In Conversation With Iliza Shlesinger
THE OUTNET’S guest presenter, broadcaster Harriet Rose, caught up with comedian, author and actor Iliza Shlesinger. In case you missed their live conversation about the ups and downs of lockdown, her comfort-first fashion choices and working on standout film Pieces of a Woman — we made sure to save some of the best bits…
“For me, comfort is paramount, tantamount to godliness and on stage I’m comfortable. So, I do nice hair, nice makeup, but it’s a pair of jeans that have stretch and it’s a sneaker.”
Harriet: How are you doing?
Iliza: I’m thriving, just in full makeup in my own home. How are you?
Harriet: Babe, I’m exactly the same, I’m going to bed after this in full makeup just to feel the thrill! I’m so excited for this, Iliza Shlesinger, thank you so much for joining us In Conversation with THE OUTNET.
Iliza: Thanks for having me.
Harriet: Let’s kick off and chat a little about how you’re doing? I think that’s such an important question at the moment. How are you, how are you doing?
Iliza: I’m well. You always want to be careful as someone who’s famous you don’t wanna be like ‘I’m thriving. Everything’s great.’ But, all things considered, this pandemic has, for a lot of people, for a lot of artists sort of inspired you to pivot and do things you wouldn’t have normally done, and you see a lot of innovations in comedy, in tech, in all these different worlds — necessity is the mother of invention. So, I’m lucky to be doing as well as I’m doing, but I definitely have had full-on toddler fits about how stifling this is, but things could be worse. Like the sun is shining, I’m drinking coffee, I’m blonde… so.
Harriet: Win, win! Well, I’ve been enjoying Don’t Panic Pantry, your Instagram kitchen dream. Obviously, your husband’s a chef, has it been a kind of relief to have that outlet, as well as being like a bit of fun and kind of connecting with everyone during a pandemic?
Iliza: Yeah, well first of all, thank you for watching. The first week of the pandemic, and I can’t believe it’s even going back that far, I said to my husband, ‘this might be for a while, let’s do something creative.’ And then it became kind of a touchstone for people, we were there every single day for months, and it became kind of like appointment viewing. And I like that they’ve found a sense of community and it gives us an outlet to do what we like to do.
Harriet: THE OUTNET is obviously all about clothes. Personally, I wear a lot of suits. The other day I went for a walk in a full suit and I bumped into two guys who were like ‘BABES! You look amazing, do a twirl!’ I did a twirl in the street. It was honestly one of the best days I’ve had in months and I wondered whether you dress down and chill or do you have days where you dress up? What’s your clothes vibe in lockdown?
Iliza: Oh man… I’m kind of sad to say my clothing vibe in lockdown is very similar to my clothing vibe in real life… Look, I appreciate fashion and the more events I do, the more people I’m around that actually know about fashion… I’m never a hard pass on anything, I always want to understand from people what it is they appreciate about something. So, my husband with cooking, I see the passion and when I have friends that are ‘fashionistas’ I see how much they love it and I understand, I’m just not gifted with outfit putting together. But in terms of style, for me comfort is paramount, tantamount to godliness and on stage I’m comfortable. I believe you should show up looking like you’re doing a performance. So, I do nice hair, nice makeup, but it’s a pair of jeans that have stretch and it’s a sneaker and I need to move. Some people wear suits, some people wear dresses, but I… And also, at like 37 I’m just like ‘this is the style.’
Harriet: I have a question for you from watching your shows and I took away a lot about women who are outwardly confident about how they look or who they are or what their talents are and one of your sketches where women are in a support group, it’s just an interesting thing to point out. It’s that comment of why shouldn’t women feel confident to I guess ‘boast’ about the things that they like about themselves? Because I think we should all love ourselves and talk about it and I feel like you’ve chef’s kiss that in the sketch show.
Iliza: Thank you, so, the sketch we called it ‘AA for Self-esteem.’ For those of you that don’t know it, it’s just the idea that these women have come to a support group because they’re confident and that seems to be a problem for the people around them. We wrote it because confidence is something that you can get but a lot of women are naturally confident, and it is that fine line where you really have to just be so strong and confident in who you are. It’s kind of this catch 22, because in order to get confident you have to feel confident but in order to feel confident, you have to get confident. So, what I’m saying is, it is this weird thing as a woman where if you do have the thing that society tells you to have… Let’s say for all intents and purposes, Western society, be really thin, and be like blemish-free, be blonde. If you do those things and you embody the ideals of society, whatever it is, you’re judged for it if you’re too proud of it. In our society, we like our women sort of apologetic and not confident, because if a woman’s confident, it’s very easy to be like ‘oh, she’s bragging.’ And she’s not bragging, she’s just stating what she has and she’s not cowering and she’s not apologizing for it.
