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Jenny Slate's Road To Self-Discovery — Through Self-Doubt

Jenny Slate in her special "Stage Fright." (JoJo Whilden/Netflix)
Jenny Slate in her special "Stage Fright." (JoJo Whilden/Netflix)

Life, loss, and laughter. We talk with comedian Jenny Slate on finding her voice through tough times.


Jenny Slate, actor and comedian. She has appeared in TV shows including “Parks and Recreation,” “Big Mouth” and “Bob’s Burgers,” as well as feature films including “Obvious Child” and “The Secret Life of Pets.” She has a special out on Netflix, “Stage Fright.” Author of “ Little Weirds.” ( @jennyslate)

From The Reading List

New York Times: “ Jenny Slate Wrote a Book-Shaped Thing. What Is It?” — “The only piece of fiction in Jenny Slate’s new book, ‘Little Weirds,’ describes a love that grew old in an un-air-conditioned house by the Atlantic Ocean.

“‘I was trying to say goodbye to my ex-husband, who is an important person in my life and a friend,’ the actress and comedian said of the story, ‘I Died: Bronze Tree.’ After her divorce from the director Dean Fleischer-Camp in 2016, she heard that sometimes, as a healing exercise, trauma survivors reimagine painful experiences. ‘I decided to write for myself what my life would be if I had a relationship that lasted till the end,’ she said.

“Maybe this isn’t what you were expecting from Slate, who is known for voicing animated characters in television shows like ‘Big Mouth’ and ‘Bob’s Burgers,’ as well as the internet’s favorite anthropomorphic shell, Marcel. Nor is it what you might have assumed would emerge from the mind of the stand-up comedian whose monologues are punctuated by ‘poop and fart jokes,’ as she put it, among other bodily concerns. But ‘Little Weirds’ wasn’t really meant to be funny.

“‘People had approached me like, “Would you like to write some humorous blah-blah-blahs?”‘ Slate said. ‘And my answer was no, I don’t think I can.’

“She proposed an allegorical eco-feminist tome that she imagined would be in the vein of bell hooks. That didn’t work out, either.”

Washington Post: “ Jenny Slate’s superpower is a ‘dangerous amount of sensitivity’” — “As Jenny Slate wanders the National Portrait Gallery’s presidential exhibit, she comments on George Washington’s oddly shaped hair, George W. Bush’s shockingly large shirt pockets and how funny it is that Richard Nixon’s portrait is so small. ‘I hope they give Trump, like, a postage stamp,’ she jokes.

“Then the performer and writer enters a mauve room and is suddenly surrounded by women. They wear flowing dresses and wander through fields, sit at tables and read books in Thomas Wilmer Dewing’s turn-of-the-century paintings. On one small canvas, ‘In The Garden,’ three figures stand in a haze of emerald that matches Slate’s purse, which is slung across the elegant tweed coat she bought as a gift to herself.

“‘The green is just so beautiful,’ Slate says, ‘that I just feel astoundingly optimistic, almost about everything.’ ”

The A.V. Club: “ Jenny Slate’s memoir is as strange and whimsical as she is” — “Readers have come to expect certain things from a comedy memoir, especially when it’s written by a woman. There are amusing descriptions of their awkward adolescence, followed by the wry exploration of their years spent trying to make it in an industry littered with crass men, hyper-competitiveness, and the impossible standards set by Hollywood. Finally, a breakthrough and the candid bewilderment of being the weird, loud, adjective-not-usually-considered-feminine center of everyone’s attention. It’s not a bad formula, and for a profession that relies on voice as much as comedy does, it works. Still, there tend to be few surprises when it comes to more literary matters like, say, structure or less conventional genres.

“Every so often, someone will decide to stray from that outline and gift us with something so unexpected that it may not tickle our funny bone but it might tickle us pink. Jenny Slate’s nonfiction collection Little Weirds is one such book. It’s an extremely personal narrative, and there are elements of humor in it, but that may be all it has in common with the efforts of her peers. Slate—who in some circles is best known for playing the Id-driven Mona Lisa on Parks & Recreation; voicing Marcel The Shell and a series of other cartoon characters in others; and as Captain America’s ex in yet other circles—has made a career for herself by voraciously embracing and thriving in the niche, to the point where everyone seems to recognize her even if they can’t quite place exactly from where. In this way, the oddness of this genre-defying book fits in nicely with the path she has set out for herself as a performer.”

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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