INTERVIEW: Iliza Shlesinger on her snarky, hilarious podcast and having her first baby

Iliza Shlesinger is making her first headlining stop at the Fox Theatre on Saturday, March 5, 2022. PUBLICITY PHOTO

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Iliza Shlesinger is making her first headlining stop at the Fox Theatre on Saturday, March 5, 2022. PUBLICITY PHOTO

She makes her first ever appearance at the Fox Theatre March 5.

Iliza Shlesinger did a European stand-up tour while in her third trimester, Ali Wong-style. And after having her daughter Sierra Mae last month, she is hitting the road again.

She’ll be making her first appearance ever at the Fox Theatre at 7 p.m. Saturday, her largest venue yet as a headliner in Atlanta. (Tickets available here).

Shlesinger, like many stand-up comics, has also found refuge in the podcasting world. She has been doing it for years and used to do the basic “find someone to interview” format. The pressure got to be too much. “You end up booking other comics or people you’re not that interested in just for content,” she said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

So instead, she came up with the ultimate in formulaic ease: solicit questions from fans and just ... answer them.

The title of the podcast? “Ask Iliza Anything.” She will answer questions culled from social media about everything from the metric system to Sour Patch Kids to relationships. In one episode, she dishes advice to a 25-year-old single woman grappling with a creepy leasing agent, a childless friend not relating to a single mom friend, and the “other woman” trying to justify her own behavior.

“Do I answer the same question about girls breaking up with their best friend?” Shlesinger said. “Yes! And break up with her!”

The podcast features a goofy, bizarrely earwormy off-key theme song that sounds like it was created on a 1980s-era Casio keyboard. And she has a sidekick in Atlanta-based Emily Higgins, who reads the questions and provides a ready foil.

“She is just so quick,” said Higgins in Twitter direct message. “Even off stage, she’s very sharp, and so her casual observations and advice are entertaining. Plus she’s honest with the listeners. She’ll tell them if they’re wrong and admit what advice she’d actually follow herself. And people appreciate that honesty and so trust her with some very intimate questions about their lives.” (Shlesinger’s take on Higgins: “She’s my heartbeat, my whipping boy.”)

Indeed, Shlesinger’s blunt off-the-cuff commentary is complementary to her humor on stage.

“People are drawn to people who are confident,” said Shlesinger, who is 39. “I have a no BS attitude. I’m also older than the majority of the women asking the questions.”

She has an appeal similar to that of someone with a similar last name: Dr. Laura Schlesinger, who has spent decades doling out advice to her listeners. Not surprisingly, Shlesinger said when she was younger, people would even ask her if she was related to Dr. Laura although their last names are not spelled the same.

Shlesinger is no doctor and doesn’t claim to be one. She doesn’t sweat over whether the folks who pose the questions take her advice or not. “I’d like to think my advice isn’t so outrageous that it would ruin your life,” she said. “At worst, oh no, I helped her break up with the day-shift manager at Wendy’s. Oh, well. Life goes on!”

And she knows she isn’t qualified to answer super heavy questions about drug addiction or suicide: “If you’re turning to a comedian instead of a medical professional on those topics, maybe therein lies your entire life.”

Her podcast generates more than 200,000 listens a month, she said. That isn’t Joe Rogan territory, but she said the podcast is a basic side hustle for her. “As long as people keep liking it,” she said, “I’ll keep doing it.”

It doesn’t hurt that she can do her podcast and raise her newborn without missing a beat.

“People wonder how having a baby affects my comedy,” she said. “The truth is a newborn is a lump of oatmeal. It’s not like she’s a teenager. What I talk about is more my commentary on society’s commentary on motherhood and the endless stupid advice and horrible comments I get. I’m protective of my daughter. I don’t even show her on social media.”

Shlesinger just finished a second book featuring observational essays on life and is working on her next Netflix special, which has yet to be recorded.

Much of what ticket buyers in Atlanta will hear will likely end up in the future special, she said. To prep during the pandemic, she largely did shows in parking lots, rooftops and bars as opposed to traditional comedy clubs.

“I’m like an athlete that way,” she said. “I need to do a lot of shows. And it doesn’t matter if you’re working out in a top-notch facility or a high school gym.”


IN CONCERT

Iliza Shlesinger

7 p.m. March 5. $39.50-$79.50. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. foxtheatre.org.