Few comedians who traffic in relationship material do it as specifically and deliberately as Iliza Shlesinger. From her live performances to the various TV shows she’s hosted in her time, she’s managed to elevate the familiar rhythms of “fellas, you know when…” and “ladies, you ever…” setups with more articulate observations and pieces of advice than you normally get here, with a performance style that’s just a more interesting version of the bravado comics usually employ to sell it.
Her newest special, Elder Millennial, feels like the culmination of this, though I doubt she’s going to hang this particular hat any time soon. The title refers to Shlesinger’s position, as a woman in the upper age bracket (mid-30s) of the most beloved generation since World War II. The main thrust of the special is that in advance of her impending nuptials, Shlesinger wants to pass along her collection of revelations on sex, dating and relationships from her 20s. It’s a nice slightly-narrative-mostly-not framing device for the whole thing, and it allows for particularly joke-dense segments surrounding Shlesinger’s questionable life choices, some more transparently fictional than others. “He broke up with me because I slept with his brother,” she says of one boyfriend. ”Well, they’re twins, they should wear different colored hats or something.”
What I like about this special above all is that everything is just two degrees off from what you’re expecting. From the start, as soon as I begin to make those flawed, human assumptions about what I’m about to see, we learn that this special is set on a boat, and a dog is running onstage before Iliza (as she’s credited) even shows up. These splashes of performative weirdness extend to Shlesinger’s physical dynamism. “If I might divert from the stand-up to a TED talk about ornithology for about two seconds,” before impersonating several birds including a spot-on impression of a warbler (“I’m a warbler”).
Elder Millennial suffers as many specials do from being a little overlong, and as skillfully as Shlesinger executes her style here, it doesn’t quite sustain itself as long as it needs to. But in the moments when Shlesinger is impersonating a gazelle without self-esteem issues, or a coyote as one of a pack of girls moving “in a perfume cloud” around the perimeter of the bar (there are a lot of animal impressions), the endless roll of focused energy makes each movement of the whole work.
Elder Millennial is now streaming on Netflix.
Graham Techler is a New York-based writer and comedian. You’d be doing him a real solid by following him on Twitter @grahamtechler or on Instagram @obvious_new_yorker. A real solid.