Iliza Shlesinger brings ‘Iliza’s Comedy Tailgate Tour’ to San Diego

Iliza Shlesinger.

Iliza Shlesinger’s drive-in comedy show is Oct. 24 at Cal State San Marcos


The year is 2020. The world as we knew it just a few months ago has changed. And it’s here, in the midst of a global pandemic, that comedian Iliza Shlesinger is hitting the road and embarking on a socially-distanced drive-in comedy tour.

But is there anything funny about a global pandemic?

“There’s something funny about everything,” Shlesinger says during a phone call.

The nine-city tour, called “Iliza’s Comedy Tailgate Tour,” kicked off on Oct. 2 on the East Coast and hits San Diego on Oct. 24 at Cal State San Marcos.

“I labeled mine the ‘Comedy Tailgate Tour’ because I want Americans to rethink how they would go to a drive-in. This is not ‘sit in your car and listen quietly.’ This is a tailgate party ... It’s a safe social distance hang. And I think it’s an example of the American spirit and perseverance. As long as it’s safe, I’m going to be doing shows,” she says.

Perhaps best known for her five Netflix standup comedy specials like “Elder Millennial” (2018) and “Unveiled” (2019), the comedian, actress, author and host has had a busy 2020, despite the pandemic.

In March, her film “Spenser Confidential” co-starring Mark Wahlberg debuted on Netflix and, as of April, had already been streamed over 85 million times.

When the pandemic hit and the stay-at-home order came, Shlesinger and her husband, Noah Galuten (a chef and James Beard Award nominated author) created “Don’t Panic Pantry,” a cooking show that streamed on Instagram and Facebook and was featured on programs like the “Today” show and “The Talk.”

Shlesinger executive produced and starred in “The Iliza Shlesinger Sketch Show,” also on Netflix. In July, she guest hosted “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”

She even took a dramatic turn in her appearance in “Pieces of a Woman,” with Shia LaBeouf, which premiered at the 77th Venice International Film Festival in September. All of this is in addition to her ongoing podcast, “Ask Iliza Anything,” where she tackles listener questions.

Iliza Shlesinger.
Iliza Shlesinger.

Calling Shlesinger busy is an understatement, and the pandemic has done little to slow her down.

“Within a week of the pandemic, we decided to start doing ‘Don’t Panic Pantry.’ Our goal was to give me an outlet to entertain people and to give us something to produce. We wanted this to be over as much as everyone else did, and so we thought, what can we do with what we have? Well, we can use cooking to encourage people to cook with what they have and make it entertaining,” she says. “It was our sort of attempt at social work, of encouraging people to stay at home, please, and we can nip this in the bud? And the show became appointment viewing for people, a place for people to commune and get to know each other and form bonds and here we are, 140 episodes later, and my husband has a cookbook deal based on ‘Don’t Panic Pantry’ and we have fans all over the world.”

Of shifting to a drive-in comedy show format to enable social distancing, Shlesinger says, “It’s really about the desire and the will on both ends. I really wanted to do my act and work on my hour, and people forget that they need entertainment.”

The hardest part of pivoting to this new format, she explained, is that the closeness she normally feels with her fans is no longer an option.

“You get energy in a different way. And you know they’re laughing. The honking is a little dystopian, but you get over it, you adjust, just like we all have in this pandemic,” Shlesinger says. “Honestly, the hardest part is not being able to be as close to my fans after, when I do meet-and-greets. My fans are very known for making gifts and art and things from the heart, and while we do have meet-and-greets set up, I can’t hug them, I can’t shake their hands, I can’t get close and hear something personal. So that exchange is something that I miss. But we’ll take what we can get.”

Shlesinger said even now, during an important election year, she purposely stays away from politics and other polarizing topics in her act because she wants to foster an environment of inclusivity.

“The main thing is, people come to see comedy to get away from their problems. So I don’t want to get on stage and ever make people feel bad for who they associate with or how they vote or something like that. One of the best parts about comedy is pointing out things that are wrong and making everyone in that room — or parking lot, in this case — feel like I’m on their side. It’s about bringing people together and calling everyone else crazy, even if we’re the crazy ones.”

She continues: “And therein lies the joke. Everybody thinks they’re right, everybody thinks the other person’s wrong and crazy. I’m a very logical, middle-of-the-road kind of person. There are thoughts I have on both sides for things. So there’s a way, you know, you don’t have to get up there and hold a fundraising campaign, but you can always speak from truth and experience. And never forget, people love to think other people are stupid. And make fun of yourself. The core of comedy.”

She wants her fans to know that this show offers a break from the chaos and it offers a little something for everyone, no matter which side of the aisle they fall.

“There’s a way to do it from a kind place and there’s a way to do it from self-observation,” she says. “And in this new show, the topics vary. There really is something for everyone. And I think people will leave the show feeling seen and heard, and relieved and, hopefully, happy.”

When asked what she hopes her audience walks away with from her show, Shlesinger laughs. “Well, I hope they don’t walk away. I hope they drive away. If they walk away, that means they missed the entire memo about social distancing.”

Because she lives in Los Angeles, Shlesinger says playing San Diego is a dream gig.

“I love playing San Diego. I think the last time I was there was maybe the Balboa Theatre, and I remember that because I left my Invisalign there and the staff was very good about helping me find it,” she says, laughing. “I’ve done KAABOO. I love playing San Diego. It’s such a great gig, being from L.A., because you go in, feel the San Diego vibes and sleep in your bed that night, so I’m very excited to come to San Diego.”

For more information on the tour or to purchase tickets, visit