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Hometown comic’s fond Fort Worth memories include ‘a slushie and like a shot of alcohol’

Comedian and actress Iliza Shlesinger still remembers filming her first comedy special in her North Texas hometown.

The “Good on Paper” actress was born in New York, but moved to Dallas at a young age. After graduating college and starting her stand-up career in California, Shlesinger came back home to Dallas to film her first comedy “War Paint” in 2013.

Shlesinger has released six comedy specials since 2013, her most recent effort — “Hot Forever” — released on Netflix in 2022. She’s also an accomplished writer, having authored two books, with her latest work “All Things Aside: Absolutely Correct Opinions” hitting shelves last fall.

In addition, Shlesinger is also an actress with credits in projects such as “Spenser Confidential”, “Pieces of a Women” and “The Righteous Gemstones”.

The Star-Telegram caught up with the Texas comedian ahead of her “Hard Feelings” tour stop at the Texas Trust CU Theatre in Grand Prairie at 7 p.m. Saturday. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Star-Telegram: I know the [Hard Feelings] tour just started last week, but how’s it been so far?

Iliza Shlesinger: Oh, it’s tremendous. It’s nice to step into fully sold out shows. Chicago was great and very much looking forward to Texas. We always try to do Austin, Houston and Dallas, all together. It’s always nice to come home.

ST: I know you’re from the area and Grand Prairie is just a stone’s throw away from Dallas. When you come back to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, do you think its a hometown show for you?

IS: I left Dallas when I was 18, but I’ve got a lot of family that still lives there. It’s more nostalgic. Like I let the nostalgia kinda wash over me. I don’t think I know everyone in the audience, but it’s always nice to have local references that your childhood was steeped in, versus something that you learned recently. It’s nice to throw around the word Metroplex.

ST: When you come back to the area, do you have any places you like to hit up? Restaurants or anything?

IS: As far as Fort Worth goes, I mean we lived in like far north Dallas. But I did in my college years when I would come home. I had a lot of friends that went to TCU. Not that I go there now, but I have fond memories of some sort of drive-thru liquor barn in Fort Worth. You could get a slushie and like a shot of alcohol poured right in and I was like, “This seems legal.” Of course, we would go to like Joe T. Garcia’s for margaritas.

Last time I played Texas, we had a flight delay. We’re at DFW [International Airport] and I told me team that we have just enough time and its the perfect time of the day. We went and saw them walk the longhorns down [the Stockyards] and they’d never seen one before. I felt as close to a cowboy as I was ever going to feel by showing them that.

ST: I mean, that’s a pretty good walk in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. It’s funny you mention Joe T. Garcia’s, because Mark Wahlberg was actually there [Monday] night for a private tequila event and you guys starred together in “Spenser Confidential”.

IS: Definitely haven’t been there in a while. I will say, usually I fly into the city and I drop my stuff at my dad’s house and then we go do the show at the venue. When I used to play in downtown Dallas, we would go after a show to Adair’s [Saloon] there in Deep Ellum. But yeah, when your show is in Grand Prairie maybe you can find a McDonald’s off the freeway. [Laughs] I know there’s like a Holiday Inn nearby.

ST: I think there’s a Whataburger, maybe.

IS: There’s definitely a Whataburger. There’s always a Whataburger if its in Texas.

ST: Going back a bit, your first Netflix special “War Paint” was released just over a decade ago. When you look back, what are some fond memories you have from that? That was filmed in Dallas, right?

IS: Yeah, it was called the Lakewood Theater and I don’t know if its there anymore or maybe they saved it. I remember thinking it was very cool to wear these really beat up combat boots that I had. I was like, “I’m going to regret this one day.” And looking back, I don’t. I still think they look awesome. I shot that before Netflix was really a thing, before people were really having specials. So at the time, having a special on Netflix wasn’t a thing like it is now. It was really special to get that acquired by Netflix and that kind of started that relationship. Your first special, of course, you’re going to go to your hometown because you really have nowhere else to go.

ST: There you go. Maybe a little more welcoming for your first special.

IS: It was great. It was a small room and you invite everyone that you ever went to school with and you just try to make some art.

ST: I think it definitely paid off. I mean, you’ve done six specials and written multiple books and acted. You have a podcast too. Is there any one of those that’s your favorite creative outlet?

