Iliza Shlesinger begins Confirmed Kills by taking to the stage like a prize fighter. Her name glitters ten feet high as music blares and stage lights are dialed up to max. The audience is on their feet, screaming. She runs out to an even more raucous ovation. This kind of showmanship has been sent up in other specials (Chelsea Peretti has a similar introduction to her One of the Greats special, for instance), but while other high-octane intros are tongue-in-cheek, this one seems entirely appropriate. Clad in all black and combat boots, Shlesinger looks ready for battle and she delivers.
Just a few minutes into her hour, she mentions the Party Goblin, and the audience cheers in recognition, suggesting Shlesinger has a built in fan base, eager to respond to her bits. Party Goblin is that creature lurking within all of us, unleashed during a night out, encouraging us to drink to excess and make poor decisions. Her physical characterization and voice work is highly specific here, and it all works. She is similarly facile throughout the special, posing, dancing, yelping, screeching and otherwise moving and vocalizing with skill.
Shlesinger covers off both familiar standup territory (nights out drinking, sex, physical appearance standards) and entirely unique observations (mermaids, ugly giants, Shark Tank). Her material can be especially pointed as she explores topics like sexism, weight loss, harassment and pornography, but she doesn't sacrifice humour for the sake of her argument. It's all sharp, and it's all funny.
Throughout the special, hashtags appear as chyrons in the lower corner of the screen (#CushionScar, #ChinaTownDrunk, #IAmNotWrong). This seems ready made for people to talk about the special on various social media. One can certainly appreciate Shlesinger's attempt to distinctively brand her work, but some of this comes off as calculated marketing, rather than organic to the subject matter.
Slick sales pitch aside, Iliza Shlesinger remains in confident control of a funny, tight, and smart hour of comedy. If Confirmed Kills is meant to position a relative newcomer as an industry titan, she performs with an ability that merits that transition. I'll buy what she's selling.
Exclaim! is reviewing every standup comedy special currently available on Netflix Canada, including this one. You can find a complete list of reviews so far here.