Monday, 02 March 2015 00:00

Iliza Shlesinger: Equal Opportunity Offender

Written by  Anya Zentmeyer
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Iliza Shlesinger Iliza Shlesinger COURTESY PHOTO

Iliza Shlesinger
McFadden's, Grand Rapids
March 6 and 7, shows at 9 and 11 p.m. — Sold out!
$20
laughfestgr.org, (616)735-4242

When Iliza Shlesinger started pursing stand-up out of college, there weren't a whole lot of women in the audience and there even less performing on stages alongside her.

However, it's been about a decade since Shlesinger dove into the male-dominated industry. As this generation begins to chip away at the gender imbalance of our forefathers, Shlesinger's heavy-handed delivery of gender jokes reflect the kind of group dynamics observed in the friendships women have with each other versus with men.

"Way more females are consuming stand-up comedy then even four or five years ago," Shlesinger said. "When I started, it was mostly guys in the audience, but now, not only are girls doing stand-up comedy, but we're consuming it, also."

Which works out well for Shlesinger – who after winning NBC's "Last Comic Standing" in 2008 and rising to No. 1 on iTunes charts for her first album, War Paint (2013) – has earned a reputation for her style as "honest and aggressive."

"I think with honesty comes vulnerability – you can't make fun of others unless you're willing to make fun of yourself," she said. "With a lot of my observation about girls, for example, I'm allowed to make those jokes because I've lived through those situations. Whether it's an eating habit or something physical about myself, being honest about yourself gives people the ability to relate to you."

Now that she's older, you won't find Shlesinger "sh*t-faced with a pack of girls wandering freezing through the streets anymore," but she said there are certain things she thinks are timeless – relatable to all and any woman, regardless of her stereotype, almost instantaneously – like figuring out how to layer clothes for the weather or eat "the right way" on a first date.

She said her abrasive delivery isn't an accident; men relate to aggression, and she wants to relate to men as much as she does women – a mark of her earnest attempts at crafting true understandings of both the men and the women she refers to in her jokes.

"It's a message for girls wrapped in aggression for guys," she said. "…I want to be an equal-opportunity offender for both sexes."

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