Iliza Shlesinger knows how a lot of her viewers feel when watching television these days.
“You want to scream at the president,” the Truth & Iliza host tells Us. “You want to smash your TV.”
Even so, the 34-year-old didn’t set out to make a political late night show with her Freeform venture. “I just looked at the late night landscape and I was just like, nobody is taking the time to speak to women my age — millennial women in their late 20s, early 30s — in a funny and intelligent and informed way,” she explains. “I want people to feel that this is a place people can come and get educated. Getting on stage and screaming at all Republicans does nothing more than isolate people.”
The comedienne, who used the name of her podcast as the title of her L.A-based show, gets real with Us about staying woke, her dream guest and being the funniest person in the room.
Us: Tell me where the idea for the show came from.
I’ve wanted to have a late-night show my entire career. I have this show because I didn’t take no for an answer the first couple times. And I just worked hard and smart, and I honestly don’t think I could’ve made this show a couple years ago. My eyes are open to certain things now and I’m at a point in my life where I can speak with intelligence about these things. You don’t want a 22-year-old girl telling you how life is. Not that at 34 I know everything, but I really feel like I’m at place where I know how much I don’t know.
Us: Up until pretty recently, there weren’t any women in late night.
Absolutely. We haven’t even made a political show. My passion in life isn’t politics. It truly is connecting to people and women.
Us: Have you found that women have mostly been the viewers? Have you gotten any feedback from men?
Men love it! I’ve built a career on evenly entertaining men and women. And I’m kind of known for not making either side feel bad. It’s all-inclusive offending. I’ve gotten many, many tweets from men who are enjoying it because although it’s an empowering message to women. I think people have to understand that empowering for women doesn’t mean negating men.
Us: That’s probably the biggest misconception about that message out there right now.
Right! I think when men watch it they realize, “Oh I am a strong smart man and I do support the women in my life, so I’m not offended by this.”
Us: Are there any late shows you love right now and drew inspiration from?
Not really, especially as a standup comedian. I’m terrified of accidentally absorbing. There are a lot of comics that blatantly steal and frankly nobody gets punished for it. But for me to fall asleep at night, I need to know that my ideas are authentic. We even run every idea through Google to make sure nobody has really done it. I set out to make something that no one else does and I don’t think emulating anyone helps with that goal.
Us: Can you tell me about the workings of your writers’ room? Many women in comedy have reflected on the difficulties of often being one of the only females in the room.
While I’m not perfect, I definitely wasn’t about to allow this to be a misogynistic writers room. I’ve been through that gauntlet as a comic and I would never have chosen writers who acted like that. I’ve hired a lot of newer writers, everybody is happy to be here. It’s not like the traditional writers room where people are shitting on people left and right. At the end of the day, I would never stand for somebody making somebody else feel less than. Because the truth is, at the end of the day, I have the funniest jokes.
Us: Who’s on your dream guest list?
Can I be honest? I hate this question. Because I never have the names ready to go and then I’m going to leave someone off or I’m going to say someone stupid. Is it possible to skip this question?
Us: Yes we can skip this question.
I can say this for me, the dream guest is someone who has an informed take on the theme. I don’t want to be the show that just has some reality star, some celebrity just ‘cause. And that being said, if someone like Beyoncé wanted to stop by and just sing, I definitely wouldn’t be opposed to it.
Us: How has hosting been different than standup?
Standup has made hosting easier. People are like, “You make it look so easy.” I’m like, “Yeah, when you have had to play at like, the Des Moines Chuckle Bucket with the flu and a fist fight broke out that you started in the middle of your set, everything else in show business is a cake walk.” Standup is you and a mic and good luck. Here there’s a whole team making you look good. It’s hard to find a picture of me while I’m doing my act where I look attractive. And here there’s lighting and makeup. So this is lovely.
Truth & Iliza airs Tuesdays on Freeform at 10 p.m. ET.
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