Rock & Reilly's if you know anything about Hollywood. But people are always like, what can I do? It's like, just go to a bar and say, hey, what's your slowest night? Can I run a comedy show here? Give them the door. Don't give them the door. Your objective should not be to make money as much as...
SANDERS: It's just to perform.
SHLESINGER: Get that stage time. And then you have something to trade with other comics. You have, like, a commodity.
SHLESINGER: I became just a regular at the Laugh - at The Improv, sorry - and The Comedy Store. And three years in I auditioned for that show.
SANDERS: And then...
SHLESINGER: I won. And then that was - the rest is an OK history.
SANDERS: (Laughter) So you've been in LA a few years now, huh (ph)?
SANDERS: I lived there for about two and a half years.
SANDERS: And I loved - Mar Vista.
SANDERS: I was a west side - if I had my druthers, I would never go east of the 405.
SHLESINGER: Well, that's funny because I would never go west of the 405. See you at Christmas.
SANDERS: Whoa, get out of my studio. You're banished. But you had this epic tweet storm a few weeks ago about LA. You remember this?
SHLESINGER: No, because I kind of go into a black hole trance when I'm on an elliptical. I'm like, and another thing.
SANDERS: Can I - OK, keep talking...
SHLESINGER: Oh, I know what you're talking about.
SANDERS: Yes, you do.
SANDERS: Relive this for me. It's such an - I was so - the tweets were just fire.
SHLESINGER: I don't remember what started it.
SHLESINGER: Because usually you can see, like, a root tweet for me. Like, I'll be like, someone just did something weird, and then I'm like, automatic assault rifle verbally. Oh, you know - OK, you know what started it?
SHLESINGER: OK, so this is a super girly thing. But there is a store - I'm going to give them a plug even though they didn't respond to my DM - called Riley Rose. And it's a Forever 21 company. It's like a Sephora but at, like, a lower price point with a lot more glitter.
SHLESINGER: And I heard about it. And, like, an indulgence of mine - I'm not a huge makeup wearer. I mean, today I am. But I wanted to go. I just wanted to see what they had. I love Korean face masks, and I was just like, I'm going to go buy them.
SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
SHLESINGER: It's like a candy store for young girls and me. And it's in the Glendale mall. And I saw armageddon. I can feel it now in my heart. He had to drop me off. Like, there were just so many people. And it's just congested, just blocked arteries, cars standing still. So I left Blanche. I was like, take my baby. And I left Blanche and I ran inside. Thirty-five, 40 minutes later, I finally get out and I'm like, where are you? He's like, I'm still looking for parking. And I was so angry. I'm like, this should have been a fun, easy thing.
SANDERS: Yes, and no.
SHLESINGER: And no. And it was so bad because LA's big thing is like, we didn't know there was going to be so many people. It's like, OK, it's been this way since the '70s.
SANDERS: Yeah, now you know.
SHLESINGER: Figure it out.
SANDERS: Figure it out. But do you love LA or do you hate LA?
SHLESINGER: I love LA if you say you hate it and you're not from there.
SHLESINGER: Everybody's proud of where they're from.
SHLESINGER: And when someone craps on it, I always feel like it's out of ignorance or jealousy. If you are from LA and you're [expletive] on it then I'm like, oh, totally. It's the worst. And we can go into it.
SHLESINGER: It's like if someone talks about your sibling. You're like, I'm allowed to make fun of them, not you. But I think, you know, I've made a home out of a very competitive city, at a very scary place.
SANDERS: Yeah. And just a massive, overwhelming place.
SHLESINGER: But I love - I don't know. There's something - I enjoy the mix of it, like, the sort of hippy-dippyness (ph) of LA mixed with practicality.
SANDERS: Exactly. I love how in LA you can be totally anonymous.
SANDERS: You can just go somewhere, find a new part of town to explore.
SHLESINGER: Well, it also speaks to how unaware we all are in LA. Like, what part of town is this? You're like, you pass it every day.
SANDERS: Yeah. And you're like, I never knew. Yeah.
SHLESINGER: Oh, my God, is this west Miracle Mile? Interesting. Yeah.
SANDERS: I've seen all three of your specials. Reading the book, you deal a lot with what it means to be a woman. But the way that you deal with that has kind of changed with each special. And you've talked about this before. It's - your comedy - gosh, I hate to use this overused word - but has it gotten a little more woke?
SHLESINGER: Fair enough.
