I first met Jenny Slate when I was 19. Until that day, our relationship was similar to how you encounter mutual friends at parties — I knew she existed, we just hadn’t gotten to know each other yet. I was in my dorm making my bunk bed when Slate, on an episode of the podcast You Made It Weird, made the Freudian slip that Moses farted the Red Sea. (As opposed to, you know, parting it.) I count this as the moment that Jenny Slate became my best friend.
I laughed at the fart joke because, to borrow a line from Louis C.K., you’d have to be pretty dumb not to laugh at the image of Moses passing a gas so violent that the Red Sea split. (C.K.’s joke begins with the idea that you don’t have to be particularly smart to laugh at a fart joke.) I met Jenny Slate on a podcast that was two hours and 29 minutes long, and from there on out, she was my celebrity crush. Only “crush” really isn’t the word for it: That moment marked the beginning of our pop culture friendship. Slate’s always been the cool kid who smokes cigarettes just outside the Hollywood campus. You may recall that in the dawn of her career, she was kicked off Saturday Night Live for loosing the word “fuck” during a taping. But for all her lurking around in the corners of celebritydom, Slate actually seems like a friendly person, the type of celebrity who you might actually want to share a beer with.
It was easy for me to assume Jenny Slate was my best friend. And when she divorced her similarly chill af husband Dean Fleischer-Camp in 2016, it was easy to feel betrayed, as if I were the one served with papers.
I imagine Jenny's the type of person who offers you tea when you walk in the door. In my mind, she also offers you a pair of slippers. These sound like suppositions, but I’m pretty sure I’m hitting the nail on its peculiar head: Slate offered New York Magazine writer Jada Yuan a T-shirt once, and Yuan wrote about it in her recent profile of the comedian and actress. In the same profile, Slate confessed that she's so friendly, her mother worried she was easily kidnappable. The idea of a "friendly celebrity" can ring false, I've found, especially because their careers don't exactly allow them to be very approachable. But because Slate isn't a huge celebrity and hasn't really attained mainstream success, her affability seems uniquely authentic.
Dean Fleischer-Camp, for those who don't know him, is a film director. His largest claim to fame is that he helmed Marcel the Shell, the short film that gives voice (Jenny Slate's) to a tiny shell wearing shoes. He has an IMdB page, but no Wikipedia presence. With all due respect to Mr. Fleischer-Camp, he is not a Hollywood somebody. If Slate is the cool kid at school skipping class and cracking jokes at the principal's expense, Fleischer-Camp is her older hipster boyfriend barely in the periphery. (I would like to add here that he looks a bit like Daniel Radcliffe.)
As someone with no Wikipedia presence or IMdB page, feel a kinship with Fleischer-Camp. Hey, I'm also in the periphery — only way, way, way in the wings. In this celebrity-fan relationship, I am Janis Ian and Jenny Slate is Cady Heron. I saw her enter the Hollywood landscape, and thought, "Oh, goody! This one's for us." This is a star who tells fart jokes! Who doesn't mind being vulnerable in an interview! Who talks openly about body image and simultaneously has a rad sense of style!
The same month that Slate announced her divorce, she appeared on Anna Faris’s podcast Unqualified. This episode is widely cited as a fun listen if you’re interested in Slate’s relationship with Chris Evans, because Evans appears with Slate. The two were in the middle of shooting the film Gifted, which is in theaters this Friday. In the episode, the two are extremely complimentary. The diplomatic description of their interaction is friendly. The editorialized description of their interaction is flirty. At one point in the episode, Faris notes that Slate and Evans are repeatedly punching each other on the shoulder. At the time that the episode premiered, Slate was likely in the middle of a crumbling marriage.
I felt betrayed. Dean Fleischer-Camp was a layman, so when my lady Slate divorced him, it was like she’d rejected her "cool kid" aura. She left behind the black top, snuffed out her cigarette, and entered the Hollywood pep rally. Then, she began dating Chris Evans. Slate herself described Evans as "primary colors" and also the type of guy who would jump out of a plane. This isn't to disparage Evans — he's a proper all-American celebrity. But that's just it. He's an A-lister of the first degree. In the high school of Hollywood, he is the captain of the football team. Therein lies the betrayal: Slate Cady Heron-d me and joined the plastics of Hollywood.
Slate's personality aside, I have another operating theory as to why I'm so attached to this particular celebrity. The fart joke was part of it, yes, but podcasts also have strange effects. Dr. Andrea Bonior, a psychologist and author of Psychology: Essential Thinkers, Classic Theories, and How They Inform Your World, believes that podcasts are particularly intimate because of where we listen to them. “Just because of the fact that we can carry these things with us anywhere, and we can listen to them in bed — I think it feels more personal than if we were just gathering around a television at a certain time of day,” she says. When I met Jenny Slate, I was in my dorm room. Ostensibly, she could have been my roommate, cracking an off-color fart joke about Moses and the Red Sea. “It feels also more individual. There’s something about listening with earbuds and by yourself that feels more personal,” Bonior adds.
Slate's breakup with Chris Evans is more a source of fascination than her divorce from Fleischer-Camp. Some were fairly devastated over the breakup. I felt vindicated, peering on from my place far in the periphery. Like Janis and Cady, I don't think we'll ever be in love again, Slate and I.
These days, Slate is busy decorating her “little mouse house” and posting images of mice on her Instagram. She’s moved into a new home, and is busy giving confessional interviews like the one on Vulture. Monday, she posted a screenshot of the song “Time To Move On” by Tom Petty.
“Go go go go forward not back,” she writes in the caption. She seems to be moving on. And Jenny, so am I. Your breakup with Chris Evans — and your admission in Vulture that you are a “majorly vibrant sexual being” — have set me free. And now it’s time to move on.