Jenny Slate's New Special Celebrates Jewish Women With No Chill – Kveller
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Jenny Slate’s New Special Celebrates Jewish Women With No Chill

In her new Amazon Prime Video special, "Jenny Slate: Seasoned Professional," the veteran actress and comedian brings us her unique and wonderful brand of Jewish humor.


via Amazon Prime Video

Nobody does anything quite like Jenny Slate. That goes for the movies she makes, the charming shoed shells, the standup comedy, the tuxedo shorts she dons on stage — and the Jewish jokes she tells.

In her new Amazon Prime special, “Jenny Slate: Seasoned Professional,” she makes jokes about JCC pools and biblical texts and Jewish parents getting old and synagogues and motherhood and bodily functions, but none of those jokes (well, maybe aside from the bodily function ones) go the way you would expect them to. That’s because Slate allows herself to be fully herself on stage, strange, loud, crass and “too much.” 

My favorite line from the special is not exactly a joke, actually, but a very intentional feminist rallying cry: “I don’t believe that chill people exist.” Slate tells the crowd, “I believe that it’s a concept that misogynists invented so we could act like we don’t have needs.”

Aside from the fact that it’s a sentence I’ll probably use in every therapy session moving forward, I do think it so aptly describes how Slate approaches her comedy, and her work in general. In the vain of “Broad City,” she give us a loud, Jewish heroine, the kind of woman that the Jewish male protagonists in rom-coms of yore would shun in favor of a more prim and proper non-Jewish paramour (probably played by Meg Ryan). In “Seasoned Professional,” we essentially meet Jenny post her rom-com happy ending — she’s married to writer and art curator Ben Shattuck, and she’s given birth to “a baby out of my vagina,” as she tells the crowd, speaking of her now 3-year-old, Ida (great Jewish name, by the way).

In fact, she talks about how she decided on what to wear for the early pandemic road trip during which she got pregnant in the terms of rom-coms. “When the main person has gone through their rough times,” she explains, “and they’re like actually, I’ll start my cupcake store, they’ll wear overalls.” It’s a choice she winds up bemoaning. You know, for the bodily function reasons.

“Seasoned Professional” is nowhere as Jewish as “Stage Fright,” her 2019 comedy special in which she proudly announces to viewers right off the bat, “My name is Jenny Slate, and if you’re looking at me from any angle, you will notice that I am a Jewish woman,” and which is juxtaposed with videos of childhood Hanukkah celebrations, a visit to her Jewish grandmother, and Slate talking about how “when I was younger, I looked almost exactly like Anne Frank.” The Anne Frank Museum does get a fun mention in the new special, when Slate refuses to visit it with her Shattuck, who lived in Amsterdam early in their courtship. “I do not need an epigenetic meltdown on my sex vacation” is another one of those chef’s kiss lines from this new special.

The Jewish comedy here is much more tame and casual, but just as delightful. Slate is so relatable when she talks about pregnancy and birth. She recounts the surreal realization you get just before giving birth for the first time when you’re sort of faced with the fact that you are, indeed, the person that is about to undergo this kind of life-changing experience and you ask yourself, “Really? Me? I’m meant to do that?” It’s definitely an experience I had as I approached the later days of my pregnancy.

In an anecdote I can’t quite relate to, she recalls that the only other moment she felt like that was when she got an audition to play Pennywise, the clown from “IT.”

“Wait, what, that couldn’t be… the murdering, kidnapping balding male clown…?” Slate reenacts her response to the crowd with expert precision, saying she was hoping that instead, the audition was for “a very antisemitic rom-com, a whimsical woman who like, can’t get it together, named Penny Wise.” (It wasn’t.)

That’s definitely the kind of Jewish joke only Jenny Slate can tell. About being pregnant during the pandemic she recalls musing, “I’m pregnant during a plague, and then I was like wait, isn’t this in the bible?” (It’s not.) On her breasts changing post-nursing, she reminisces about her perfectly synagogue appropriate former B-cup. She paints a picture of her Jewish parents Windex-ing pita chips early in the pandemic.

The entire special goes just like that, with Slate oscillating between funny and real and completely unexpectedly out there, raunchy and scatological, kvetching and kvelling so seamlessly, moving between script and improvisation when even the mic on stage cannot stand still during her explosive comedy. At no point is she censoring herself, making herself smaller or more palatable, and every moment is so deliciously unique that you keep watching and ask for more.

In the rom-coms ’80s and ’90s, characters like Jenny Slate, the kind of woman with “no chill,” would indeed be comic relief — too intense, and from whom a handsome man might try to escape. But now, on the center of that stage, and in the romantic comedies she’s starred in, Jenny Slate is the kind of Jewish heroine that, instead of being too much, we can’t get enough of.

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