Iliza Shlesinger Wants You To Know That Your Vagina Is Normal

Photo: Eric McCandless/Freeform.
You know the story. Late night TV is a sausage party. All the hosts are named James, somehow. One woman is killing it, yes, but she's stuck on cable. Chelsea Handler used to fill a certain raunchy void, but she's moved on to Netflix — along with so many top-shelf female comedians.
Thankfully, Iliza Shlesinger is here to balance the scales. May 2 marks the premiere of Freeform's Truth & Iliza. If you’ve ever opened Netflix, you’ve probably seen one of her three specials on the streaming site.
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I became an Iliza fan after watching 2013’s War Paint — the first in Shlesinger's trio of specials — and knew I needed to chat with the Texas comedian about her latest project, especially since Truth & Iliza is being touted as TV’s first feminist, millennial late night show. Shlesinger was happy to oblige during a phone conversation, where she explained what makes her show different, why everyone’s vagina is normal, and whether her Instagram-famous dog Blanche will make her Truth debut.
What do you want our readers to know about Truth & Iliza? Why should it be their next must-watch show?
"This is the only show that’s created to make women laugh, but also inform. There is no show out there in late night that occupies a space between pop culture and politics and social commentary. And that’s what this show is. It’s obviously for men and women, but I want women to come and know I’m saying what they’re thinking. I’m on their side. I think that’s something that’s missing.
"I think too often women are forced to choose: do you want to hear celebrity gossip or do you want to hear politics? For me, I don’t really care about celebrity gossip, but the stakes are too high in our society to leave women out of the conversation. I’ll bring them in with laughter."
Almost every late night show is dealing with politics in some way right now. How are you planning on approaching it?
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"If you want to watch a woman talk about politics, you can watch Samantha Bee, who’s brilliant, or you could watch Rachel Maddow. But the truth is, it’s a lot to digest. And even when you do try to read your free Washington Post article, if you don’t really have a background in politics or skin in the game, your eyes kind of glaze over. I thought, 'Wouldn’t it be great if we could digest poignant stories and extract the social impact versus just talking about the politics?'
"So, when a law is passed it’s not so much about the law [on Truth & Iliza], it’s breaking down why this shit matters. Bill O'Reilly gets fired from FOX News, here’s why it matters and it has to do with women banding together and standing up for themselves. It’s sort of giving women this power and letting them know, you matter and what you think matters."

"So, I’m an in-shape white girl. I don’t think things are bad for me. But what I can say is no matter what you look like you still have insecurities."

Iliza Shlesinger
I feel like Sam Bee comparisons are going to be inevitable. Do you think that's sexist? No one's really comparing Seth Meyers and The Daily Show.
"No one’s really compared she and I. And not that we need need to. I really want to get out of that. But, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, and Stephen Colbert get compared to each other all the time. One mistake that I’ve made as a woman who does comedy is I always feel I get compared to a small group and I always thought it was just me. [Then] I read a David Letterman interview recently and the reporter asked him a lot about Stephen Colbert and David Letterman didn’t really want to talk about it. So I think it’s natural for people to compare you to the closest [person] they can associate you to.
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"But in no world do I want to go toe-to-toe with Samantha Bee about public policy."
You talk about body positivity and body acceptance a ton on Instagram. Will that make its way into the show?
"I think so. All of our episodes have themes, so we have one episode called ‘Women Vs. Women.’ It talks about female competition. And, blatantly, the last episode is called ‘Your Vagina Is Normal.’
"So, I’m an in-shape white girl. I don’t think things are bad for me. But what I can say is no matter what you look like you still have insecurities. And my biggest issue is people telling you that you shouldn’t be insecure, when deep down you don’t like something about your body. All of your opinions are valid and it has less to do with that, and more to do with society telling you that you’re wrong.
"I’m a little bit older. I want to tell younger women what they tell you you should look like isn’t feasible. And you are enough. I think hearing it from a girl who’s just like you is different from hearing it from a celebrity or a model."
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And half of the things they say aren’t realistic possibilities.
"Most of those people [on Instagram] don’t even look like that. I think the other side of that is letting women just be what they want to be. If you want to be thin, and stunning, and tanned, let her be that. How another woman looks doesn’t have to negatively affect you. Women need to stop seeing each other as competition because when you know that you are enough you don’t see [other] women as a threat. I live by that."

"Unfortunately we don’t live in a society where you can say whatever you want and there will be no repercussions. Pick and choose your battles. I think that’s the key."

Iliza Shlesinger
You also fight back against trolls all the time on Twitter. Do you have any advice for fellow outspoken women who deal with hate on social media?
"Here’s the thing. So it seems like I fight back a lot. But I’ll take someone once every couple months who needs to know the way that they think is wrong. It’s less about embarrassing someone and it’s more about my desire to correct a way of thinking. So notice when I clap back it’s never about just yelling, 'Fuck you!' It’s always a laid out thesis of why they’re wrong. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I just block them.
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"I’m not going to be one of those women who’s like, 'Stand up for yourself [no matter what], who cares!' Women get assaulted. [The statistic is like] a woman is raped every two minutes in America. The world is a scary place. Even my mother has suggested I take a self defense class. Unfortunately we don’t live in a society where you can say whatever you want and there will be no repercussions. Pick and choose your battles. I think that’s the key."
By the way, we loved your Girlboss cameo. How did that happen and are you looking to do more scripted comedy?
"I was so sick when I filmed that. I had the worst cold. I read for it, I just auditioned for it. Anybody you meet, any comedian goes out and auditions. I just happened to have the most luck with stand-up … I have a couple screenplays I’ve wrote that are doing the rounds. We’re trying to do as many sketches as possible on Truth & Iliza."
The next step after that is usually to write a memoir. Are you planning on doing that?
"My book, Girl Logic, comes out in November of 2017 with Weinstein Publications. It’s a memoir in that these are things that I remember, but I would feel like this sanctimonious, self-righteous asshole if at 34 I was like, ‘And here’s what I’ve done. Life’s over, here’s what I’ve accomplished.’
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"So this book is less of an autobiography and more a book shining a light on the thought processes women apply to most things. Then there’s personal essays substantiating that."
And, most importantly, when will Blanche made an appearance? And will she host herself?
"She won’t be on the show herself, but I think we’ll have her come out at the beginning to say hi to the audience, but not at home. She’s very supportive of me and as long as she has chicken, she doesn’t mind doing anything."
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