Published Jul 31, 2016Iliza Shlesinger was about as animated as they come at Montreal's Just for Laughs. She was everything her fans wanted to see and more: unhinged, clever and funny as all get out. Nearly every gag, tirade and punch line was impeccably delivered without ever seeming worked over. She never lost steam despite all the running, scuttling and explosive energy she invested into every second of her performance.
Shlesinger kicked off her set with a fan favourite of hers, infamously dubbed the Party Goblin — a creature that supposedly slumbers somewhere beneath one's cerebral cortex until an opportunity for debauchery and bad decisions arises. It was the first of countless occasions during her set where she would scuttle around impersonating a given animal, real or imaginary.
The inclusion of the Party Goblin bit had the same sort of effect as a band playing one of their big hits right off the bat. There was no opportunity to warm up and slowly acclimatize to the level Shlesinger was on. She was all-in before she even said hello. The audience was implicitly asked to go from zero to 60 in no time at all, and they immediately obliged.
Those who weren't familiar with Shlesinger's work might have expected a rather surreal, silly set all about partying, if the first ten minutes of her set were anything to go from. However, Shlesinger devoted a great deal of her time to talking about some pretty serious stuff.
About half her set was devoted to how she relates to the world as a feminist. Through that lens, there were some extremely funny and honest moments. Her material regarding women's rights, the tenuous dynamics of flirting between men and women, and the unfortunate circumstances under which women apparently desire to be actual mermaids was complex. She was able to harness both the conviction inherent in feminist ideals and the confliction that inevitably arises when ideals meet reality. Her authenticity during her more political material was something perhaps unmatched in any of her comedy specials.
Of course, aside from being present and genuine, Shlesinger was absolutely hilarious. She concluded her set with what truly is one of her most enduring qualities — Shlesinger can string out a complete mental breakdown like no other. Her explosive outbursts are the stuff of legend and — as she demonstrated during her closing bit — she can portray multiple characters while doing so.
She finished her set with a portrayal of two Midwestern beauty pageant-type sisters vying for a spot on the American television show Shark Tank, who can't seem to get their act together. She has a knack for building high emotional stakes out of almost nothing, there's really nothing quite like it.
Iliza Shlesinger is a whirlwind of funny. Montreal caught a young professional in her prime last night. It was magical, authentic and among the funniest acts one could have hoped to catch at this year's Just for Laughs.