HitFix Interview: Iliza Shlesinger talks ‘Excused,’ ‘Last Comic Standing’

As the host of the new syndicated dating show “Excused,” Iliza Shlesinger lobs zingers at the lovelorn and the clueless. We’d expect nothing less from the first woman (and youngest contestant) to win “Last Comic Standing,” of course. I talked to Iliza about why “Last Comic Standing” isn’t the golden ticket some might think, what she’d love to do next and the line she won’t cross in making fun of luckless daters. 

So, did winning “Last Comic Standing” open doors? I would think you’d be a shoo-in for jobs after that.

I would have thought that too, but I won that show and I think it only really matters to comedians. At the end of the day, it’s “Last Comic Standing,” not the “Last Host Standing” or “Last Actress Standing.” It gave me the opportunity to broaden my career horizons, so I was a featured comedian at that point, and afterwards I was a headliner. 


A lot of people claim stand-up is still a man’s world. Do you find that to be true?

It’s a mans world in that there are more male comics. You do have to prove yourself over and over. It doesn’t matter how many times you perform or how many awards you win, you have to keep doing those half hour specials and getting in front of people before you become popular. 


What’s the biggest difference between this show and doing stand-up?

There are things you can’t say and things that aren’t right for certain audiences. There are certain people you can’t offend. The real similarity is that, with the show, you have to be funny right then and there.


Do you ever feel that people think, because you’re pretty, you’re not going to be funny?

You know what? It’s so weird because to be held up as the gorgeous homecoming week cheerleader, it’s only among comics, so while I was never got that head cheerleader status in my real life, now that I’m in comedy, where there aren’t a lot of attractive women, I do get that, well, she’s hot, she must not be funny. They’re comparing me to bald guys and hardworking, overweight women, so I think to be somewhat attractive when I walk out on stage throws people. But it doesn’t matter ultimately, because if you don’t know who I am, you find out in the first minute of my act. 


You said there were things you couldn’t say on “Excused.” Any examples?

Because I’m not a mean spirited person, I don’t want people walking away from this show feeling bad about themselves. So I walk a fine line where I’ll say, that’s a goofy sweatshirt, but I wouldn’t say someone has a big nose. 


If you weren’t the host, do you think you’d ever appear on this show?

If I were younger, no. Personally, I wouldn’t do this show because I don’t have a tolerance for people. But a lot of people do tell me they had a great time and they’re glad that mom and dad got to see them on a reality show. This is a half hour of fun and we try to keep it upbeat. 


What’s next for you?

I’d love to do a talk show, and I think people are ready for a young, funny, attractive woman to be on late night TV. I’ve been working on something for a while, and I think it’s going to be awesome. Women want to be talked to like they’re intelligent. Not all women are preoccupied with Kim Kardashian. I think there is a young, female audience out there who wants intelligent humor, so why not include them in your late night dialogue?


A lot of people are talking about how this is TV’s year of the woman. Do you agree?

I think the doors are open as long as you’re willing to kick them open. Last year was all about diversity and the year before that was all about late night TV comics. Women have been funny for years and years and years, and people are just getting around to noticing. 


It sounds like life isn’t too different for you after “Last Comic Standing.”

In the comic world, it carries some weight. When it comes to getting a movie role, not so much. Stand-up is just totally different. I’m not one to rest on my laurels. I won it, and I’ve moved on. There are people who were on the show that still talk about it, like that’s their biggest accomplishment. It’s a good thing to have in your back pocket, but nobody really cares.