Following her third Netflix stand-up special, Confirmed Kills, comedian Iliza is finally bringing her latest tour to a proper theater in L.A. rather than the clubs she tends to headline when performing locally — and it just happens to fall on everyone’s favorite forced romantic holiday.

“It’ll be nice to perform at a theater here instead of a club so I can bring everyone together on this weird holiday,” Iliza says. “It’s great because it’s somewhere to go if you have a date, it’s somewhere to go if you don’t have a date, and it’s somewhere to go if you don’t care at all and just want to see a comedy show. The Valentine’s Day thing was just given to me, but I’d do this show any day. I probably only think about Valentine’s Day as much as the average guy does.”

Audiences expecting to hear the same kinds of dating tales and partying jokes they might’ve gotten from the native Texan a few years back may be in for a bit of a surprise. In her growth from Last Comic Standing winner to comedic relationship expert to the world’s leading user of the fried-shrimp emoji, Iliza’s also taken it upon herself to go deeper.

“As a comedian, you always want to be evolving and hope that your audience is evolving with you,” Iliza says. “It’s really hard to watch myself — only a psycho would enjoy watching old DVDs of their comedy — but I look back and see things that were really fun and smart for where I was in my life, but now I think if you don’t stand up for yourself and say something meaningful in your comedy, it can be kind of a wasted platform. Now, I look forward to seeing how wrong I feel about that statement in five years.”

But Iliza’s evolution is about more than just empowering women and dropping her last name (Shlesinger) for a singular moniker — it’s also about finding a way to stand out and make comedy that’s worth watching in the vast sea of content known as the internet. As someone who’s had success with shows and specials on every platform from network TV to online streaming services, Iliza understands the current challenge facing comedians these days, big-name and small-.

“Comedy is so hot right now — and it has been for a couple of years — that it’s kind of a blessing and a curse,” Iliza says. “You have so many avenues for comedy, with networks investing in web series and all of these alternative channels looking for comedy shows, that it gives a chance to comedians who weren’t necessarily a network’s top three picks for a comedy special. On that same token, it generates so much content that it creates a tougher battle to get seen. You have people who make six-second videos of them getting hit in the crotch on Instagram and they’re making a million dollars a week.”

Iliza isn't directly competing with social media stars specializing in nut shots, but she’s also built a uniquely dedicated fanbase. Not only does Iliza’s audience watch her live shows, stand-up specials and ABC web series Forever 31, but they make posters and T-shirts and bring homemade (or store-bought) gifts to the meet-and-greets the comedian hosts after each live performance.

“Human beings are naturally very selfish, so for people to stop and take time and money out of their busy lives not just to watch me perform but also to meet me and bring gifts for me, it’s humbling — and I’m not humbled by much,” Iliza says. “It’s not just touching that my comedy touched them but that they want to express their love. I look forward to it as much as they do. It’s not like I’m curing cancer. I’m just doing stand-up.”

While Iliza may be one of comedy’s fastest-rising stars, she’ll always have competition for the headlining slot of her own show. Ever since being introduced to the masses in 2013’s War Paint special, the comedian’s adorable rescue dog, Blanche, has found her own way into the hearts of many. As many relatable jokes as Iliza has come up with over the years, it’s tough to rival the emotional attachment some of her diehards have for Blanche.

“We do these meet-and-greets, and everybody comes up and says, ‘I’m excited to meet you, but I’m really here for Blanche,'” Iliza says. “She’s definitely put on some weight, so I’d say it didn’t go to her head as much as it went to her butt. Like, here’s this rescue dog that I got just to have some company on the road, and to see people embrace my pet like their own pet is a special thing. Seeing how people react to my dog that I love so much, I think it gives a certain softness to my comedy. I’m sharing a part of my heart, my dog, my opinions, and I think my fans are very caring, nurturing and receptive in that regard.”

Blanche isn’t the only star of the show, though. Going to one of Iliza’s performances means you’ll likely be introduced to at least a few other characters as well, such as Party Goblin, the physical manifestation of the voice inside your head that just wants to throw responsibility to the wind and party all the time. Even as Iliza’s comedy becomes less about the absurd and more focused on relaying a message, there will always be a little Party Goblin in her.

“These are all creatures that exist because of love,” Iliza says. “If it’s not something personal, I usually write ‘Party Goblin loves you’ on posters at the meet-and-greets. What’s so relatable about Party Goblin is that sure, people get drunk and do silly things, but it’s that little voice inside of you that says, ‘Don’t give up on having fun.’ Everybody makes mistakes and everybody’s Party Goblin is different – although the word ‘goblin’ is also very funny, and I think that’s at the root of all of this.”

Iliza is performing at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre on Tuesday, Feb. 14, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $30 and are available through Ticketmaster.

LA Weekly