Jenny Slate’s new special combines hilarity with self-reflection

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In her new debut comedy special, “Stage Fright,” available on Netflix, comedian Jenny Slate familiarized viewers with her family and childhood stories as well as giving her take on being single in today’s world. Slate, who appeared on shows like “Parks and Recreation” and “Big Mouth,” inserted home videos throughout the special. These clips allowed the viewer to get to know Slate more personally and added a surprising amount of emotion to her jokes on stage.  

The special had a bit of a slow start in which an out of breath Slate was clearly excited, but the jokes take their time to land strongly. Slate began the meat of her special by joking, “I’m preparing for my death, let’s get started,” which immediately let the viewers know Slate was not holding back. She then began joking about her family, aided by the clips from home videos.  

A great example was when she complained about being named Jenny instead of Susan, and then the special cut to an interview of Slate with her older sister. They reminisced about calling each other “Dana and Susan” when they were little, acting as two women who “lived in New York apartments.” This anecdote gave context to Slate’s stand up material, and added a bit of nostalgia.  

Another hilarious example was when Slate imitated her grandmother on stage and the special cuts to an interview with this same grandmother, proving that Slate’s impression was accurate.  

Perhaps the strongest aspect of Slate’s special was her deft juxtaposition of serious material with jokes. There was a great sequence when Slate was interviewed about her stage fright, which was revealing and personal.  

“Right before I go on stage, I’m presented with this essential question: ‘Will they like me?’” Slate said. She also mentioned how she feels she does not “earn the [the viewer’s] love unless I give something beautiful.” This was unusually serious for a comedy special, but as a result you definitely get to know Slate more as a person. This familiarity makes you like her jokes even more after understanding the context and struggles behind them.  

This is reflected in the best part of the special. Toward the end, an interview with Slate’s dad showed him asking her if she is comfortable joking about her divorce yet. In these scenes, she explained how she was starting to feel more comfortable joking about the divorce, while the special cuts to her on stage talking about her divorce (quite hilariously, too).  

In these scenes, Slate also talked about how she is uncomfortable being alone. You get a sense of her struggles in love and life, especially when she tells the story of her first blind date in a while, with a man literally dressed in a suit of armor and chainmail. This hysterical story, told in the context of her insecurity toward her divorce and being single, added emotion and weight to the special. This made it more impactful and lets viewers who may be in the same situation know that it is okay to be single, while simultaneously making them laugh. 

Rating: 4/5  

Thumbnail image courtesy of ew.com


Ben Crnic is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at benjamin.crnic@uconn.edu

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