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Iliza Shlesinger Wants You to Let Go of Perfection

The comedian and author talks about the not-so-fun side of wedding planning and what’s off-limits in comedy on the Thrive Global Podcast with Arianna Huffington.

If you’ve stumbled upon the Netflix comedy special Elder Millennial, you’ve seen how Iliza Shlesinger, the 2008 winner of “Last Comic Standing,” has taken her comedy career to new and hilarious heights. She now has four Netflix specials (and one more on the way), launched her weekly “Ask Iliza Anything” podcast, starred in Instant Family, alongside Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne, has three major motion pictures currently in production, and wrote Girl Logic: The Genius and the Absurdity, a collection of funny essays and observations on friendship and romantic relationships. Now, Shlesinger is entering a new phase of her life and career. As she sits down with Arianna Huffington for the Thrive Global Podcast, she opens up about being newly married, the prospect of having kids, her moral compass, and how she tries to live without regret. 

For a comedian, anything can provide material for a show. But Shlesinger emphasizes that not everything is meant for her act. For her, there are still some things that are sacred. “For me, authenticity is very important,” she explains. “At age 36, I feel that I’ve earned the right to speak with perspective and honesty. Sometimes, especially with pain, you have to process it. If you go up on stage or you say something and it’s too raw, then there’s no funny there.” Her recent wedding, though, to restaurateur and author Noah Galuten in May 2018, provided her with plenty of stress… and lots of funny stories.  

Shlesinger admits to Huffington that her own wedding planning experience was anything but blissful. Her upcoming Netflix special will focus on that. “I think that there’s this thing where, when you’re a woman, you’re just supposed to be so grateful, especially if you’re over 30, that you’re getting married at all,” she says. “And I’m like, this is f*cking hard. Flowers are real. It’s stressful, and it’s hard.”

The pressure took a toll on Shlesinger. “If you don’t lean into it, it really comes as a huge shock day — the  gravity of what you’re about to do. That got to me,” she confesses. “We’re talking primal scream in the bridal suite. I cried the entire way down the aisle, because I thought I would be stress-free. I’m like, ‘I’m just going to show up. It’s been planned. I’m ready to go!’ And it emotionally hit me like a ton of bricks.” She also speaks candidly about the pressure to maintain a certain image throughout a wedding. “I kept thinking I was supposed to look like a Jewish Grace Kelly, and glide down the aisle,” she recalls. “Instead, I’m just balling. The entire wedding, I’m just like, fixing my nose, because no one looks hot when they cry. And that’s all I was thinking about — that I didn’t look like Grace Kelly.”

The one thing Shlesinger wishes she did more of? “Preparation,” she tells Huffington. “A lot of girls lean into the planning, and they’ve got the albums, and they really get into it. But I think sometimes when you think you’re above it, details get left out. You have to remember, your guests are there. People are spending money and coming in to be with you. So to act like you don’t care does a disservice to the whole process.” Her advice to brides is to be as emotionally present as you can. “But also know that none of it truly matters,” she says. “What matters is that you’re going to be bound to this person that you love.”

Now that the wedding is behind her, Shlesinger confesses to Huffington that she’s thinking about what it would be like to grow her family. “I think a lot of people have families that pressure them, but my parents knew better than that,” she says, noting the unfair dichotomy that women often face around the issue. “It’s a conversation that I think sometimes we like to put women as either: You’re Mother Earth, or you’re this cold Cruella De Vil.” 

If she does decide to have children, Shlesinger emphasizes that she’ll be an open book. “If I ever did have a child, just like anything else in my life, I would look forward to letting other women know your emotions and your feelings are OK,” she tells Huffington. “It’s OK to be angry about your wedding day. It’s OK to be stressed. These things are OK and normal. And we oftentimes vilify women for having very normal thoughts that we’re all having. I enjoy standing up and being like, no, these are real thoughts. Because if you’re laughing at it, that means you’ve thought this too.” She’s making it her mission to normalize  these kinds of everyday stressors — and inject them with humor.

At the end of the day, Shlesinger wants to make comedy her way, without having to stress about perfection. “If you believe in the idea that there is no perfection — all you can do is try,” she explains. “We so get angry at other people when they’re trying and not trying hard enough in our eyes. Everybody’s version of perfection is different. When I have a show that fails, but I did it my way, at least I can go out saying I did it my way. I left it all on the court and I came to play. That’s the best you can do.”

Check out the rest of The Thrive Global Podcasts, sponsored by Crest 3D White and in partnership with iHeartRadio, here. To find out more, listen to the full conversation on iHeartRadio, here. You can also listen to the Thrive Global podcast internationally for free on iTunes.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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