SANDERS: Has it?
SHLESINGER: Absolutely. So I started my first special, "War Paint," and, you know, I'm late 20s and bouncing around onstage, stomping around onstage. And I'm in it. It's less of a commentary and more I'm in it. I'm partying every night. And then "Freezing Hot" was more of a commentary about girls do X, Y and Z. But I'm still in it. I'm still that girl doing those things. And then "Confirmed Kills" was me kind of more as a woman saying, here's what we do, here's why, and here's why we aren't wrong versus just making fun of.
I really felt as an artist evolving, if I don't dive deeper into this and side with women on this and stand up for them versus just make fun together and explain it to people - people are curious about the way women work. And when I explain it versus just being like, yeah, girls are drunk and crazy, it gives a certain level of education to it. And so in this next special, there's still commentary on that. I got - I've gotten engaged since, so that kind of changes your perspective.
I - whether it's right or wrong or whatever your experience is, the point of your art - the point of existing is to evolve and to learn no matter what it is. And to convey that vulnerability and say, you know what? I said something maybe at times that I didn't mean or didn't fully understand or was something that I should have been saying at that time and place in my life, and I wouldn't do it now. Like, would you dress the way you did in high school now?
SANDERS: God, no.
SHLESINGER: Actually, maybe that'd be dope.
SANDERS: I used to - OK. When Kanye first came out, he did that super, super, duper, like, prep look.
SANDERS: Polo everything - I decided to do that for a few years.
SHLESINGER: That's eternally OK, though. Right.
SANDERS: Three pink polos with all the collars popped...
SHLESINGER: It's a lot.
SANDERS: It's a lot.
SHLESINGER: No one could ever pull it off. Even he didn't it. It was like...
SHLESINGER: ...What? You're hot. You're going to be warm.
SHLESINGER: But yet we evolve and...
SHLESINGER: ...I think a big problem in our society...
SHLESINGER: ...Among many, is we don't give people a chance...
SANDERS: ...To evolve.
SHLESINGER: ...To evolve and to be, like, I may not be fully woke now, but I knew something - my big - I talk about this on stage actually. It's - woke has become a thing where it's just white people trying to out-woke other white people.
SANDERS: A woke-off.
SHLESINGER: Yeah, black people - I've been saying - calling it a woke-off.
SHLESINGER: And black people have been, like, we knew about this forever.
SANDERS: Come on. Black folk are just like, we're woke, but we're just tired (laughter).
SHLESINGER: Tired, and you know what? Frankly, I don't blame you. But it's just become other, like, white people being, like, actually, it's pronounced torta. Like, shut up, Chad.
SHLESINGER: You don't know. But also, we have to give people the room to say, I didn't know that before. And my big explanation - and nobody ever wants to laugh, but I'm right. I'm like, five years ago, you didn't know why - you didn't know you couldn't touch a black girl's hair. You're like, oh, hair. And now you know why. So you're that much more evolved.
SANDERS: And that's a good development.
SHLESINGER: It's a good development, but...
SANDERS: And you can acknowledge that you didn't know five years ago.
SHLESINGER: I didn't know. And you grow. And you say, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it. And, you know, if you don't change it, then that's ignorance...
SHLESINGER: ...Willful ignorance.
SANDERS: Yes. Yes.
SHLESINGER: You cannot be apologetic for who you are, where you're from, what you were raised with, poor, rich, whatever color you are. That is you. But if you do not step outside of your own bubble, of your own suburb, of your own city and try to see things from other people's perspective no matter whose it is...
SHLESINGER: ...Then you're part of the problem.
SANDERS: Yes. One of the things I notice about your comedy, you talk a lot about things that are socio-political, but you don't really get into partisan politics too much. Is that a conscious choice?
SHLESINGER: I think it's just an outpour of who I am and what I am.
SHLESINGER: I think we all have to be political now.
SANDERS: Oh, yeah.
SHLESINGER: And your social choices are political. But I do think that there's a way to distill the social aspect without getting into politics because I can sort of have my social agenda without telling you yours is wrong. And I have an audience. And I don't know who's in that audience. And my passion in life is not politics.
SHLESINGER: There are people who do it way better than me. And especially in LA, I get - I don't know. You better be - if you're going to do something political, like, truly political, you're naming names, your talking - you better, like, come correct with that...
SHLESINGER: ...Because too many people do it. I was at a show the other night and some guy gets on stage and just starts ranting. And it was super liberal. Like, we all agree. But I was, like, I don't need this education from you.
