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Comedian Liza Treyger pulls no punches


  • The comedian Liza Treyger half-hour show will debut on Netflix at the end of October. Photo courtesy of Liza Treyger

  • "I just like to talk, make jokes and have my point of view heard," says the comedian Liza Treyger. Photo courtesy of Liza Treyger

  • Photo: Mindy Tucker.

Liza Treyger is not afraid to offend you. A New York-based comedian, Treyger talks about everything from the Holocaust to her one-night stands in appearances on “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” “Chelsea Lately” and “@Midnight.” Treyger has her own half-hour show coming out on Netflix at the end of October. We sat down with her recently to chat about coked-out audience members, the #MeToo Movement and the real difference between male and female comedians.

Where are you from?

I was born in Russia, but I grew up mostly in Skokie, which is a suburb of Chicago. I feel lucky that I lived so close to Chicago, and I had Chicago to do stand up.

How did you get into comedy?

When [the movie] “Superbad” came out, I decided I wanted to write a movie like “Superbad” and I was invited to go to an open mic my friend invited me to. I bombed, but I returned because I really liked it.

What’s the craziest thing an audience member has done at a show?

This one guy, he was the worst. There were only six people in the audience. And he stood up, and took hundreds of dollars out, and said he would pay for anyone else to come up on stage, and make me stop talking. Then earlier in the evening, he threatened to kill me. [The audience] just kept interrupting, kept screaming to order drinks and going out for cigarettes. They were coked out, and at any normal place, they would have been kicked out.

How are audiences different inside and outside of New York?

Yeah, New York, you can talk the fastest and have the most amount of jokes. New York is bam-bam-bam — I love it. Some places just truly hate me, where you go to towns where people are boring, and people don’t like their spouses. When people get free tickets- they’re just there and they don’t ... a lot of people just don’t care for women. You have to trick them into liking you. Sometimes men are dragged there by their wives and girlfriends. And one time, one man did not look at me the whole night, and I called him out on it. And I said, “You don’t want to hear a woman talk,” and he was like, “No.”

I just feel like when it’s Midwest-suburb-boring, they don’t like me. Cincinnati hates me. Upstate New York hates me. But I wonder if I go back to these places, and if I am more experienced, they would like me more.

What’s it like being a woman in comedy?

I mean, I have a great time,... I love doing comedy. Men usually go into comedy, because nothing else worked out for them in their lives. They are able to go onstage and talk about how miserable they are, and people love it. But for women, [comedy is] such a hyper-masculine thing that you already have to be a confident woman to do it. The women I know [in comedy] have friends, clean apartments, and we have a great time together. Obviously, there are moments where I cried in my car, or I feel like shit, or a man I had sex with publicly humiliated me, and that sucks. But comedy is hard, and you have to do the hard things to get to the fun stuff.

Now, I guess the only thing that’s annoying is that the men I am surrounded with don’t understand #MeToo, or Time’s Up, and think they’re victims. They’re myopic, and don’t understand anything that’s not them, because the whole culture is them. They don’t understand harassment.

The things that come out of these dudes’ mouths are truly insane. These people who are supposed to be progressive, funny and are supposed to be part of the counter culture and be commenting about it [are] true idiots. And just not understanding feminism is annoying. It bothers me.

I used to care so much about getting into certain places, and them thinking that I am cool. But now I don’t care, and I’m just like, “I’ll have fun over here.”

When it comes to comedy, where is the line between what’s funny and what’s offensive?

You don’t know it. You have to be able to try stuff out, but why are you saying these jokes? Do you have something intelligent or awesome to say? .... A part of comedy is being likable. And you have to ask yourself: are you connecting with them? Are you giving them what they want?

But if you’re up there, and it’s your goal to make people uncomfortable, and make marginalized people feel bad, people don’t have to laugh.... You are not entitled to people’s laughter. Go find your audience. People don’t have to like you.

How has the industry changed since you started out?

There just seems to be more of everything. More cities, more comics, more jobs.... There’s just a lot. There’s so many channels and avenues.... So many jobs to be had. It’s exciting that people can make money. If you’re a weirdo and you might not be for certain things, people can find you. There’s more for everyone.

What’s something people don’t normally know about comedy?

It’s just like a thing you have to do every day for many years. Just because you’re funny and you make people laugh at your job ... it’s an actual thing you can’t just do. People will want advice, and want a shortcut. [But] it’s a thing you have to do for a long time to get anywhere. It takes four to 10 years to get a late-night set.

I just like it so much. Yeah, it’s what I love to be doing. I just like to talk, make jokes and have my point of view heard. It’s great.

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