NOVEM­BER COVER JENNY SLATE

Get ready to shake hands with a light­ning bolt.

Fashion (Canada) - - The Market Contents - By Greg Hud­son Pho­tog­ra­phy by Arkan Zakharov Styling by Anna Kat­sa­nis Creative di­rec­tion by Brit­tany Ec­cles

Pho­tograph­ing Jenny Slate bare­foot for our cover was an un­in­tended bit of #irony given that she’s beloved by many for her short an­i­mated video se­ries Mar­cel the Shell With Shoes On. In her chat with fea­tures edi­tor Greg Hud­son, the co­me­dian opens up about the up­side to ca­reer set­backs and how be­ing lonely can be “weirdly, achingly beau­ti­ful.” ON THE COVER: Jenny Slate wears a top, $1,775, Dior. Pants, $1,710, Etro. Pho­tog­ra­phy, Arkan Zakharov. Creative di­rec­tion, Brit­tany Ec­cles. Styling, Anna Kat­sa­nis. Hair, Rheanne White for TraceyMat­tingly.com/Liv­ing Proof. Makeup, Kirin Bhatty for Star­works Artists/Dior Makeup. Man­i­cure, Rita Re­mark for essie. Fash­ion as­sis­tant, Paulina Cas­tro Ogando. Pho­tog­ra­phy as­sis­tants, James Lee Wall and Ian Bishop.

If you’re a pro­fes­sional funny per­son, you’re al­ways look­ing for the comedic po­ten­tial in an ex­pe­ri­ence. When you find it, you re­peat and re­fine it and push the anec­dote through a kind of standup pu­berty un­til it be­comes a real, hon­estto-God joke, com­plete with punch­lines and but­tons where there weren’t but­tons be­fore. But dur­ing that evo­lu­tion, there can be some ex­ploita­tive one-sided con­ver­sa­tions, where friends are turned into au­di­ence mem­bers against their will.

Jenny Slate is sen­si­tive to this. And so at the end of our photo shoot, she checks in with some of us, mak­ing sure that when she was telling her story, be­tween shots, about a visit to a sur­pris­ingly hot den­tist, she hadn’t made us feel used or un­com­fort­able.

Bless her heart. I’m not con­vinced she has the abil­ity to make some­one feel un­com­fort­able—even if her sub­ject mat­ter isn’t al­ways PG. When Slate speaks—whether it’s di­rectly to you or sim­ply around and at you—it feels like she’s bring­ing you into her con­fi­dence; in that mo­ment, you are her friend and co-con­spir­a­tor, mar­vel­ling with her at the raw com­edy of life.

She also asks if the story was funny. Af­ter we as­sure her that it was, she says she might use it as part of her set host­ing an an­niver­sary party for a pop­u­lar fem­i­nist mag­a­zine tonight. I didn’t think to record the den­tist story at the time, so here is a para­phrased ver­sion, based solely on mem­ory (which is never the best way to hear a co­me­dian’s work):

Slate goes to a new den­tist, who is shock­ingly at­trac­tive. So at­trac­tive that she ba­si­cally for­gets why she’s there. Her brain in­stead de­cides that she is on a blind date or in the midst of a rom­com meet-cute or some­thing. He asks what he can help her with, and she’s all “Oh, what­ever you want to do. It’s cool.” When they set up a re­turn visit, she de­cides she’ll wear her cute un­der­wear. You know, how you do when you’re tak­ing care of your den­tal hy­giene. Only then, when the day »

of her ap­point­ment comes, like Afro­man be­fore her, she gets high and to­tally for­gets about her date. She told it much bet­ter, but trust me: It’s a very funny story. If Slate likes telling anec­dotes in be­tween shots, she loves wear­ing the clothes dur­ing them. It’s like each look in­spires a role for her to play. An ’80s-in­spired blazer by Stella McCart­ney, for ex­am­ple, trans­forms her into the kind of shoul­der-padded shark that would in­tim­i­date Sigour­ney Weaver in Work­ing Girl. “Where are my faxes! I fax and make stacks!” she calls out, mim­ing a giant cell­phone pressed like a brick against her ear. Of course, when it’s time to shoot, it’s all busi­ness.

The next day, we meet at a ho­tel bar in Brook­lyn. She’s wear­ing a blank can­vas: white over­alls over a sim­ple T-shirt. Her hair, pos­si­bly left over from the shoot she had that morn­ing, is as flaw­less as a femme fa­tale’s. Af­ter order­ing (roasted eg­g­plant—“I would be so happy to have that” is how she asks for it), she gets up to hug one of the ho­tel em­ploy­ees fin­ish­ing his shift. “That man is so nice to me,” she ex­plains when she sits down again. “I stay here a lot.”

