In that show, Dead Millionaire, which ran for a year at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater, Jenny inhabited a version of herself (along with supporting characters) who reflects on her life at her “funeral party” and wonders what will come of the $300 million she has left to her dog. “A lot of one-woman shows can be so douchey,” Slate said. “I wanted mine to be interesting, not shitty.” An SNL scout came to the show one Thursday, didn’t think it was shitty, and the next Thursday Jenny was auditioning.
“My experience at SNL completely shapes where I am now. I can choose my career path. But I will never have a job like that again,” Slate said. “I could not imagine myself without it. But the compromise that you make is that the show is your life.”
Despite some memorable characters and sketches on SNL, Slate never really gained traction on a show where writers and performers are pitted against each other to get their sketches into a given episode. But Jenny doesn’t feel that her slip-up affected that hyper-competitive dynamic in any meaningful way: “I was so embarrassed, but everyone was really comforting to me.”
Although the circumstances of her eventual firing were less than comfortable—she first learned about it on a blog—she has nothing negative to say about the man who pulled the plug on a lifelong dream. “Lorne [Michaels] will always be my favorite person on SNL,” Jenny said. “He’s this really powerful god-dad. If you can make him laugh it’s really fulfilling.”
Fleischer-Camp is less diplomatic.
“I was relieved when she wasn’t renewed. [SNL] is exactly the creaky old ship you imagine it to be. There’s hardly anything fresh or energetic or youthful or progressive going on over there, and it’s not for lack of talent. There are a lot of really wonderful writers and performers on that show, but none of them are doing anything interesting because it seems like risk-taking is looked down upon… I don’t think Lorne Michaels would cast Gilda Radner these days.”
Although Jenny considers herself to have gotten a late start in her acting career, it’s something she has imagined for herself since she was a girl growing up in Milton, Massachusetts. “I didn’t want to be a child actress,” she insisted. “I wanted to be a lady actress.” (Also, her parents—with whom she has a very close relationship—wouldn’t have permitted her to pursue an acting career at a young age). So Jenny “put it away like a collection of handkerchiefs with my name on them.”
And she put her energy into her schoolwork, eventually graduating at the top of her class from the prestigious Milton Academy and enrolling at Columbia. “I’ve always been academically oriented,” she said. Jenny recalls having her confidence shaken, though, by a mean-spirited second-grade teacher, Mrs. Fenstemacher: “The only adult I can safely say caused trauma for me.”
Somewhere along the way, Slate came to believe she wasn’t pretty. A regular theme in her performances is a wish that people might not immediately recognize her as being Jewish (she is). At a show in April, she and Gabe took aim at the television show Game of Thrones, incredulous that it could be classified as “fantasy” by anyone’s definition. The bit prompted Jenny to describe what she considers to be a real fantasy: As she’s about to sign the contract on a three-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn Heights, some unidentified people burst through the door proclaiming “We were wrong! You actually got a 1600 on your SATs,” followed by a murmur of “Is she Jewish? You can’t really tell by looking at her.”