BACKSTORY: After attending a handful of colleges in pursuit of a career as a PE teacher, the up-and-coming comic began performing at open mics in Chicago
FROM: Born in Russia; raised in and around Chicago; lives in New York
YOU MIGHT KNOW HER FROM: Being a regular on E!’s Chelsea Lately, her debut comedy album Glittercheese, her half-hour special on Comedy Central, or the first episode of Louis C.K.’s web series Horace and Pete
NOW: Performing stand-up every night in New York; interviewing Deap Vally for FLOOD
Liza Treyger’s comedy is not overly intellectual and it’s by no means conceptual. In fact, she deems the very notion of niche comedy ridiculous. “Even if it’s weird, there should be jokes,” she says. It strikes me, however, that her standup is so funny specifically because of the fine line she treads between jokes and reality. In her routine, she regularly addresses sex, dick pics, drugs, and her Jewish heritage, often in a way that makes the audience wonder, “Should I be laughing at this?” And while her jokes are accessible and undeniably funny, there is more to her sense of humor than cheap thrills.
When I meet up with Treyger in a Williamsburg cafe, her entrance is perfectly on brand: thanks to a nap that went on too long, she’s five minutes late and all apologies—considering she lives across the street. Her speech is quick and cut with a raspy bravado, and she has that particular vocal fry that doesn’t so much indicate girliness as it screams “I just don’t care.” She pokes fun at herself here and there while also making use of the irony that comes with paying yourself a massive compliment. Even in casual conversation, it seems Treyger is one foray away from launching into her set. Unlike some stand-ups, her comedy is a pretty accurate reflection of her real-life banter.
In fact, it’s her chattiness and love of gossip that springboarded her into the world of comedy in the first place. Well, that and a little movie starring Jonah Hill and Michael Cera. “This movie Superbad came out and I was like, ‘I’m going to write a movie,’” she recalls. She immediately signed up for improv classes and soon after went to her first open mic at a coffee house. From there she kept going. Treyger was a natural, perhaps because her comedy, as one of her friends puts it, mimics a one-sided phone conversation. “And that’s what it is, I think,” Treyger says. “I just like to chat and tell people things.”
She bemoans not getting fucked enough and admires her grandfather’s game for wooing her grandma in a concentration camp.
Lucky for her, people love to hear it. She’s been featured on Chelsea Lately and Adam Devine’s House Party, she’s released an album of her stand-up, and in June of last year, after booking the Comedy Cellar and filming her Comedy Central half-hour, she decided she could finally quit her back-up nanny gig and focus on her career full-time. Her popularity hinges on a particular brand of feminist humor that has lately been accepted with open arms (and open checkbooks). It comes from an intersection of sexual openness and sad-girl humor—the same force that makes Amy Schumer God-like to fans, and why Twitter accounts like Melissa Broder’s “So Sad Today” have amassed hundreds of thousands of followers. When Treyger discusses her move to New York on her album, she describes the downfalls as the lack of alleyways in which to pee, and the excruciating chafing that comes from the combination of the city’s humidity and her lack of the elusive thigh-gap. She bemoans not getting fucked enough and admires her grandfather’s game for wooing her grandma in a concentration camp: “Wow, that’s incredible, getting pussy in the Holocaust.”
She’s being funny, but her stand-up is not necessarily only about jokes. “It’s like ninety percent true, and even if it’s a goofy thing, it’s a conversation I had,” she explains. Some of her funniest anecdotes, though, play in direct opposition to the messy party-girl persona she’s created, once again proving her layers as a comic and showcasing her excellent timing. She tells me about doing Molly at a Miley Cyrus concert and refers to Britney, Christina, and Justin as “all those pop motherfuckers.” But perhaps the most unexpected thing to come out of her foul, foul mouth during our afternoon together was her blatant adoration of the current queen of goodie-two-shoes pop.
“It was the best week of my life. My album came out, I was on the cover of a Chicago paper, my half-hour [special] came out, and then I saw Taylor Swift in concert with my best friends,” she says. “It was a glorious week.” FL