During the hardest parts of the COVID shutdown, my wife and I watched a lot of stand-up comedy. There was something refreshing about being able to laugh while the world was on fire that made the long nights alone in our house feel a little more connected. Plus, one of the best parts of observational comedy is “what’s up with that?” During a period when we didn’t get to see any of the normal things we’d come to expect about our world, it was nice to be reminded of the quirky, off-putting, outlandish things that made up everyday life.
Our personal favorite comedian has always been Iliza Shlesinger. Since her first Netflix comedy special, War Paint, my wife and I have watched all of her content, and love her unique blend of thoughtful insight and comedic interpretation. And in 2o22, Shlesinger published her book All Things Aside, a perfect addition to her resume.
What I loved most about All Things Aside was the way she blended her critiques of the society we’ve built within the confines of her comedic tone. The days of a performer “staying in their lane” are long gone, and we are seeing a new hypbrid model of entertainment that allows content to both make us laugh and make us think. Shlesinger was willing and able to do a really special job of discussing the dangers of Cancel Culture while also identifying the places where we need to do better in discussing accountability issues. An entire chapter dedicated to miscarriages in a comedy book is not an easy feat, but she pulls it off with grace, humor, and integrity.
I listened to the audiobook of All Things Aside, and having Iliza read it herself made the experience all the more entertaining. In a lot of ways, it felt like a seven hour comedy special, covering far more ground than one streamed show can host. In the process, though, I did notice one disclaimer that I should identify: I agree with pretty much everything Shlesinger says. She put into words many of the concepts I’ve been struggling with and trying to explore, and I truly enjoyed hearing her approach. But that does mean that I suffer from a little bit of confirmation bias. Of course I like a book that aligns so much with how I see the world. This isn’t a problem, per say. It is, though, a noteworthy thing to acknowledge when evaluating what made the book so engaging and entertaining. Will you be struck the same way? I guess you’ll have to read the book to find out.
It's hard to pull off entertainment that is equal doses of funny and profound. And yet, that is exactly the niche Shlesinger has established for herself over a two decades of performing. All Things Aside is a worthy addition to her already deep bench of engaging content, and is well worth the read/listen.