Why Jenny Slate called her standup comedy special ‘Stage Fright’

Jenny Slate’s first Netflix comedy special is a family affair — literally.

In “Jenny Slate: Stage Fright,” the standup comedienne and actress (“Parks and Recreation,” “Zootopia,” “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On”), intersperses old home videos and interviews with family members with her onstage standup act.

“There is a lot of comedy about what doesn’t work, and about what we hate, and what we think doesn’t fit in,” says Slate, 37. “A lot of my comedy is about ‘I love myself and I’m not sure if I fit in. I love my family, they’re funny and unique.’ And whether or not I fit in with them doesn’t matter. Because the love we have pulls everything together.

“I wanted to double down,” she says. “It’s one thing to say, ‘These are my personal stories.’ It’s another to show, ‘Look, this is where they come from.’ ”

“Stage Fright” cuts back and forth between showing Slate’s standup act, taped in April at the Gramercy Theater — where she covers topics such as her family and her divorce (from director Dean Fleisher-Camp) — to her visiting her childhood home in Milton, Massachuetts, where she interviews both of her grandmothers, her parents and her two sisters. Slate says she wanted to feature them to show her audience that her impressions of her family were truthful.

“A lot of the stuff within my family members’ actual character doesn’t need a joke made out of it — it’s already very funny,” she says. “Case in point: my grandmother’s voice. My impression of her is not an exaggeration. It’s exactly what she sounds like.”

One part that Slate didn’t anticipate, however, is that the average person is not comfortable in front of the camera.

“My family is really supportive, so they all pretty much said we should do it,” she says. “But once we had the cameras in our actual house it was probably very startling. I often forget that if you don’t work around that type of equipment, it just has this connotation of ‘Oh God, you’re suddenly going to be exposed to the world!’”

Filming in her childhood home also served as a goodbye to the place, since Slate’s parents downsized around Labor Day.

“I knew they were planning on selling the house and moving to a smaller place,” she says. “I also wanted to make this special a way to create a time capsule. So I went in there and filmed as much as I could.”

She says she calls the special “Stage Fright” for personal reasons.

“That’s an essential part of my process at this point,” she says. “Much like having anxiety, it’s sort of just part of how I exist. A lot of my standup, in one way or another, deals with being a fearful person who wants to be around the things that scare her … and that’s exactly what performing is.

“I’m proud of being able to step through that.”

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Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.

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