Harriet: You’re living the dream in many ways because you followed your passion and smashed it. I mean, Netflix special after Netflix special, sketch shows, guest hosting Jimmy Kimmel, starring in movies alongside people like Mark Wahlberg — was that the trajectory? For me, I have a sort of thing in my head of where I wanna go, was it that for you or did it all just sort of happen naturally and you weren’t really sure how it was going to go?
Iliza: Success to me is being able to do your art on bigger and better platforms, at your leisure. Bigger and better platforms without having to ask permission. I believe it’s about taking your career in the path that it naturally flows and not fighting against it. Yes, I could really fight to be a super model, but they’d be like ‘you’re structurally not sound and you’re not tall enough.’ And I could try every day, or I could do the things that say yes. So, stand-up said yes, a couple of auditions said yes and being a self-starter because nobody is knocking at your door asking you to be famous. So, the combination of stick-to-itiveness and vision and just a lot of gumption because it really, it is a horrible business with horrible people.
Harriet: Talking of some of your projects, Pieces of a Woman is so stunning, it’s profoundly upsetting and visceral to watch but Vanessa Kirby did such an incredible job — mind-blowing. Is making that sort of film and being part of that kind of project something that is important to you, and is it an avenue that you want to explore, the more serious side of things in terms of performance?
Iliza: Well, I was allowed to be there. The truth is this amazing director Kornél Mundruczó
asked me to be in it. It wasn’t an audition, which is a huge thing in a performer’s career. I like serious roles because I believe comics, we have a darkness, and I was just so in awe of what was happening on set. It was chaotic, and it was brutal it was freezing because it was Montreal in January, which sort of added to the misery I think that the characters were feeling because it was such a heavy subject. So, I was just happy to be there and grateful and in awe of that process. Did I spend several hours freezing on set and then rush to my hotel every night to watch hours of Cheer on Netflix? Yes, that kept me going. Because it was such a depressing story that we were part of on set.
Harriet: Well, it was a beautiful job and a story that needs to be told. So, I’m sure that there’s a lot of grateful people that have watched it. Having a little chat about sort of you as a person in terms of like your Instagram, you’re quite politically active, you’re very open and honest, which I’m sure a lot of the people who follow you really appreciate. Do you feel a responsibility to use your platform in that way to be sort of an activist as opposed to a more passive person?
Iliza: It’s such a great question because as you were saying it, I thought ‘am I political?’ I always thought of myself as more social. With a social issue you can speak from the heart and speak from experience and it’s become political because it’s like Donald Trump and then what we had was Joe Biden. So, you kind of had to pick a side. I wanted Joe Biden simply because he wasn’t Donald Trump and I say that having no issue with conservatives. I’m from Texas, you want smaller government and less taxes, that’s fine, that is not the issue, it’s what it has come to represent. And there are certain times in your life, you cannot pick every battle. I do follow a lot of socially-active friends but there comes a time where you are preaching to the choir and I don’t know how much that’s moving the needle. So, I don’t think it behooves anyone to be like, ‘conservatives are idiots, let’s go the other way, screw them.’ What you wanna do is have a conversation, which is what our country is sorely lacking and there comes a time in your life where, and like I said, you can’t pick every battle, but sometimes things are so visceral and they just come, especially as a comic, they just come out. Like I can’t stay silent. I always try to listen, to both sides, I try to be what I would hope for in other people and I’m not saying I’m perfect, but when you storm our nation’s capital wearing a Camp Auschwitz shirt… that’s where I draw the line.
Harriet: What are you taking out of 2020 and bringing into 2021? What have you learned, positive things that you can share with us that you’ve taken out of last year and into this one?
Iliza: Oh my god, I know I should have like a funny answer for that but it’s all so daunting. I’m not a chill person, I’m not a relaxed person. I know I have like a glossy lip and a fun bob and I seem relaxed, but I’m not. This has forced us all to slow down in a profound way. I started doing yoga, like, I’m that White, 37-year-old woman that’s like ‘I’m getting into yoga.’ But I’ve found joy in concentrating on something that I’m not great at for minor benefits and metaphorically and physically, literal and spiritually, learning how to adjust and stretch and sort of breathe through stuff. This felt like the end of the world and it wasn’t the end of the world so just kind of giving people a little bit of breath, giving myself a pause. There are ways to slow down without losing sight of your goals and still working hard.
Harriet: Oh, that is a perfect sentiment to finish on. Honestly, this has been incredible, thank you so much. I’m a massive fan and really grateful for you coming on THE OUTNET’s Instagram Live.