From performing with the Jimmy’s Traveling All-Stars comedy troupe, Iliza Shlesinger knew she wanted to perform stand-up.
“There’s no wrong way to get into it,” Shlesinger said. “You can cloth and feed yourself while chipping away at it, but you’ve got to get after it.”
All jokes aside, Iliza Shlesinger ’05 has created a name for herself in the entertainment industry since graduating from Emerson.
The comedian, author and actress discussed her life after Emerson with Doug Herzong ‘81 in an event streamed from the Los Angeles campus on October 24.
A defining moment in her career, Shlesinger said, was winning the NBC stand-up comedy competition, Last Comic Standing. This helped her become a headliner for her own shows, and has starred in six Netflix stand-up comedy specials, co-starred with Mark Wahlberg in the Netflix hot movie Spenser Confidential and published her book All Things Aside in 2022. She is currently based in Los Angeles.
Shlesinger majored in visual media arts at Emerson, and chose the school because the students had a “hustle.”
“I thought ‘these kids are just like me’,” Shlesinger said. “They want to be creative for a living, there’s multiple comedy troupes and they’re accessible.”
Herzog opened the discussion up to student questions, and one comedy hopeful asked how Shlesinger stays motivated to keep working.
“I don’t think of it as a ‘grind’,” Shlesinger answered. “I have a lot of energy and I genuinely love doing standup. Walking on stage in those minutes that you’re free and you’re doing it and it works, I love doing it. It’s the best job in the world.”
Shlesinger said every show is different, and she constantly writes new material. While the audiences always change, she said, you cannot grow as a writer and performer without evolving your work.
When asked about her takeaways from Emerson, Shlesinger called it a “microcosm of Hollywood” and said the urban campus made her mature faster.
“I really loved being in it,” Shlesinger said. “You’re in a realistic environment, especially if you’re going into the entertainment industry. You have to want to be there.”
Herzog seconded this by saying Emerson students quickly learn to be competitive and that there’s limited roles and spots.
Sheslinger said that there is always competition in the industry, and said anyone who doesn’t compete is lying.
“You have to have a hunger to keep creating,” Shlesinger said. “Don’t rest on your laurels. Nobody who is actually talented and does the work doesn’t get ahead.”