#ThrowbackThursday: Jenny Slate
Words & Photos by Meg Wachter
This interview was previously published in Issue 01 of Got a Girl Crush Magazine.
Jenny Slate baked me muffins. Maple oatmeal muffins with fresh raspberries, to be exact. “I thought they’d be better, I’m so sorry!” she excuses. They’re apology muffins — a gesture for having rescheduled our meeting three or four times now. But they’re so delicious, I eat two (and want a third), meanwhile wondering how you add fresh raspberries on top without baking them to a shriveled mess.
Jenny’s beautiful pre-war apartment in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn (which she shares with director/Marcel the Shell collaborator/boyfriend Dean Fleischman-Camp) is impressive with vaulted ceilings and original molding — but the tiny carved-out kitchen is the bane of her existence. “I love to cook for my friends, but this kitchen is so small!” she says. “I think I go to the grocery store at least three times a day when prepping for a meal.” It’s a market-style of shopping that she owes to her French grandmother.
She also owes her years of higher learning (where she met her bestie and comedy partner, Gabe Liedman) and inadvertently her comedic career to her grandparents, who paid her way to attend Columbia University. Jenny said she felt a lot of pressure to do well at school, but it’s also when she discovered pot. “But I was an English major, so all iIhad to do was read, so…”
Even after her one-season stint at Saturday Night Live, where she dropped the F-bomb on live TV and subsequently let go, Jenny’s creativity clearly needs no crutch — it is cheerfully tootling along with no end in sight.
Her collaboration on Marcel the Shell With Shoes On — an adorable three-minute video about a self-assured shell adapting to living in a human-sized world — has garnered 10 million hits (and counting) on YouTube. She now has a children’s book and TV show in the works based on the anthropomorphic mollusk. Her free weekly stand-up show, Big Terrific, which she co-hosts with Gabe, is always packed and was named by Time Out NY as the best stand up of 2010. she’s appeared multiple times as Jason Schwartzman’s pot-head love interest on HBO’s Bored to Death and has two movies in the can.
Quite an oeuvre, no?
You mentioned a movie and a book are in the works — could you tell us more about those upcoming projects?
Our book, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On: Things About Me comes out November 1, 2011. It's based on our film, and basically just shows more of Marcel's life, what he does, and what he thinks. I think the book is simple and beautiful, sweet, and funny, and I hope people think that too! It's not just for kids, it's for everybody. Everybody who likes Marcel will like his book! I also have a few films coming out next year, and one that I am especially into is The Lorax, an animated feature based off of the Dr. Seuss book.
Did you read any of Jonathan Ames' books before you landed a spot on Bored to Death?
Yes, I read ALL of Jonathan's work, years before he did Bored to Death. I was SO excited to hear that he was writing a show, and then it really blew my mind when I found myself on the set. He's a sweet and smart man.
Any tawdry stories from on set?
I mean, I do gross things all the time. I always wanted to fart under the covers while Jason and I were waiting around between takes, but I never had the nerve. One time I tucked the back of my dress into my buttcrack and told Jonathan and producers that there was something wrong with my wardrobe.
How great is it to live and work in Brooklyn?
It's my dream come true. There is nothing better than living my whole life here in Brooklyn. I'm so lucky. I'm in love with my life!
What is the benefit of continuing personal side projects (like Gabe & Jenny, Marcel the Shell, etc.) when you have so many bigger ones going on?
I think it's always good to do projects that invigorate me, make me laugh, make me better at my job, and most importantly, make me happy. So I guess I just group them all together. Any size project is beneficial if it helps me grow as a person or make something new. I just like to work! Honestly, I just need to do stuff all the time. Maybe there's more perks to doing bigger projects, but hanging out in my apartment, smoking pot and doing "Bestie x Bestie" with Gabe and Dean is a just as special and full of benefits. There are no hair and makeup people at my house though. So I guess that's a bummer. That said, there's not usually pot in the Hair and Makeup trailer, so it all evens out. It's all awesome.
Any plans for more Marcel?
Lots of plans for Marcel! We're developing a TV show and we;re doing two picture books with Penguin.
Who's your favorite celeb to impersonate?
What's your favorite made-up personality?
Pamela Dogstein. A dog who does stand-up.
How has the internet helped develop your career as a comedian versus if you were working the stand-up/improv circuit 20 years ago?
Well, it's just easier to be seen and to be seen immediately, so i think that's the clear answer there. You can perfect your stuff, edit it, create a brand. There's much more control, and you have the ability to create in private, rather than just do a stand-up set and work stuff out. I think though, that it's super important to work your stuff out live, just so you understand how it affects people, and so you don't turn into a lazy pussy who just puts stuff online.
You're also big on Twitter — and I, personally, appreciate a lot of your TMI comments that one might not normally expect as girl-friendly subject matter (everybody poops!) Is there anything you won't tweet?
I would never tweet something that would hurt my friends' or family's feelings. That's about it. I guess I TRY not to be too self-indulgent, but sometimes I am.
Since this interview, Jenny has starred in the films Obvious Child, Zootopia, and The Secret Life of Pets, and has made guest appearances on Parks and Recreation, Bob's Burgers, Drunk History, and other TV shows. This interview was originally published in Issue 1 of our print magazine. Read the full issue (and our other sold-out issues!) on Issuu here.