Jenny Slate, a comedian and actress who describes herself as “a turtleneck as a person,” explores the vulnerable side to her eccentric personality in her first comedy Netflix special, “Stage Fright.” While we don’t normally associate “stage fright” with Slate, who plays Mona-Lisa Saperstein on “Parks and Recreation” and voices Missy Foreman-Greenwald on “Big Mouth,” the comedian is honest and shares candid revelations in her newest special.
In a moment filmed backstage before her set begins, Slate says, “I don’t earn the love unless I give something beautiful that goes out.” Slate, hence, doesn’t feel deserving of her fans’ praise unless she delivers her funniest jokes. Here, we see a sensitive side of Slate that wasn’t visible when she hit the red carpet hand-in-hand with Captain America (Chris Evans) or when she laughed her way through nostalgic recounts of bizarre childhood memories on “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” In “Stage Fright,” Slate shares her genuine self with the world in a delightful and goofy way, evidenced when she prances around her childhood room in different dresses, giving her nana a fashion faux show.
“I have, like, sort of a personality that’s just like, ‘Sproing-doing! Who cares? Everybody poops in their pants,’” Slate divulges during her special. Ironically, Slate also states, “My stage fright comes from a deeper thing, of exchange.” Despite striving to be carefree, she worries that she isn’t worthy of her audience’s uncontrollable laughter and broods over the fact that she won’t be able to relish her achievements while performing. What frightens her is the possibility that anxiety will “deny her the moment to have fun.”
Comedy specials usually involve framing material to fully place the viewers within the comedian’s life and perspective. What differentiates “Stage Fright” from other contemporary specials, however, is the fact that the offstage elements emphasize her authenticity as a comedian. After all, rarely do we get to hear why a comedian gets kicked out of Hanukkah or to see the haunted childhood home they grew up in within the same hour. The glimpses into Slate’s childhood home and her conversations with her family illustrate the difference between her on-stage and off-stage persona.
Slate’s “sproing-doing” personality is what makes her Netflix special for lack of a better term, special. “Stage Fright” gives us a glimpse of her whimsical view of the world and, in doing so, appeals to those who don’t feel like they fit into the status quo. Her special is at times awkward in flow, with documentary-style interruptions. But this only adds to her quirk and makes the overall experience more immersive.
This documentary-esque comedy special will warm your heart and reveal to you more about Slate and her family. It may generate feelings of homesickness and compel you to FaceTime your parents right away, but it will also empower you. Ultimately, “Stage Fright” will encourage you to be unapologetically you, and is a delightful way to end a chaotic day — or start an unproductive one.