Getting Comfortable with Liza Treyger

Last week was a big one for New York-by-way-of-Chicago comedian Liza Treyger. Relatively young in standup years, Treyger has been climbing the ranks quickly, racking up appearances on Chelsea Lately, Adam Devine’s House Party, and MTV2’s Joking Off, as well as creating buzz in the comedy circuit for her blunt, brazen standup. I talked to Treyger on the eve of her Comedy Central Half Hour premiere about the show, her new album, and her Chicago roots.

This was a huge week for you. For starters, you were just on @Midnight. Did you get your wardrobe situation worked out? I saw on Twitter that United Airlines lost your luggage.

I was scheduled to do @Midnight at 1 and I got my luggage at noon. I cried in public a lot. I had some really great outfits and I was sad that they were going to be gone.

Did United respond to your tweets? I know that social media can often be the best way to get a company’s attention, because so many corporations are afraid of backlash.

Absolutely. United direct messaged me. I gave them my info. Then Kyle Kinane started tweeting, which I think helped a lot.

He has the reputation of someone who companies don’t want to mess with online. I’m sure corporate social media reps have him on a watch list. Like, “If you see any tweets from this dude, let’s just get it taken care of.”

It felt really cool. I’m very much a fan of his and I thought it was so cool that he was fighting for my luggage.

Today your album, Glittercheese, just came out. What’s the story behind the name?

When Twitter came out I didn’t think it was going to be a thing. My boyfriend at the time said that I should get a Twitter. I just picked two things I liked and thought that Twitter would go away. But it didn’t, so it became a thing. My rapper friend, Little Freckles, started calling me Glittercheese and I liked it, so it stayed.

You also have the premiere of your Comedy Central Half Hour. When did you find out that you had been selected to do a Half Hour?

I found out in May. I was going with one of my friends to a show in Queens when I got the phone call. I was super excited. Then I called my parents. Everything else I’ve ever done has kind of been an accident. But this was something that I really, really wanted.

What did you use for your submission? Was it pretty much what you did in the Half Hour?

I know there was an order change. I don’t really write set lists, so the submission wasn’t really in order. Actually, I didn’t really like the set. I was going to do another one. But Kyle Kinane was there getting ready to go up, watching, and he gave a compliment on it a day or two later. I was like, “If Kyle Kinane likes it, I’m keeping it.” I changed the order and did some newer material that was fresher and I was excited about. But a lot of it was jokes I’ve been doing for a long time.

You seemed very comfortable. A lot of people who tape sets for TV focus on being super tight and concise. You had a very loose, kind of boozy vibe. Not to say that you were drunk, but you were drinking whiskey on stage. It felt very conversational.

Cool. All of life is lessons and one of the lessons I’ve learned is that being nervous never helps. The cool thing about the Half Hour is that you can really do whatever the fuck you want. If you want to do crowd work or riff and it doesn’t go well they’re going to edit it out. It was like, “There’s nothing to lose. I’m just going to enjoy the moment.” But I was really mean like two days prior. I was mean to everyone. I was nervous. I was having a lot of issues. But once I got my outfit, had a whiskey, and went out it was like, “Yeah, this is just standup.” I really like the way the Half Hour turned out.

There was a moment that I liked where you were talking about being Jewish and dropped a very clever, dark holocaust joke. The air went out of the room for a minute and the crowd let out this uncomfortable groan, like they knew it was funny but didn’t want to laugh. I love when that happens. What is your favorite type of crowd response to a joke?

Normally, tons of laughing. But I don’t know. For every joke it’s a little different. I have a couple of gross jokes and when people groan at those because they’re about periods or whatever, it’s fine.

I like when a darker joke hits and there’s a beat, then a groan that turns into uncomfortable laughter.

Yeah, it feels cool for sure when they don’t want to laugh but they have to.

You got your start in Chicago. How long were you there before you moved?

I grew up in the suburbs, in Skokie. I did standup in Chicago for about five and half years.

What were some of the things you learned in Chicago that prepared you for the move to New York?

I’m so grateful and happy that I started in Chicago. I feel like we had really good role models, people like Hannibal, TJ Miller, Nick Vatterott. When I started, most of those people had already left, but they left their mark and were known for working hard, doing as many sets as possible and being funny. When I started, everyone was trying to do at least three sets a night. There would be one or two cool mics and a show every night. Everyone was there. There was so much hanging out, talking shit, telling jokes. The people around you were just trying to be funny. There was no industry pressure. I’m grateful to Chicago for that.

What’s next for you?

Sabrina Jalees and I did this web series called How Many Questions. Now we’re going to be doing a digital one for Comedy Central called DTF (Down To Find Out)… we’re going to be filming that soon. I’m really excited about it.

Getting Comfortable with Liza Treyger