chat room

Jenny Slate Talks to Gabe Liedman and Max Silvestri About Obvious Child, Movie Remakes, and Butts

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 01: Actress Jenny Slate attends the
Photo: Andrew Toth/Getty Images

In Obvious Child, Jenny Slate plays a comedian who performs at the same Brooklyn bar every week. In many ways, it resembles Big Terrific, the weekly stand-up show Slate started six years ago with her good friends Gabe Liedman and Max Silvestri. (Silvestri still hosts it every Wednesday.) The event showcased the three hosts’ lovable and hilarious dynamic, and it is also where Slate met Obvious Child director Gillian Robespierre. With Obvious Child opening wide this weekend, we asked Liedman (who co-stars in Obvious Child and writes for Brooklyn Nine-Nine) and Silvestri (co-host of FYI’s upcoming food-centric The Feed, debuting July 12, and whose debut stand-up album, King Piglet, came out earlier this month) to interview Slate. The endeavor resulted in a very serious debate covering the most grave issues of the day. Just kidding! It resulted in a bunch of friends discussing what it’s like to watch a version of their own life, à la Obvious Child, butts, movies, butts, and movies. (We bolded the questions and comments that kick off certain areas of riffing.)

Jenny Slate: Okay, so this is the conversation where we talk about what’s wrong with our butts? Fine, I’ll go first: lots of different little cuts all over it. [Laughs.]

Max Silvestri: I’m really excited for them to transcribe laughs. [Laughs.]

JS: Umm, yeah, I’m in a bathrobe right now.

MS: Oh, wow. That’s so nice.

Gabe Liedman: I’m just leaving the gym. I had to pull over to dial.

JS: Oh, that’s nice. You’re so responsible with your exercising, Gabe.

GL: That’s why I look like this, people. If you want to look like Gabe Liedman, you have to work out real, real fucking hard.

MS: [Laughs.] Yeah, yeah. Okay, I’m going to ask a question. So, Gabe and Jenny, you two are friends, right?

GL: Yes.

JS: What makes you say that?

[They all laugh.]

MS: You played friends in Obvious Child. How does it feel to watch you friendship, or a version of it, onscreen? That’s a professional question, right? Cool.

JS: That’s a really professional question. Let me give you the professional answer: It makes me fucking horny.

GL: Wet as fuck!

JS: Yeah, I’m not allowed to watch our movie anymore because I ruined all of my pants. They’re all sopping wet. And I’m actually standing by a clothesline now of just wet pants, because I watched our movie a couple of times, and that’s why I have to wear this robe, because I don’t have any bottoms.

MS: That’s so nice that [the film’s distributor] A24 gives you such a big Saran Wrap budget, though, so that they can cover the seats of all the theaters you have to go to.

GL: Or else everyone would just be ruining seats. In every screening they’d have to take a seat out if Jenny came to it.

MS: This is like upside-down Gallagher, when they had to put tarps down.

JS: Yeah, the next movie is called Obvious Child 2: The Upside-Down Gallagher Story.

[They all laugh.]

JS: You know, I think the characters we play in the movie are a little bit more confident. I know mine is more confident than me in life, and I feel like Gabe’s character is also really together — not that Gabe’s not together in life, but it’s just a different type of together. Younger — they’re both younger than us.

GL: The feeling is like, “Oh, that’s what it looked like five years ago in my life.” You know? And don’t you feel like Trash Bar in the movies looks like [the important alternative New York comedy venue that closed in 2008] Rififi?

MS: It did feel a little like time travel, watching it in the sense of just working out stuff at one bar and then being like, “No, we’re not going home; we’re just getting hammered,” felt like seven years ago. You know?

JS: Yeah, that’s what Dean [Fleischer-Camp, Slate’s husband and collaborator on Marcel the Shell] said. Dean was like, “The characters aren’t you guys, but you are best friends and you do comedy,” and he was saying how weird it was to see Gabe and I, as Donna and Joey, sit between Jack Lacy and talk to him. He was like, “I think that guy’s kind of supposed to be me.” But not at all, actually. Gabe and I never really had that experience of like some young man picking me up in a bar, probably because we didn’t talk to anybody except for ourselves.

GL: Yeah, neither of us got hammered and stayed out late and hooked up with people at bars. You always had boyfriends and I always had nothing [laughs].

JS: And you always had what?

GL: I said “nothing,” but started cracking up in the middle because it’s so sad out loud.

JS: Oh, no — we always went home together.

GL: Yeah, it was always just as friends and shit.

JS: And then we met Max Silvestri, and the coven was complete.

MS: Yeah, you finished the spell.

GL: Max, what did it feel like that the boyfriend’s name is Max?

