Jenny Slate Knows What Your Dog Does All Day

Photo: Jim Smeal/BEI/REX Shutterstock.
Avenue Q has a song that claims, "The internet is for porn." Yes, there is a lot of pornography to be found on the world wide web, but there's also an abundance of adorable animal videos. If you're only seeing porn, you're not looking on the right sites. Basically, it all started when some person with a nanny cam thought, I can't wait to record what my dog does all day and upload it to YouTube. Everything just snowballed from there.

There's even an animated movie based on this concept coming out this July called The Secret Life of Pets. It's about what our beloved fur-babies do when we leave them alone all day. Actress and comedian Jenny Slate provides the voice of a spunky dog named Gidget in the film. We spoke to Slate — whom you know as the hilarious star of Obvious Child and the mastermind behind her charming video series, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On — about her role, her own dogs' secret lives, and what Marcel is doing for the holidays. (Plus! At the bottom of the post, a special holiday video from The Secret Life of Pets.)
How would you describe Gidget?
"She is a white Pomeranian fluffball-type dog with a pink bow. She’s very small, very polite, and sort of positive in an almost nuclear type of way. Just really, really atomically positive, but also really brave. I think she has all these qualities without being showy about that. It’s just kind of the way that she is. She’s just kind of a little engine that runs. She’s very, very fun to play. She is in love with Max, a dog who lives across the way... When he gets lost, she rallies the pets in the building to go on an adventure to try to find him. It’s really cute and really funny."

Do you think this movie accurately captures pets' secret lives?
"I think this movie captures [them], and then takes it to another level that’s really satisfying. I think my own dogs aren’t as smart as any of the pets in this movie. I think the balance between really capturing the physical behavior of these pets and making them look and seem like our pets, and then making them just a bit more human, and enhancing their personalities and their motivations more is always satisfying."

How many dogs do you have?
"I have two dogs. I have one dog named Reggie and [one named] Arthur."

What do they do when you leave them alone?
"My dogs constantly knock over the trash. That’s their main move, they love that. They also love stealing things from the laundry, like dirty socks and other unmentionables. My dogs know when I'm not there, they do bad things."

For those of us who unfortunately don't see dog ownership in our near future, is seeing this movie a good substitute?
"I think so! I really do. It’s not always the right time to get a pet, but it is always the right time to spend time with one — whether it’s a dog in a movie or somebody else’s. It’s always nice to be around the energy of animals."

Are you a fan of animated movies?
"I'm a huge animation fan. I do my own type of animation with Marcel the Shell that I do with my husband. I'm a big Miyazaki fan. I find that I watch a lot of animated movies from my childhood in my spare time, like The Rescuers and An American Tail. I definitely watch The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast at least two or three times a year."

Would Marcel the Shell fit into The Secret Life of Pets anywhere?
"I don’t think so. Marcel’s solo. He’ll have his day, though."

What does he do for the holidays?
"I think he probably spends a couple weeks hauling a giant cranberry over to his grandma’s house, and they share it, you know? They probably go to the record player and listen to some holiday tunes."

What does your family do for Thanksgiving?
"We do a really big Thanksgiving. We have family and friends combined, and every year we start the email chain about what to cook on Thanksgiving in September at least. I [always] make creamed onions. It sounds like a Steve Urkel type of dish, like a stinky cheese or something, but it is truly my favorite garnish to put on stuffing... Usually we have Thanksgiving oysters, and we have a pretty intense cocktail hour that’s more than an hour long. We watch VHS tapes of our old videos and always talk about converting them to put them on some sort of thumb drive and never do. Every year, I go up into the cedar closet and pull out some weird thing that the year before I thought was weird and is now in style."

What role do you find yourself getting recognized for most frequently?
"My career so far has been a pretty eclectic mix... I couldn’t have chosen it better for myself. Like, I’m glad for all the things. It’s pretty diverse. I’m equally recognized for like, Marcel the Shell, but also Obvious Child. But there’s also a lot of Mona Lisa Saperstein [from Parks and Recreation] that gets thrown my way. It’s that and Kroll Show. It’s all pretty even and just depends where I am... Either way, I’ve noticed the people that come up to me are always really nice, and I’m thankful for that. I don't have any problem with it, but maybe that’s because I’m not like a super, super recognizable person, and the flow of my life feels pretty natural. To have one or two people a day come up to me and say they like my work just feels like something I wished for that came true. It seems really nice. It’s something to be thankful for when I’m eating my turkey this year."

Are you working on anything new right now?
"I just last week did Lena Dunham’s pilot called Max, which is for HBO. It stars Zoe Kazan and Tessa Thompson, and it’s a fictional hybrid of Gloria Steinem and Susan Sontag...it was really, really fun."

Watch a special holiday clip from The Secret Life of Pets right here.

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