Jenny Slate: Stage Fright (2019)

I’m a little torn about Jenny Slate’s debut comedy special. On the one hand, I absolutely adore Slate, and have ever since I saw her in 2014’s criminally underappreciated “Obvious Child” (which was directed by Gillian Robespierre, who also directed Slate in “Landine,” as well as this). I find her enthusiasm and bubbly charm absolutely irresistible, and she’s the type of celebrity I wish I was friends with. However, the special itself is… pretty good, I guess? Slate seems flummoxed for the first chunk of the special and her nervous energy is infectious, which is both a blessing and a curse: We get excited for her as she begins her routine, but she seems to sputter aimlessly due to jitters for about 15 minutes, which precludes the viewer from comfortably settling in. Interspersed throughout the special is footage of Slate with her family, and it builds a narrative of open vulnerability that makes Slate all the more relatable – it’s such an effective tool to reach the audience that it makes the actual comedy routine almost disappointing, because we’d rather spend more time with her and her lovely, warm and hilarious family. So all in all, it’s an unstructured comedy special that both occasionally soars and often sputters, but fans of Slate should watch it, even if only to see Slate dancing spontaneously to Robyn’s “Missing U” as she begins her routine, passionately abandoning herself to the song and effectively encapsulating why she’s so beloved in the process.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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