I ask her how the event went the night be­fore. “It was OK, but it wasn’t what I wanted it to be,” she says. “I re­ally should learn my les­son that I don’t like host­ing. I like per­form­ing, but I re­ally don’t like per­form­ing on a show that’s a mix of com­edy and mu­sic.” She adds that her com­edy is per­sonal and that it’s like she’s hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with the au­di­ence. “If I go up there,” she ex­plains, “and tell a joke about how that den­tist was hot and make a per­verted but good-na­tured joke about him clean­ing my teeth with his pe­nis or what­ever, and you’re there be­cause you want to hear a fem­i­nist grunge-glam rock group, you’re go­ing to be shocked. And I’m not there sim­ply to be sub­ver­sive. I re­veal my­self, and maybe push bound­aries, but it’s al­ways part of the very wide mar­gins that I al­low for my­self so that I can be au­then­tic in front of peo­ple and not feel like I’m tem­per­ing my ex­pe­ri­ence so it will fit into a more nor­mal­ized thing. It was still fun, but there wasn’t a way for me to con­nect with the room.”

I re­peat this story to high­light a char­ac­ter trait that be­comes im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent while I’m speak­ing with her: What she likes, dis­likes, wants and in­evitably doesn’t want is a big part of Jenny Slate. Of course, it’s a big part of life, gen­er­ally. What are we but the sum of our wants and in­ter­ests? This means that the peo­ple who win at life are the peo­ple who have a preter­nat­u­ral clar­ity about those things and—this is es­sen­tial—live their lives in re­li­gious ac­cor­dance with them.

Prob­a­bly more than she ever has, Slate seems to know what she wants; no won­der she’s killing it more than she ever has as well. “I’m more my­self than I’ve ever been,” she says. “I en­joy my work. I en­joy my life. I en­joy my­self. I’ve never been able to ex­pe­ri­ence that holy trin­ity be­fore. I have a very cool sense of grat­i­tude and peace. I’m chock full of weird en­ergy. I’m a light­ning bolt you can shake hands with.” Slate doesn’t in­spire a cilantro-type bi­nary. You don’t love her or hate her; you love her or you love her but don’t re­mem­ber her name. Yet. (You know who she is. It’s just that you’re bad with celebri­ties and their names.) Men­tion Slate, es­pe­cially among mil­len­nial women, and you’ll get a lot of “Ooh, I love her!” And as one who had beers (and roasted eg­g­plant and an awk­wardly ro­bust pork sand­wich) with her on a sti­flingly hot af­ter­noon in Brook­lyn, I can tes­tify that that is ex­actly the ap­pro­pri­ate re­sponse.

Of course, the world be­ing as par­ti­san and an­gry as it is, there are peo­ple who aren’t on Team Slate. Af­ter all, she is a rag­ing fem­i­nist who moved from the lib­eral mecca of New York City to live among the coastal elites in Hol­ly­weird. And like a true snowflake, she will do in­fu­ri­at­ing things like ac­knowl­edge her priv­i­lege, ad­mit to her own un­con­scious, so­cially in­grained misog­yny and talk in­ter­sec­tional fem­i­nism as read­ily as your fa­ther talks about traf­fic. Not to men­tion she starred in a ro­man­tic com­edy where abor­tion was a ma­jor plot point—and not in a neg­a­tive way!

That film, Ob­vi­ous Child, is an im­por­tant in­flec­tion point for Slate. One of many, ac­tu­ally. Af­ter build­ing a healthy, if lo­cal, standup ca­reer with her com­edy part­ner, Gabe Lied­man, Slate landed her dream job at Satur­day Night Live in 2009. But she only lasted one sea­son.

It al­most feels lazy to in­clude the SNL set­back in her nar­ra­tive, be­cause al­most 10 years later it seems so in­ci­den­tal. Only, of course it wasn’t to her. It was a les­son that helped her gain clar­ity about what she wanted. “Af­ter work­ing at SNL, I re­mem­ber think­ing that noth­ing will ever be that hard again,” she says. “And I do still talk about it be­cause it was such a dream and then it was not what I ex­pected. And the worst part is that you’re like, ‘Am I just be­ing bit­ter that I didn’t cut the mus­tard?’ But look­ing back on it, no. I had to un­der­stand that as much as there are so many op­por­tu­ni­ties for joy, there are a lot of bad deals out there.” »

Al­most im­me­di­ately af­ter SNL, Slate and her then hus­band and creative part­ner made a lit­tle stop-mo­tion an­i­mated video of a tiny talk­ing shell, wear­ing sneak­ers, that ex­ploded. “Mar­cel the Shell with Shoes On,” which is adorable and hi­lar­i­ous, gave her vi­ral fame, the chance to write a best­selling book and creative free­dom. But ref­er­enc­ing it now also kind of feels like in­sist­ing on talk­ing about Nir­vana with Dave Grohl. Be­sides Mar­cel, Slate is known for her work in

Zootopia, Bob’s Burg­ers and Big Mouth, but it was Ob­vi­ous Child that made peo­ple re­al­ize how skilled a per­former she is: vul­ner­a­ble, funny, smart and per­fectly be­liev­able. En­tirely real and com­pletely her­self while still, you know, act­ing. Slate cred­its this film, which talks frankly about abor­tion, with in­spir­ing her fem­i­nist awak­en­ing.

