In her first Netflix comedy special, Stage Fright, Jenny Slate opens up the standup format.
She also opens up the format of masturbation jokes by detailing a desperate and erotic encounter with a full moon.
In a way, the show is a peek into the artist's life at her most candid.
She shows us artefacts from her past: videos of herself picking her nose at dance class; playing violin in a puffy dress, as an awkward preteen middle child.
She produces a childhood time capsule of “things that make me mad,” complete with a strip of paper that just says “bullshit.”
For women who wish they could dig around their childhood room and assemble a skeleton of their younger selves to find some clues as to who they were, it’s aspirational.
Stage Fright is especially fulfilling for people who are already fans of Slate.
She’s carved out a pretty devoted following as part of an in-crowd of fellow unabashedly awkward women like Ilana Glazer and Quinta Brunson. However, the way in which she owns the stage with boundless enthusiasm and glee is inherently Slate.
Radiating with self-love, Slate laughs at her own riffs while saying, “I’m my biggest fan, I guess.” And yet, at the centre of this uniquely bold stage presence lies a palpable sense of anxiety and, yes, fright, even before Slate starts tackling these issues explicitly.
How did such a gulf between performing bravado and inner turmoil exist simultaneously? To answer this, Jenny Slate: Stage Fright splits time between the stage and documentary footage with her family, resulting in a refreshingly unique, consistently entertaining, and sometimes over-loose special.
In 2009, after making a name for herself in New York’s comedy scene, Slate was hired as a cast member on Saturday Night Live. During her very first episode — she appeared alongside Kristen Wiig in a sketch in the Season 35 premiere — she accidentally said “f*cking” on live television, creating somewhat of a minor controversy. At the end of the season, Slate was fired from the NBC comedy.
“Everyone always thinks I got fired for saying f–k,” Slate told InStyle.
“I didn’t, that’s not why I got fired. I just didn’t belong there.” The comedian explained that she “didn’t do a good job” and “didn’t click” with the rest of the cast, which at the time included stars like Fred Armisen, Will Forte, Wiig, Nasim Pedrad, and more.
“I have no idea how Lorne felt about me,” she added. “All I know is, it didn’t work for me, and I got fired.”
Slate went on to find success on Parks and Recreation, Obvious Child, and her own stand-up — but she questions why people often define her career by a single accidental moment.
“I am a woman who has made so much of her own work, and I’ve had a variety of successes — some small, some personal, some public,” she said. “I’m a New York Times best-selling children’s author, all of this stuff that is so intentional and worthy, but people often want to frame my success as an ascent from one failure that was the decision of some man who didn’t understand me 10 years ago. I just wonder, if I were a man, would people be so obsessed with the fact that I said a swear?”
Main image by @jennyslate
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