Lez Stand Out: Just For Laughs

Liza Treyger was born in the former Soviet Union and is a Chicago-based comic. She is the creator and co-producer of Riot Comedy, was one Comedy Central’s Comics to Watch and performed in the America Stands Up showcase as part of the Glasgow Comedy Festival this past April. She also headlined Chicago’s Queer Comedy’s third season opener.

AE: Judging from your comedy, I gather that you don’t necessarily identify as queer but are very often included on queer line-ups. Why do you think that is?
Liza Treyger:
I think funny is funny and it should translate in any room. I understand the want to hear somebody tell jokes about their queer experience and relate in that kind of personal way, but deep down we’re all people living in this world and the goal is to relate to everyone. I’ve noticed gay crowds are less offended by things and just really want to have a good time so it’s such a big treat to be with an expressive crowd.

AE: When did you first know you wanted to do comedy? Who and/or what inspired you?
LT:
I never knew stand up comedy was a thing. I had watched some comedy specials but it still didn’t click until I went to an open mic to watch a friend and saw someone that was so terrible that I was like, “Well if he can do it, I can do it.” So, I went up and did terrible but felt like I could do it and came back the next week with fun jokes. That was over four years ago and I just never stopped. Now I love it and everyone inspires me!

AE: Who are some people who have inspired and/or informed your comedy. What makes each of them so meaningful to you?
LT:
Hannibal Buress is sort of a hero in Chicago. I often times say to myself, “What would Hannibal do?” when I feel lazy or something is not going right in comedy or life. I used to run a show with two other gals in the back of a rib restaurant and he would always come do it and one time he was late and we were stalling and he got there and he revealed he was late because he just got hired as a writer on SNL. So he was at a meeting with Lorne Michaels and flew to Chicago and did our show. It’s amazingly inspiring.

AE: Tell me about a particularly memorable gig.
LT:
This February, myself and three of my Chicago comedy friends got invited to the Traverse City Winter Arts Festival in Michigan personally by Jeff Garlin. He hosted the show that the four of us performed and it was too exciting. I got to open for him and Susie Essman. It should be illegal to be that amazing.

Just recently I filmed my first TV set for Comedy Central’s upcoming show, Adam Devine’s House Party. The stage was huge and outside of a mansion and it was the best feeling in the world and I got lots of hugs from hot men after.

AE: Just For Laughs is one of my favorite times of the year! Is this your first time, what are your thoughts on comedy fests and this one in general?
LT:
This is my second year in the JFL Chicago festival and I love comedy festivals. I’ve had the pleasure of travelling to festivals all over the country and even Glasgow, Scotland and it’s the best. You get to meet other comics and party really hard and have new audiences and get closer with friends on road trips. I love hotels and staying at people’s houses and seeing tons of shows. JFL Chicago is so amazing because you get to see real hot shots in comedy every night. What’s even more fun is that it’s in Chicago, so tons of Chicago comics are in the festival. So we all get to party. Yeah, so it’s mostly about fun shows and parties, so what could be better?

Liza can be seen at The Dailymotion Comedy Showcase at The Just for Laughs Festival this Saturday, June 15 or co-headlining Shine Box Comedy on Monday, June 17 at The Owl in Chicago.

Born in New Jersey, Michelle Buteau brings her unique perspective and big personality to VH1’s Best Week Ever and acts as Jenny McCarthy’s sidekick on late-night Jenny. She also just landed a role on Fox’s upcoming sitcom Enlisted. Aside from television shows and touring, her stand-up has appeared on the The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Lopez Tonight and Last Comic Standing. LOGO recently nominated her for their NewNowNext Awards as the Host with the Most, which found her up against Chris Hardwick, Chelsea Handler and Stephen Colbert.

AE: First of all, congratulations on your NewNowNext nomination! Tell me about that experience and your thoughts on your stiff competition.
Michelle Buteau:
Thank you! It was super cool, I’d never been nominated for anything before, and after doing comedy for so long, I really enjoyed experiencing a “first time” for something. Plus, you never know who’s watching besides my mom, it was just huh-mazing to know that people were watching AND liking! Shut it!

AE: When did you first know you wanted to do comedy? Who and/or what inspired you?
MB:
I didn’t really know I wanted to do comedy. I was working in television production for local news at the time, and all my coworkers were like “You’re too much, are you always like this? You should do comedy.” I never gave it much thought, but then I started going to a lot of comedy shows, there were hardly any females, just a big old sausage fest back then. Then 9/11 happened. I started working 14 hour shifts and thought, “Shit, I might die, why not do something fun besides drink my face off?” I started comedy a few days after.

AE: Is your onstage persona different or an extension of your own personality?
MB:
That’s a good question. I think the way I am on stage is how I am in life, but according to my husband, it’s an extension of my personality. I think the happier I am, the bigger I get. In the waist, not personality wise. JK! Not really. What would Jillian Michaels have to say about that?

AE: Tell me about a particularly memorable gig.
MB:
The most memorable gig was probably my first TV taping. It was a show for Comedy Central back in the day called Premium Blend. I’d been doing comedy for only three years, and my mom was all “Yeah, it’s nice to have hobbies, but you went to colleg. Why comedy?” She came to my taping and had the whole teary eyed, I’m so proud of you, ah-ha moment. That was tres cute.

AE: Just For Laughs is one of my favorite times of the year! Is this your first time, what are your thoughts on comedy fests and this one in general?
MB:
Awww man, I love comedy festivals! It’s sort of like a comedy vacation, after you’ve hustled all year getting on two planes a day, driving hours to a podunk city to perform, comedy festivals are like the weekend getaway trips you see older couples win on Kelly & Michael. You just show up, perform, and partaaay with the comedians from all over the country. I haven’t done Just For Laughs yet, but I’m tres excited. I’ve done Bonnaroo, HBO’s Aspen Fest, Bumbershoot to name a few, I so heart them. It’s like Christmas, but not. It’s better.

Michelle can be seen at The Dailymotion Comedy Showcase and Set List: Stand-Up Without A Net on Thursday, June 13, Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction on June 14 and at The Super Serious Show on the 15, all at The Just For Laughs Festival.

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