SHLESINGER: I don't need to - you know, if I do this, I'm going to turn to someone, like, a trusted news source.
SANDERS: Yes. Yeah. Well, this is the thing, you're like so many comics in this current political climate kind of think that the journalists now.
SANDERS: And I'm not sure how I feel about it as a journalist.
SHLESINGER: Fair enough - I don't think the world needs another person talking about - that's like me - liberal - talking about politics. But I do think if you talk about it from a social aspect, you get more people listening because social things directly apply to you.
SHLESINGER: Political things you're like, OK, it was House Senate Judiciary Committee - what?
SHLESINGER: Social things do affect you. So your politics affect your social environment.
SHLESINGER: And that I can comment on because I live in it.
SANDERS: We've got like five more minutes. Tell me Blanche's creation story (laughter).
SHLESINGER: She's an adopt - she's a rescue dog. I got her. I remember - Facebook just reminded me that it'd been, I think, seven years since I got her...
SHLESINGER: ...Maybe eight - I think it was eight. I don't know.
SANDERS: She's such a cutie.
SHLESINGER: She was - when I got her, her hair was very short. And I picked her up. And I had fantasized that I would go to the rescue place. And they'd have a Pomeranian for me. And I would take home this angel of a dog...
SANDERS: Pomeranians might not be angels.
SHLESINGER: Oh, their faces and their noses and their bodies.
SHLESINGER: I picked her up, and she wrapped her little arm around my arm. And she kind of just looked at me. And I was, like, you know what? This is horrible. The guy told me she was old. And I was like, I'll take her because whatever, she sucks. She dies. And it turned out she wasn't old. She was a puppy...
SHLESINGER: And he was an idiot.
SHLESINGER: And I got her home. And I just fell in love with her as we all do with our dogs.
SHLESINGER: And then her hair grew out. And I was like, who is this Linda Evangelista...
SHLESINGER: ...Dog woman staring at me? She knows her angles. She knows when to pose. And this face, like...
SANDERS: ...The face though.
SHLESINGER: ...Launched a thousand cameras.
SANDERS: Hashtag #ThatFaceThough - so you take in all your shows. She's been in all your Netflix specials. You bring her out on stage.
SHLESINGER: I used to bring her out. I don't bring her out anymore.
SHLESINGER: But I did bring her - and she starts the show. She runs across the stage...
SANDERS: ...With like a red little tail behind her.
SHLESINGER: She had her own - I had a gown made for her. This, by the way, like - and it's so easy, like, oh, crazy dog lady. Look. She's the best. We love our pets. I started bringing her because I wanted a dog on the road.
SHLESINGER: You're on the road. You're alone.
SANDERS: You need company.
SHLESINGER: She's easy to carry...
SHLESINGER: So it's like, why wouldn't you bring this stunning creature with you? And people get mad. They're like, you bring your dog everywhere. I'm like, you're just jealous...
SANDERS: You're jealous.
SHLESINGER: ...That I brought her to Peter Luger Steakhouse last night and fed her delicious steak. But she's a quiet one. She's just, like, hey, boys. You know, hi. You see the way other dogs look at her. She like scuttles by. And they're like, hey. Hey, you. She's like, excuse me, got to get to tea.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC).
SANDERS: I think Blanche wants to get the hell out of here.
SHLESINGER: Thank you, Sam.
SANDERS: Hey, this was a joy.
SHLESINGER: Thank you very much.
SANDERS: A delight - I really appreciate it.
SHLESINGER: I appreciate you.
SANDERS: So much fun - thanks for your time. I know it took a long time.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SANDERS: Iliza Shlesinger - so nice to talk to her. There's a photo of me and Iliza and Blanche. I tweeted it out, like, last week if you want to see her little face. Iliza's new book is called "Girl Logic: The Genius And The Absurdity." She's also on tour as well.
Before we go, don't forget to share the best thing that happened to you all week for our Friday wrap. Just record the sound of your own voice, send that file to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. That Friday wrap this week, by the way, will be hosted by my friend and NPR colleague - you probably know her - Sarah McCammon, NPR reporter. I'm taking a bit of time off. And I know that you'll be in great hands with Sarah. But I'll be back next week to talk with you all in a very special Thanksgiving edition of the show. All right. Until then, thank you for listening. I'm Sam Sanders - talk soon.
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