Halloween may be over, but the spooks and scares are still coming, of all places in the form of a new Netflix comedy special.
Iliza Shlesinger: UnVeiled is the comic’s fifth stand-up special for the streaming service, where she, well, lifts the veil on what should otherwise be happy occasions — weddings — turning them on their head to reveal and breakdown all of the obnoxious and cliché stereotypes and traditions.
“You have to write what you know and comment on what you know,” Shlesinger tells EW ahead of the special’s Nov. 19 debut, “and a big angle with my comedy is saying things that people don’t feel they’re allowed to say. I say, f— it, I have nothing to lose by being honest.”
It’s something you get a glimpse of right away in EW’s exclusive trailer for UnVeiled, above: “Getting married’s not that much fun. You’re not allowed to say that, especially if you’re a woman, God forbid, over 30.”
The trailer puts a dark, demented spin on nuptials — “Forget saving the date, save yourself,” the preview warns — which the 36-year-old had fresh on her mind when sitting down to write the show: she married chef and restaurateur Noah Galuten in May 2018.
“I really believe in letting the art dictate the rest of the art, so the vocal art dictates the visual arts,” Shlesinger, who started rising to comedy fame when she won the sixth season of NBC’s Last Comic Standing in 2008, explains of the inspiration for the trailer. “And we had the thing with the blood and there’s a whole sort of zombie commentary and the creepiness of the bride, and I really felt the dark side of this beautiful, white day is what I was unearthing, so I just ran with it.”
The special itself isn’t a horror story — hysterical is perhaps a better word for it. Whether you’ve gotten married, been to or in a wedding, or even just partied with the groom- or bride-to-be (“You don’t see a bachelorette party coming, you f—ing hear it, and if you’re hearing it, you’re too late,” she jokes in the special”), it’s easy to relate, not just to Shlesinger’s sharp and snappy observations and anecdotes about her own ceremony but in the revelations she shares, seamlessly incorporating them into the fabric of the bigger story she’s trying to tell.
“I would like to think what I say is socially relevant, poignant, insightful, intelligent. I also think I spend a lot of specials standing up for women and having this point of view that supports women, and while I think that’s still important, I think a big part of being an empowered woman is realizing that you don’t always have to talk about being an empowered woman,” she says.
She gets that point of view across thanks in part to her stamina and style, which in some ways is reminiscent of Robin Williams. The late comic sometimes slipped into other characters during his own stand-up shows, even talk-show appearance, and Shlesinger has a small arsenal of voices she adopts to essentially troll herself, speaking from the point of view of hypothetical audience members who might “complain about” or “take offense to” her jokes.
“They naturally just pour out of me. I’m always mimicking noises and making noises – my husband will tell you that it’s like a constant soundtrack,” she says, laughing. “That voice is annoying because the constant commentary from society can be annoying.”
On top of the affectations, her energy is infectious, making what she says all the more compelling; she’s fast-talking, but never misunderstood.
“I naturally have a lot of energy – for better or for worse – and my storytelling is very physical, and it’s a direct correlation of the way I think a story should be told,” she says. “I want to jump into the audience, I want to grab people.”
Like an athlete before a sporting event or competition, Shlesinger — who just wrapped production on the first season of a sketch show for Netflix, and costars opposite Mark Wahlberg in the upcoming movie Wonderland for the streamer — also physically trains to do her job as a stand-up comic.
“I did the Keto diet to get ready for Elder Millennial. For this one, I just focused a lot on working upper arms… because you want to look the way your material feels, which is strong and lean and fast,” she explains. “People come for a performance and this is the kind of entertainer I am. So I give ‘em a show.”
And in this show, fans will also get to see her beloved dog Blanche — also adorably dressed in wedding garb — one last time.
“She passed away a couple months later, and there was part of me that spiritually felt like she held on to do that last special, and then she made her elegant departure,” Shlesinger reflects. “So it was very special that she was there. I think people are going to love it.”