Interview: Iliza Shlesinger Discusses Good on Paper’s True Story

Based on a mostly true story written by star and comedian Iliza Shlesinger, Good on Paper is a romantic drama that Kimmy Gatewood directs in her feature debut. The cast is rounded out by Ryan Hansen, Margaret Cho, and Rebecca Rittenhouse. The film is now streaming on Netflix.

“Andrea Singer always put her stand-up career first, and while dating came easy, love wasn’t a priority… that is until she meets Dennis, a quirky nerd with disarming charm who coaxes her into letting her guard down,” reads the official synopsis. “Her best friend Margot isn’t convinced he’s all he seems, and she urges Andrea to embark on a wild goose chase to uncover who Dennis really is.”

RELATED: Ryan Hansen & Margaret Cho Discuss Roles in Netflix’s Good on Paper

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke to Iliza Shlesinger about just how true the story was, if it was therapeutic to put on-screen, and more. Check out the video interview, and a full transcript, below:

Tyler Treese: Something that’s really interesting about Good on Paper is that it is based on a true story. It’s almost a traumatic experience to a degree. Did it feel therapeutic to kind of joke about it and put it out there?

Iliza Shlesinger: Always. It definitely was traumatic at the time and it was obviously a very dark and sad time, but I’m a comic. And what I do is I take real life trauma and sadness and darkness, and I turn it into something relatable and fun. So what started out as a cathartic process ended up being just about the comedy and the script and all the negativity faded away after awhile.

As far as the true-life moments go. Are there any specific moments in the film that are one-to-one to real life?

The first two-thirds of the movie are one-to-one to real life. This is very much based off of very real things. And so I can tell you every single lie that we have Dennis say in this movie, those were actual words uttered by this person in real life. I could not make this stuff up. That’s all real. All the lies are real. All the conversations they have are real. I’d just say the last two acts of the movie are the part that isn’t true.

Wow. Watching the film, I was like, “I can see where this is based off of it, but this is a little over the top.” That’s wild.

The weirdest stuff is the truest. It happened.

One thing I really liked about the film, especially in the last part, you explore this theme of insecurity and it’s something everyone deals with, but people take different paths to how they deal with it. You see you putting in the work as a comic and using your insecurity to strengthen you. Then obviously other characters, they just put on a persona instead of dealing with those issues. Can you speak a little bit to that?

Yeah. I think you’re really dealing with two types of people in this movie. You know, I was very careful in the way, even though Andrea is very much based off me and I was basically playing myself, I was very careful because we often malign women that God forbid take care of themselves or have a point of view or are labeled strong because of it. So here you have a person, like you said, that put in the work. They may be angry, may be upset or frustrated, but still shows up every day. Does the audition, does the stage time, and is on her own path, and then you have someone like Dennis who is basically inept and has succumbed to all of these insecurities and all of these things that society has put on him. And rather than just go and be good at something, or give yourself a chance and be confident, he just decided to lie. That ultimately is his undoing. It’s two different paths,

Ryan Hansen, talk about a transformation. It’s amazing to see him play this kind of awkward guy that’s not a super handsome guy. Could you believe that he was able to just totally transform into Dennis?

It’s so funny. This is going to sound awful, but I didn’t know Ryan before he was suggested. He jumped at the part, which is so cool because like good-looking leading men, golden retriever types, don’t typically want to play creepy betas. He showed up day one. He was like, I got a tooth guy, I got these fake teeth. I’m going to wear this padded suit. He leaned into it. So I really only know him as Dennis Kelly and then him off-camera. So he did such a great job committing and just being there for it.

In stand-up comedy, so much of it is playing off the audience. How does it work when doing those types of scenes in a film. Was it like during a real set or how does that work?

Appreciate that you may have thought it was during a real set. We brought in fans who populated The Belly Room of The Comedy Store. So it’s a small room and I jotted down a couple of thoughts that I thought would help the narration of the film, but I just improvised a bunch of stand-up right then and there. The great part is it didn’t need like huge punchlines because it just serves as a device to move the story along. A lot of that ended up being in my stand-up later, but it was mostly improvised.

Margaret Cho is a legend and she’s fantastic in the film as your friend. Can you speak to working with her and how great she was on set?

Margaret Cho is so easy to work with. So calm. She and I are wired very differently as humans. I was a fan of hers forever and we’ve been friendly for a while. She said yes, and it was the biggest relief because she fit this so perfectly. She brought so much to the character and having Margaret Cho on set is like having a talented scented candle. Like she’s warm. She brings a good vibe. Everybody wants to be around her. She has a tiny dog. So I was really lucky to get a cast and a crew that everybody showed up every day with the best intentions ready to work.