“We wanted this year’s festival to have a different take on the idea of an antidote. Jenny Slate has an uncanny ability to make us look at our world in all its strangeness (and let’s face it, it’s been pretty strange lately) and see it with wonder and possibility. You are guaranteed to find the joy and to laugh – maybe for the first time in a long time.” - Chip Rolley
If you’ve watched any form of American comedy in the last decade, then you’ve likely encountered Jenny Slate. Slate has the sort of pop culture ubiquity reserved for only the most coveted comedians, she’s regularly called up by Hollywood to play weirdo best friends or to voice adorable, anthropomorphic animals. And she has an incredible hit rate – whether it’s a Sundance drama or NBC comedy, everything Slate does is good.
This September, Slate is bringing her Little Weirds down under for Antidote. But before she does, we’re brushing up on her illustrious career to date.
As is so often a rite of passage in the New York comedy scene, Jenny Slate’s big break was Saturday Night Live. After years on the precipice with her comedy partner Gabe Liedman, she was cast in SNL in 2009. Things didn’t go quite to plan. She dropped the f-bomb in her very first sketch (iconic) and her contract sadly wasn’t renewed at the end of her first season (these things were unrelated, Slate insists).
That was not a sign of things to come. Slate has since become a mainstay in TV comedy. Unforgettable roles include the hilarious and infuriating Mona-Lisa Saperstein in Parks and Recreation, Tammy in Bob’s Burgers, and Missy in Big Mouth. She’s also appeared in Drunk History, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Girls and The Simpsons, and even has a Netflix stand-up special under her belt, Stage Fright.
But for most fans, Saperstein is Jenny Slate at her finest. There’s no greater evidence for that than the viral ‘Don’t be suspicious’ TikTok sound – which has been used in more than 775,000 videos.
SNL was a big break for Slate, but in true Bieber-millennial style, her proper turning point came with a viral YouTube video. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is calming and adorable, and was the best thing to come out of a questionable time for YouTube (see: the Dougie, double rainbow guy), and that’s thanks to Slate, the co-creator, writer and voice of Marcel.
The video spawned two sequels, a New York Times bestselling book, and now, 12 years later, an acclaimed feature film. Keep your eyes peeled for the film, which should be out in cinemas any day now. Carla Renata of RogerEbert.com had this to say of it (cue tears):
“Marcel the Shell with Shoes On will make your spirit soar and remind you to enjoy those you love, inhale a bit of fresh air, and respect the earth every second as though it were your very first time. It's a reminder to embrace all the stages of grief and see our dark chapters as changes that somehow make us better on the other side.”
Just as she humanised a shell with shoes, Slate has brought many a delightful animated character to life. She appeared in Zootopia, The Lego Batman Movie and Despicable Me 3, to name a few. On the TV front, she currently stars in the criminally under-seen new animated sitcom The Great North, from the creators of Bob’s Burgers.
In what is probably her most unexpected and underrated quality, Slate has serious dramatic chops. Take Obvious Child. Jenny picked up a load of award noms for her role in this A24 indie rom-com, even winning a Critic’s Choice Movie Awards. The movie is the anti-Juno, tackling abortion with startling honesty and realism, qualities so often lacking in mainstream counterparts.
Slate's other dramatic credits include Gifted (which co-starred her boyfriend at the time, Chris Evans aka Captain America), Venom and certified banger Everything Everywhere All at Once.
Slate’s latest generous contribution to society is a book. Little Weirds is Jenny Slate to a tee. It’s rambly, surreal and completely captivating, a magical journey into her humour, her tragedy, her optimism and her wonder. Have the sticky tabs and highlighter at the ready.
“I am supposed to be touched. I can’t wait to find the person who will come into the kitchen just to smell my neck and get behind me and hug me and breathe me in and make me turn around and make me kiss his face and put my hands in his hair even with my soapy dishwater drips. I am a lovely woman. Who will come into my kitchen and be hungry for me?”
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