MS: [Laughs.] I feel like it is a very direct message to me and not a coincidence. I just feel like every time I watch it, I’m putting together the puzzle pieces a little bit more, and I’ve almost completed the film. Obvious Child is a lot like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I think we can all agree on that.

JS: Secret of the Ooze?

MS: Yeah, the second one. This is the one before they know what the ooze’s secret is. It’s still a secret. In that movie, when April, the reporter, wakes up in the sewer with the turtles and Splinter, and she’s trying to put together if it’s a dream. And she’s like, “Wait, no, I saw a rat this morning. That’s why you’re here.” But then she can’t remember anything about turtles. And she freaks out.

JS: Who can?

MS: Yeah, just the idea that a dream is not everything that happened. Does this make sense?

JS: Noooo. [Laughs.]

MS: The point is, check out Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Now playing at the Angelika.

GL: Jenny, you would make a cool April.

JS: You know what? I think that I would also make a cool April. I’ll never get a chance because now all the people in the action movies have to be so porny and perfect-looking. It’s a bummer.

MS: Oh, speaking of April, I feel like every ’90s movie is being remade. If you guys could play a dream part, like if they were remaking Jurassic Park, stuff from that era, what would be the dream part you guys could be in?

JS: My joke answer is that I would play Lili Taylor’s part from Ransom, because she gets to have sex with Gary Sinise. [Laughs.]

MS: [Laughs.] Oh my God. I want to play the kid who pisses his pants when Gary Sinise comes to collect the ransom. He just stands there and pees.

JS: Yeah, and just pees. Looks like we all want to be in Ransom. I don’t know. I mean, there’s a lot that I would like to do. I would love to be Marla Hooch from A League of Their Own, but I would also like to be Betty Spaghetti. That would be great. I think if I really had to settle on something, it would be, you know, some kind of Empire Records situation.

MS: Oh, wow, that’s a good answer. Gabe, what would be your answer?

GL: If there was just no rules and the remake doesn’t have to be great or anything, then I would do Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive.

JS: Good one, Gabe! Good one!

GL: But if the movie did still need to be good and my dreams were still coming true, I would do David Spade in Tommy Boy.

JS: Yeah, you’re smart! Max, what about you?

MS: Oh, man. Now that I know that Gabe is playing Tommy Lee Jones, I kind of want to play Joe Pantoliano in The Fugitive.

[They all laugh.]

JS: I’ll be like the fat Russian son that gets arrested at the lady’s house when she’s hiding in that shitty apartment.

MS: Perfect, perfect.

GL: Guys, I was on a date and he was like, “What’s your favorite movie?” and I said, “The Fugitive,” and he was like, “What?” And I was like, “Well, what’s yours?” And he was like, “Dancer in the Dark,” and I was like, “Eww.”

MS: [Makes gagging sound]

JS: What!?

GL: I was instantly like, “What are you talking about!? Ew!”

JS: Ew! That guy is definitely sadly on suicide watch. Dancer in the Dark, good God!

GL: I know! Can you imagine the people out there?

JS: That’s so crazy! He’s like, “Hold on, I love this part. She’s just about to get the bag on her head and freak out really realistically to the point where you can’t figure out if Björk herself is also going to die from fear.” That movie really ruins me.

GL: You know, I think my favorite part is when she just breaks out into song, and it’s like cling clang cling clang clang clang all through the town.

JS: Yeah. You know what is really cool to watch over and over again is somebody experiencing the dread of just going swiftly blind. That, to me, is really cool.

[They all laugh.]

JS: Oh my God. One time in college, Gabe and I and a bunch of friends were like chilling out and we watched the movie Happiness, which is this Todd Solondz movie. We were stoned and laughing so hard. I remembered it as a really, really funny movie. And there’s this part at the beginning where Jon Lovitz is like, “You’re shit! And I’m Champagne.” We were all like, “Booommmm!!” I bought it for my dad for his birthday. I was like, “You’re going to love this movie. It’s hilarious.” And then my whole family sat around and we watched Happiness, which is the most disturbing — so much murder and pedophilia, and really intense shit.

GL: There’s actual come. Like, isn’t that where he shot up on the wall?

MS: Yeah, no, that’s one of the first movies I saw that had come in it. Like, literally, come.

JS: I know. I’ll tell ya, I really mis-remembered that film. Like, I thought of it much more of a Parenthood, the movie, vibe. I think I might have said that.

MS: I was listening to some audiobook. It was, like, Michael Lewis, who wrote Moneyball. He has a new book about the stock market. And that guy, Dylan Baker, who plays the terrible dad in that movie, narrates the audiobook. It’s such a dry book, but the whole book I just imagined him doing the recording in soaking-wet underwear. There was no way not to imagine him in that movie just staring at a small boy as I learn about the stock market.

JS: Just making tuna salads with tons of downers in it.

