In recent years, Jenny Slate has taken a turn toward acting. She’s guest starred notably as Jean-Ralphio Saperstein’s destructive baby sister Mona Lisa in Parks and Recreation, and in a recurring role as Liz B. on the Kroll Show. But after about five minutes of watching Slate take confident strides across the stage and deliver sugar-coated yet totally manic personal stories, it’s clear where she feels at home. Slate brought a few good friends, good vibes and exceptional barf jokes to Littlefield on Sunday night as part of the New York Comedy Festival, sharing the stage with Nick Kroll, Max Silvestri and Greg Johnson.
Slate launched quickly into a long-winded adventure that involved being hung over on a plane, puking violently on said plane and accidentally sitting in the cookies she had just tossed. She joked about annoying people and why they’re annoying and managed to dip into the realm of childhood masturbation and still draw giggles. Slate’s best stuff by far came in the form of her I-was-an-awkward-Jewish-girl jokes. Most of them culminated in Slate prancing and hopping around the stage like a little monster to depict the insane child she surely was.
Slate’s trio of all-male buddies brought decent laughs, though to varying degrees. Nick Kroll’s roles as the taunting Rodney Ruxin in The League and as a slew of eccentric characters like Fabrice Fabrice and Bobby Bottleservice in his own show usually have him pursuing laughs by impersonating the obnoxious. At Slate’s special, Kroll was much more endearing, veering away from crude or controversial territory and spending a good chunk of his time discussing McDonald’s as his “booty call” restaurant choice and describing how much he loves sweets.
Slate’s longtime friend Max Silvestri brought a brainy, rambling sort of humor that had the audience following his stream of consciousness into wacky hypothetical situations. A joke about going to a sports bar ended with the image of Silvestri sitting alone in a restaurant with 17 dolls—see him live, it’s impressive how effortlessly he gets there. The third of Slate’s guests, Greg Johnson, was the only lagging act, due in part to the fact that his set was peppered by the static of a screwed-up mic. Half of Johnson’s jokes about living in New York could’ve been extracted from the ‘90s, and he did himself no favors by feigning uneasy glances at his watch to get through lulls.
Though her guests helped round out the show, Slate remained the real gem of “Jenny Slate and Friends.” She has the kind of bubbly yet crass energy that New Girl’s Zooey Deschanel shoots for but doesn’t quite achieve. Plus, props to Slate for slipping in a playful poke at the notion that the time is now for women in comedy. “I used to try to make jokes, but then bubbles would just come out of my mouth,” she said with a syrupy voice and a twist of the hip.