Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why Cissy Davis From Spenser Confidential Looks So Familiar

Streaming audiences in the mood for some killer action with a side order of witty banter have been taken in by Spenser Confidential, which stars Mark Wahlberg as the ex-military man-turned private eye with the ambiguous first name. The character was originated in a series of hard-boiled novels by Robert B. Parker in the '70s, before being featured in the ABC TV series Spenser: For Hire (starring Robert Urich in the title role), which ran for three seasons between 1985 and 1988. Urich would continue to play the character in a series of TV movies spun off from the show, the last of which aired in 1995, and the character was portrayed in another trilogy of TV flicks by Joe Mantegna between 1999 and 2001. With new novels – now authored by Ace Atkins, who took over after Parker's death – still dropping at a brisk clip, however, the time was right for a modern reinvention of the character.

With his physicality and fine, understated comedy chops, Wahlberg was the perfect actor to step into the shoes of the private dick, and he's supported in Spenser Confidential by an excellent cast that includes the likes of Black Panther's Winston Duke as Hawk, Argo's Alan Arkin as Henry Cimoli, and Fargo's Bokeem Woodbine as Driscoll. Also key to the proceedings: Spenser's ex-flame, Cissy Davis, whose face just might ring a bell. If you're having a tough time placing the actress, it may be because you're familiar with her in quite a different context from Spenser's slam-bang shenanigans. Her name is Iliza Shlesinger, and she happens to be one of the funniest women on the planet. Here's why Cissy Davis from Spenser Confidential looks so familiar.

Iliza Shlesinger won Last Comic Standing in 2008

Inaugurated in 2003, the NBC talent competition Last Comic Standing has given the spotlight to a lot of very funny people over the years. The series has fielded a total of nine seasons, with a four-year hiatus between 2010 and 2014, and among the comedians to find stardom as a result of their appearances on the show are Amy Schumer, Tig Notaro, Ralphie May, Gabriel Iglesias, and Nikki Glaser. Only one woman has ever won the competition, though, and that's Shlesinger, who in 2008 dispatched such formidable competitors as Jeff Dye, Sean Cullen, and Jim Tavare to take home the season 6 crown.

Only 25 at the time, Shlesinger was also the youngest comic to ever win the competition, and she has since confirmed that, while she was struggling to find her place in stand-up comedy before the win, her career took off like a rocket in the aftermath. Speaking with Parade in 2016, Shlesinger said, "It's the only part of my Hollywood story that reads like a Hollywood story — because I quit [my day job] very soon after I got on Last Comic Standing, and then I won, and the rest is history."

Shlesinger parlayed her big win into a number of gigs, such as hosting the syndicated reality dating series Excused and appearing in the 2013 feature Paradise, the directorial debut of screenwriter Diablo Cody. Her profile as a comic had also been substantially raised by her victory and, if you've streamed any comedy specials in the last several years, you've probably seen her doing what she does best.

Iliza Shlesinger has a ton of comedy specials on Netflix

Shlesinger is indeed a versatile talent, but it's when she's on stage performing stand-up that she's really in her element. For proof, look no further than her five Netflix specials. The first of these, War Paint, was filmed in Shlesinger's home town of Dallas, Texas, and hit the streamer in 2013. Her simultaneously focused and stream-of-consciousness delivery had become even further refined since her Last Comic Standing days, and the special was a hit.

Her next outing, Freezing Hot, was shot in Denver, Colorado, and hit Netflix in 2015. It was followed by 2016's Confirmed Kills, which was directed by comedy legend Bobcat Goldthwait and featured Shlesinger taking the stage to a rocking intro, dressed head to toe in black, and sporting combat boots, now fully confident in her status as one of the hottest acts in comedy. 

The comedienne returned with Elder Millennial in 2018 and Unveiled in 2019, both of which were hits with audiences, but it was around this time that Shlesinger apparently caught the acting bug in earnest. In 2018, she was tapped to appear in her second feature film, sharing the screen with a familiar face with whom she'd find herself working again in the very near future.

Iliza Shlesinger appeared in a hit comedy feature with Mark Wahlberg in 2018

That feature was 2018's Instant Family, a dramedy which starred Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne as a couple who bite off a bit more than they can chew when they adopt three children. The flick's stellar cast also included Isabela Moner (Dora and the Lost City of Gold), Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water), character actress Margo Martindale (BoJack Horseman), and Shlesinger's fellow Last Comic Standing alum, Tig Notaro. In it, Shlesinger appeared as a single mother in a support group for adoptive parents, who is obsessed with finding a kid with some athletic talent to adopt.

The heartfelt flick was based on the real-life experiences of writer-director Sean Anders (Daddy's Home). It was well-received by critics, and performed well at the box office over the 2018 holiday season. Given all that, it's probably not a coincidence that Shlesinger just happened to turn up in Spenser Confidential, Wahlberg's next feature outing, and she had effusive praise for the star in a recent conversation with MSN. "Mark Wahlberg, I don't know if he takes improv classes, is great at improvising," she said. "And he's incredibly funny, and that's someone who is this critically acclaimed actor without a stand-up background... He is so present, he's there for you for whatever you need, and he's there to improvise, and we had a really fun chemistry."

Iliza Shlesinger has her own sketch comedy series on Netflix

In 2020, Netflix found a new way to get Shlesinger in front of audience's eyeballs: With her very own sketch comedy show, aptly titled The Iliza Shlesinger Sketch Show. The six-episode first season dropped in March, and features Shlesinger and a revolving cast of performers navigating all kinds of absurd scenarios while riffing on pop culture and injecting sly social commentary. Among her accomplices are Glo Tavarez (After Class), Kerry Coddett (Crashing), Tarik Davis (Ray Donovan), Emily Lynne (Our Cartoon President), Patrick Noth (Chasing Banksy), and Iliana Inocencio (who regularly pops up as "NBC Page" on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon).

This doesn't mean, however, that Shlesinger has forgotten about the big screen. She's set to appear in no fewer than four upcoming features, all of which are currently in post-production. She'll star in an as-yet untitled film from director Kimmy Gatewood (who stars as Stacey Beswick on GLOW), opposite fellow comedienne Margaret Cho. She's also set to appear in the comedy SuperCool, and in a pair of dramatic features: Pieces of a Woman (opposite Shia LeBeouf and Benny Safdie), and Godfrey (with Nick Thune and Cleopatra Coleman).

Of course, now that Spenser Confidential has become a streaming hit, we can probably expect to see a sequel sooner rather than later, and with Wahlberg, Duke, and director Peter Berg already having expressed their willingness to saddle up again, it wouldn't surprise us to see Shlesinger back to bust Spenser's chops as Cissy in the next installment. She's proven to be a unique talent, and we have a feeling that her Hollywood story is just getting started.