MS: But I’m glad to have that recipe now. That’s how I sleep. I make a tuna salad for myself every night before I go to bed.

GL: Otherwise you can’t sleep, right?

MS: Well, what’s the next movie you guys are going to make?

JS: Napoleon: Rise of an Empire. Why do you ask? It’s a rom-com of the Spanish Inquisition, and Gabe and I play Ferdinand and Isabella, brother and sister who are also king and queen and hate the Jews. It’s going to be big stretches for all of us, but I think that’s what I’m into now in my career. As they say, stretch it out.

MS: Did you see that there’s a trailer for Dumb and Dumber To out? The real sequel, with Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey. I’m pretty excited about it.

JS: Oh my God, I can’t wait. I can’t wait.

GL: The first one was an absolute masterpiece, if I can recall. That snowball scene ruled.

JS: At our screening the other day, there was an old lady. You know when something just passes into the vernacular and people don’t know what it’s from anymore? So, she was like, “I liked it. I liked it a lot.”

MS: No!

JS: And I just died. It made me laugh so hard that this woman saw Obvious Child and then did a Jim Carrey impression about how much she liked it.

MS: That’s crazy. Sometimes I have crazy diarrhea into a broken toilet and I’m like, “What is this from?”

[They all laugh.]

JS: Sometimes I get wrongly accused for murder and they put a bag over my head and I just fucking flip out and then the song starts and I’m like, “Clicky click clack poopy poop poop,” and then it’s fine.

GL: I just love film. I love film!

MS: Do you have any questions about Obvious Child, Gabe? That I can answer?

GL: Jenny, do you believe this whole shit is real?

JS: Yeah, that’s actually the perfect question to ask. It is crazy. We made this movie for very little money, in a very small amount of time. I just remember hoping that somebody would see it. And now they do see it and they seem to like it. It feels really craazayy. It does. It feels really weird. And I get really happy. Sometimes I cry a lot. I was listening to “Take Two,” which is the KPCC, NPR morning show here—

GL: Best show!

JS: Yes. Love it! And it was on Friday, so the day after our premiere, and they were interviewing this lady, and they were like, “What are you excited for coming up in the next week?” And she was like “I’m excited for two things. One is” — I think it was like a documentary called the Ivory Tower — and “the other thing is Obvious Child.” Dean and I just stared at each other and were like, “They just said our movie on the radio.” Then Alex Cohen was like, “I’m going to be interviewing the star, Jenny Slate, next week.” I was like, “She is?! They are?!” I did. I was so excited. I should look more closely at our press appointment sheet thingy that they give you. That’s also not what it’s called. They definitely have to call me like 50 times a day and be like, “Jenny, there’s a car outside your house. You have to go somewhere now.”

MS: Yeah, they just sent you one email a month ago with your schedule, and you’ve just been keeping to it really intensely. Is that how it works?

JS: Yeah, you know me, when I get a printout of anything, what I do immediately is to look at it and regard it in general. I don’t always just completely shirk all responsibilities that seem, you know, a little bit adult or boring.

GL: What you definitely do is fold it up and put it in your purse for a while.

JS: You know what, Gabe? It’s true, and I do have a lot of trash in my purse. But I guess I feel like I’m such a happy person that I have to keep my bag weighted down or I’ll just float up into the air like a beautiful balloon.

GL: Aww, that’s gorgeous.

JS: Thank you! I have damaged my brain with marijuana last night, so I’m creating some beautiful verbal art.

[They all laugh.]

GL: I think we have to get off the phone.

JS: Oh, you’re right, we do. We have to go on another phone call. It’s the truth. We have to go.

MS: I have to go to [celebrity chef] Marcus Samuelsson’s house and be in a Thanksgiving photo shoot.

GL: Oooooh, that is dope.

MS: It’s literally my dream to be in the background of a Food & Wine spread, just drinking wine and laughing.

JS: Max, that is amazing! As you like get more and more into the food world, my fantasy is you’ll have one of those articles where you’re like, “I invited my friends,” and then Gabe and I can come over.

MS: Oh my God, that is all I want to do. It’s all I want to do. This is the first step towards that. It is literally my dream to be like, “Max cooked a casual meal on the grill while they entertained their L.A. friends.” Literally, when that’s done, I can stand in the ocean and fucking sink.

JS: [Laughs.] Is there going to be Thanksgiving food there that you can eat?

MS: He’s cooking a whole crazy Thanksgiving spread. He just kept texting me, to come hungry.

JS: Good. Well, you better digest that tuna sandwich that you had to help you fall asleep last night and get your ass out the door.

MS: But it was really fun to talk to you guys on the telephone. I miss you guys so much.

GL: And I love you, Max.

JS: Miss you, too. Yes, we love you. And I love you, Gabe. I love you both.

Jenny Slate Chats With Her Comedy Besties