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The Last Laugh

September 18, 2008 By:
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On stage, in person, Iliza Shlesinger shows why she jokes all night. Below, the "Last Comic Standing" stands between host Bill Bellamy and co-host Fearne Cotton.

The Lone Star State ain't in such a lonely state anymore: It has a new amiga to keep it amused these days in Dallas maverick Iliza Shlesinger, whose shoot-from-the-hip delivery landed the Texan-on-a-tear terror the "Last Comic Standing" championship on NBC.

Giddy-up: The industry's latest punch line podner is eastward ho these days, in heady terrain as headliner of the "Last Comic Standing Live Tour," bringing her posse of quipsters to the Keswick Theatre, leaving the glens of Texas for Glenside, where she and "LCS" finalists Marcus, Jeff Dye, Jim Tavare and Louis Ramey will perform this Saturday night at 8.

A Jewish jokester from Dallas? What would the Ewings say? Based on audience reaction to her long run last season on NBC's "LCS," they'd probably laugh so hard it would blow J.R.'s toup right off the top of his head.

"Well, I probably know more Yiddish than the average Texan," she quips.

She can afford to: In addition to a gig at Bally's "Jubilee" in Las Vegas, this Jewish jokester took home $250,000 and signed an exclusive deal with the network.

That includes a comedy pilot ... "No, no, no," she wants one to know. "It's a Honda Pilot I won."

It's a lot to handle for the first female -- make that first Jewish female -- winner of "LCS," flying high-five these days on tour. But then, her cutting-edge humor travels well: Shlesinger went from Texas to Boston, as a film student at Emerson College, before immigrating to Los Angeles with a comedy club in hand.

But she doesn't bludgeon audiences with biting bilge; hers is a smart/sly attack attached to a sense of the ridiculous which riddles everyday life.

Everyday life helped build her own body of work early on as she went from store to store, a saleswoman working on selling items related to the body at a Dallas mall: body lotions, Speedo outfits, Steve Madden shoes ... "Well," she says, mockingly snippy, "what else do you sell in a mall?"

She's an easy sell; good comedy, good timing. And the time is right for this "daughter of New York Jews," whose travels include Israel and, now, the world.

After all, as the "Last Comic Standing," she's in good standing. But is she the best in the world?

"I was the best that night on stage," she says of her earth-shattering performance some six weeks ago.

Her finale was money, which is good because there wasn't much to count in her bank account when she first started the show: "Just about $20," she remembers.

No Family Feuds Here

Now that she's $249,980 richer, Shlesinger concedes that, yes, "that can make a difference." (Maybe her dad can help; he's a financial planner. And both mom and dad, says Shlesinger, help account for her own funny bones. "My father is the funniest person I've ever met, and my mother is extremely witty, sarcastic and smart.")

To wit -- Shlesinger's inherited it all. Plans are now to continue her merry, mirthful way; after all, it's all brought her a long way since those early performances at the Comedy Sportz in Dallas.

Don't expect her to make sport of athletic supporters; she's one herself: "I grew up with sports."

Were those Friday night lights emanating from Shabbat candles -- or a football field? Oh, those stereotypes, she says in her act that turns up the volume on shattering them.

It's a pain in the neck the belief that being from Texas leads to some Southern discomfort in the minds of others. "There's a big difference between being a redneck and a Texan, and I feel blessed to be a Texan."

Blessed with a blistering sense of humor, Shlesinger has made the stage her own space and made MySpace a stage of her own: She won the cyberspace network's "So You Think You're Funny" competition pre-"LCS."

Her comedic strength has been obvious, too, in "The Weakly News" (www.theStreamtv.com), and the comic, whose icon is Adam Sandler, leaves her audiences punch-drunk loving and laughing.

But, seriously, Iliza, now that you can be asked, "What's in your wallet?" and not have to answer, "Moths" ... any capital ideas for big changes?

"I'm going to pay off my one student loan, a small one."

Pause. Or is that ... paws? Then, "I'm going to get an operation for my cat so his ears stop dripping wax."

Oil of oy vey? And, as far as that name is concerned ... well, she could have joked all night. And she can do little to discourage the guesses; yes, she concedes, she is named after Eliza Doolittle: "My mom needed to name me something with an 'I' and before I was born, I think she was watching 'My Fair Lady' for like the billionth time, and she was like, 'Oh, my God, Eliza with an I. Let's make her life really difficult.' "

Shlesinger has the last laugh; it's all come full cycle for the up-and-coming 25-year-old "Last Comic Standing," who can now have all the chocolates she wants in life, as the world's latest "My Fun Lady."

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