This past August, Jenny Slate was feeling small. After a year on Saturday Night Live, the 28-year-old comedian was waiting to find out whether she'd be returning for a second season. So along with her boyfriend, filmmaker Dean Fleischer-Camp, she channeled said smallness into the funniest, cutest thing that has graced the Internet, potentially ever. "Marcel the Shell with Shoes on" is a short video of a wee shell with one googly eye and pink shoes who scuttles around talking in a nervous, nasally voice about how small he is: "Guess what I wear as a hat? A lentil."
"I recently watched the footage of us making it," Slate recalls, "I'm on the couch in my underpants and Dean is interviewing me. I was at a point where I was so tired of being told what to do creatively or that anything was weird. I looked feral; I'm talking in this little voice and staring off into space." While Slate did not ultimately get asked back to SNL, and the above image is a bit dark, the video is anything but. And from it, she and Fleischer-Camp are developing a Marcel-themed children's book and TV show.
As a child, Slate knew she wanted to perform. "I didn't want to be like Harriet on Small Wonder. I wanted to be like Suddenly Susan." So instead of taking the child-star route, she focused on school and attended Columbia. After graduation, Slate and classmate Gabe Liedman formed the comedy duo "Gabe and Jenny" (of which she is still a member). Throughout New York's alt comedy heyday of the mid-aughts, they performed with folks like Aziz Ansari, Demetri Martin and Nick Kroll. In the summer of '09, Slate landed "her life's goal": a part on SNL. After dropping the F-bomb on her first episode, Slate quietly dazzled throughout the season. (Remember her "New Doorbell" sketch?) "Andy Samberg once told me, 'you are a real odd bird, Jenny,' and I thought that was such a compliment."Of her tenure on the show, she says, "It was like a summer romance that you just kind of have good memories of."
In addition to working on her various Marcel projects, Slate is reveling in her recent scene-stealing turn on Bored to Death, performing a weekly comedy show, lending her voice to the 3D CGI adaptation of The Lorax and going on auditions. Would she ever move out to L.A. for a part? "I hate driving... but I like being driven around. I'm like a dog in a lot of ways; I'm way too friendly and trusting. Oh, and I poop outside."
★ JENNY SLATE'S "BIG TERRIFIC" COMEDY SHOW TAKES PLACE WEDNESDAYS AT CAMEO GALLERY, 93 N. 6TH ST., BROOKLYN. ★