IS: It’s always a different muscle. You’re getting to exercise different parts of your creativity, but I love doing stand-up comedy. I love connecting with fans, I love creating this energy on stage and I love making people laugh and giving them a break from their everyday lives. The longer I do it, the more ways I find to connect with people in many cases who are nothing like me. My act is steeped in the idea that we’re all human. We all really do have the same feelings and emotions under all the politics and social constraints and everything. We’re all just people wanting to be seen and I try to exploit that for laughter as much as possible.

ST: Comedy is a form that transcends language barriers and all things like that. The tour started in Hawaii and you’ll be here domestically then internationally. Besides a language barrier, is there any kind of difference between a domestic crowd to one overseas?

IS: I mean, every country is a little different. We actually technically started in Japan, I do a lot of USO shows. I support our troops in any way that I can. At this point, it’s less of a language barrier because in other countries they also speak English. America is the only one where we’re like, “We’ll skip it. We’ll skip learning that second language.” And that is the cool thing. Like again, yeah, they’re not going to get every reference but because American pop culture is such a huge export, they know what prom is. I don’t have to say grade eight, I can say eighth grade. They know all of our references.

So it is a privilege you have as an American to be like, “You already know all about my culture, right? So I don’t have to explain this.” And they like, just like we like to listen to a British person in their accent. They like all the American stuff and I think foreign audiences sign up for that American boldness I have. Maybe part of it is growing up Texan, you know? There’s a lot of like, “I got something to say and you’re gonna listen to it and I think you’re gonna like it.”

ST: Very much a Texan response.

IS: Yeah and if you don’t like it, well, you already bought the ticket. [Laughs]

ST: I wanted to ask you about your fans, because I know you call them “party goblins” and that’s from your second special [”Freezing Hot”]. I’m just curious, is there a party goblin in all of us? Is this something that you choose? How can I be a party goblin?

IS: Everybody has one. Party goblin lives within every person, everyone’s party goblin looks different. Party goblin is this creature deep inside of you and only you know the right amount of drinks and the right environment that unlocks the party goblin. Could be one shot of fireball. Could be three espresso martinis. Could be white wine. Could be six Bud Lights on a river. Party goblin is that tipping point between, I’m just going to have a nice casual night out, to let’s do something weird in an alley and see what kind of illegal weird things we can get into. Party goblin is the difference between I’ll just have one and call the hospital and tell them I’m coming.

ST: That’s a very striking description that I think we can all see in ourselves. I was curious about your social media channels. You have a phone number where people can text you [323-370-4480]. How does that work? What are some of those interactions like? Wholesome? Weird?

IS: It’s basically like a less annoying email list. You sign up and then I can target you, well, target is a weird word. Basically, it’s a way of contacting people based on age group or city and I can reach out to be like, “Hey, Fort Worth I’m coming to Grand Prairie get your tickets on iliza.com.” Or if I know its your birthday, because it will tell me, I could send you a happy birthday text. It’s just my way of reaching out. I try not to do it too much, because I don’t want to create expectations. But it is a way to actually one-on-one communicate with fans.

ST: I wanted to wrap things up with you coming to Texas this weekend and having the Grand Prairie show on Saturday. What is in store for fans at your Texas shows?

IS: Collectively as a society, we’ve just been through a lot. People more than ever just need an hour- to 90-minute show. They need a show where they can just leave their troubles at the door. Laugh, laugh at themselves, laugh at each other. Nobody wants to be preached to. I do a pretty good job of walking a fine line so everybody leaves making sure I’m making fun of the other person. It’s energetic, it’s whimsical.

We’re gonna be talking about stripper hoops. We’re gonna talk about how easy it is to turn on a guy. We’re gonna be talking about all things you secretly want to talk about and all the things you secretly think but never said. We’re gonna be talking about hot husbands and ugly wives, hot wives and ugly husbands. All kinds of things. I’m really excited for this hour because its just pure distilled party goblin fun.

ST: I think that’s a perfect description. You sold me in those last few words.

IS: That’s why I chose them. I’m like, “How do I get a man to come see the show?” [Laughs]

Iliza Shlesinger is performing at the Texas Trust CU Theatre in Grand Prairie at 7 p.m. on Saturday.