Now, Slate is try­ing on a big comic book block­buster. She’ll be wear­ing glasses and a lab coat in

Venom. The role won’t earn her an In­de­pen­dent Spirit Award, but that wasn’t the point. “I love mak­ing indie films, and the more I work, the more I hope I can work with di­rec­tors I ad­mire,” she says. “But I also wanted to see if I could do work like this and if it would sat­isfy me. I think it’s re­ally stupid to be pre­ten­tious. It’s like it’s jocks ver­sus art. The peo­ple who make th­ese movies and the ac­tors who are in them work re­ally hard and are mak­ing art.”

Of course, speak­ing of jocks and su­per­heroes, there’s one more rea­son peo­ple might know Slate. It’s a big part of her “True Hol­ly­wood Story,” but even more than SNL, it feels silly—maybe even a bit sex­ist?—to men­tion: For about a year, she dated Chris Evans.

It’s al­ways awe­some to de­fine a woman by who she dates. But with Slate you feel like she’s your new best friend. And when your best friend starts dat­ing Cap­tain Amer­ica…well, it’s like Meghan Markle be­com­ing a princess. It’s not ra­tio­nal, but it’s like a cur­tain parts and the ba­nal­ity of fame is mo­men­tar­ily ex­posed: Celebri­ties be­come real, and life is charged with lot­tery-win­ning pos­si­bil­ity. Plus, it’s just like, “Damn, you take that, girl.” When we were kids, my sis­ter and I started rec­og­niz­ing a trope in the shows we watched. We called her the Have You Ever Thought Girl. She was, and re­mains, sim­i­lar to what would years later be la­belled a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, only she was never con­cerned with res­cu­ing a male char­ac­ter. The Have You Ever Thought Girl was al­ways the lead. She was Anne of Green Gables or Vada in My Girl. The ar­che­typal HYETG is al­ways bal­anc­ing on a fence next to a shy farm boy or ly­ing pla­ton­i­cally be­side him on the grass, star­ing at the stars. “Have you ever thought,” she be­gins, usu­ally with a slight Bri­tish ac­cent, be­fore lay­ing out some ab­so­lutely ab­surd the­ory, “that ev­ery star is a crumb from one giant so­lar cookie, and if we could fol­low them, we’d find that God is re­ally ter­ri­bly messy?”

Slate might just be the real-world in­car­na­tion of the Have You Ever Thought Girl, only grown up and full of real wis­dom. Slate of­ten pep­pers her speech with phrases that feel too po­etic to be im­pro­vised. Only, I’m sure they are. It’s just rare to talk to some­one who is as cre­atively ex­tro­verted as she is in­tro­spec­tive and has seem­ingly re­moved all the clut­ter and crit­i­cism be­tween her heart, her head and her mouth.

I ask her about lone­li­ness, which seems to pop up in a lot of her in­ter­views. It’s her neme­sis—hated but also maybe es­sen­tial. “It’s like I have so much I want to be able to give,” she says. “It builds up in me—it’s like colours or light that has to come out. I feel swollen with my­self, and I need to be able to shine out.” “It al­most sounds pos­i­tive,” I say.

“Oh it’s very pos­i­tive; it’s weirdly, achingly beau­ti­ful,” she says, lean­ing back in her chair, arms folded, but some­how not closed off. “But also, I don’t fetishize it. I don’t like be­ing lonely, but I’ve learned to ac­cept it. I would much rather be lonely and miss­ing the man I love than be with a man or a bunch of men who don’t do it for me. I’m so lucky to love re­ally hard.” Have you ever thought… Which brings us back to where we started, where the crew has gath­ered around Slate to lis­ten to her tell a story that can’t be ap­pre­ci­ated in a 10-minute set be­tween mu­si­cal acts. Here we’re caught, like happy deer, in the light that’s beam­ing out of her as she de­scribes ex­actly how hot her den­tist was. She’s the cen­tre of at­ten­tion, but it’s not be­cause she’s per­form­ing. Not ex­actly.

“Standup helps with it [lone­li­ness], but so does just go­ing out­side,” she ex­plains as the waiter de­liv­ers the bill, right be­fore we both check the time and re­al­ize we’re both late for some­thing. “I al­le­vi­ate my lone­li­ness not from ac­com­plish­ing some big feat, like go­ing on a date and get­ting some­one to ad­mire me. I walk around the reser­voir where I live to see other peo­ple’s faces. I smile at strangers. That’s all I need to do. I also need to prove it to my­self ev­ery day, not be­cause I lose faith quickly but be­cause faith needs main­te­nance and that seals the deal for me. I smile at a stranger. They smile at me. I’m good.”

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