“The best thing to happen to me was for [‘SNL’ producer] Lorne Michaels to hire me and fire me.” –Jenny Slate
One of Jenny Slate’s childhood dreams came true when she became a cast member for Saturday Night Live in 2009. She’d been doing stand up for several years and was just starting to land acting gigs. Elated, Slate found the SNL crew to be friendly, but she quickly came to find the experience to be “very intense–just really disappointing.” Most of all, the funny woman felt “incredibly disappointed” with herself. Indeed, on her debut performance she accidentally dropped the F-bomb on live TV, but moreover as she puts it, “I was not suited to the environment. I didn’t like it. I was really uncomfortable, and I never expected the environment to be so risk averse.”
Still, Slate was crushed when she wasn’t renewed for a second season on the legendary show. In a recent Off Camera interview, Jenny admitted to feeling “really mad and I felt really grossed out by the system and grossed out by myself.” Sadly, it was then that the 28 year started experiencing stage fright like never before. She painfully recalls her state of mind at the time, saying:
“But after I got fired, I was so humiliated like in every way. Humiliated by how I behaved, that I wasn’t a strong person, I wasn’t joyful. And I thought that everybody cared. And nobody…cares–at all. Nobody cares that I got fired. And I couldn’t get over it. I was too sensitive, and when I got up on stage I just felt like everyone hates me, they think I’m annoying for trying–they’re mad at me for trying. Why are you still here? Get out, you failed. You’re reminding us all that we could also fail. Get out. You’re the dying antelope. And I couldn’t do my stand up joyfully. I was like a ghost of myself.”
Fortunately, she turned herself around, first by getting angry. “What?! No! I’m so young. This is not the end for me,” she resolved. “I am not going to take this narrative to the end of the road just because it exists.” Then Jenny went to a hypnotherapist. It was then, she insists, that her stage fright disappeared.
“I kind of take pleasure in taking responsibility for what I’ve done wrong because then it’s not ugly,” Slate said.
Shortly thereafter, her career took an unexpected turn when she collaborated with her then-fiance, Dean Fleischer-Camp to quickly create a short film for a comedy show. The two co-wrote the stop-motion animated film Marcel the Shell with Shoes in just a few days. Fleischer-Camp created the appearance of the one-eyed shell character, and they improvised the dialogue. Jenny used a quiet, high-pitched, and throaty voice for the cute and friendly Marcel. When they posted it to YouTube, the short went viral–and it currently has over 28 million views.
With that kind of success, it should be no surprise Slate’s voice-over career took off. She has since done voice work in many animated films including The Lorax, Zootopia, The Lego Batman Movie, and the upcoming Despicable Me 3. Slate’s dramatic roles include a critically acclaimed portrayal of stand-up comic in the romantic comedy-drama Obvious Child as well as the teacher of a seven-year-old mathematical genius in the recently released drama Gifted. Turns out, Slate’s determination to take responsibility for her disappointments and her firm resolve to perform with joy were key to finding the career she really wanted.