comics talk to comics

Jenny Slate, Gabe Liedman, and Max Silvestri on the State of Weed in Comedy

The “Dazed and Confused” versions of our panelists Photo: Photo Illustration by Maya Robinson and Photos by GramercyPictures/Courtesy Everett Collection and Getty Images

As pot has become increasingly widespread and legal, pot culture has seeped into the mainstream. So come trip with us through Stoner Week on Vulture as we explore bleary-eyed entertainment in its various guises, from the weirdest outpourings to the business behind it all. See more from Stoner Week »

Weed and comedy are good friends (they do share a mutual best friend: laughing), and they have been for a while now. But lately, the relationship between the two has been changing. So, for Stoner Week, Vulture asked comedians Jenny Slate, Gabe Liedman, and Max Silvestri to talk about the current state of pot in comedy, whether or not they write and/or perform high, and what a pothead is at this point. They also talk a lot about dog medication, as is their wont.

Max Silvestri: Gabe and Jenny, friends, do you think pot is good for comedy?

Gabe Liedman: I think that pot is good for some people’s comedy, for sure.

Jenny Slate: Yeah, it’s not good for mine. It’s not good for me to smoke pot and get onstage. But it’s pretty cool for me to smoke pot and make internet videos.

MS: What?! I gotta go back and rewatch some of those. I feel like there is a general connection between pot and the enjoyment of and the loose creation of comedy.

GL: Also, a lot of our comedy came from having friends. It’s not like pot bonded us, but we definitely hung out and smoked pot a ton and became comedy friends.

JS: Yeah, that’s true. It definitely made us develop a type of vernacular. Gabe and my entire act was based off of meeting each other at 18 years old and being like, “You like to honk down some weed? Cool!” The first time we ever hung out, Gabe and I spent all night being so stoned and going all over the Upper West Side looking for a copy of E.T. That never would’ve happened if we weren’t fucked up on weed.

MS: Yeah, I feel like the reason I started doing stand-up was because I met a friend in the improv group that got me really stoned and was like, “You should do stand-up.” I feel pot is great for comedians to do together and for audience members to do consuming comedy, but doing comedy stoned and talking about weed onstage are not two of my favorite things.

JS: Yeah. I don’t like to do it stoned. Sometimes I get really, really giggly, or I slow down a lot, and it’s not fun. There’s a thing about weed where you laugh so hard, but sometimes you can’t really remember why it was exactly that funny.

GL: I have full-on Alzheimer’s.

JS: Yeah, yeah. Where’s it’s like if you do mushrooms or MDMA, those feelings that you have during it can sometimes be lasting and you can discuss them the next day. With weed you’re having a really delightful stroke.

MS: I will say, though, we personally are of the opinion [that] there are comics that we like that like to be stoned when they perform.

GL: I’m stoned when I perform a lot.

JS: I’m drunk but I’m not stoned. I perform when I’m drunk very often and almost constantly. I just can’t do it stoned.

MS: I take 40 milligrams of Adderall the second I step onstage. That’s the first thing I do before I say hello. I’m just getting hotter and sweatier.

JS: Yeah, Adderall makes people not funny. It turns you into a total razor blade, and really intense. There was one time when I took it before going onstage. One time, it’s not a big deal! I was like, Oh, I’m going to take this before I go onstage, just to see, maybe this will work for me. I was in San Fran. I couldn’t do my jokes, I had a list, and I was just like, ”My dad wears a nightgown. I’m from Massachusetts.” Uuuuhhhh! I just said a list of things that made no sense. It’s not good.

MS: We should probably save this all for Vulture’s Adderall Week.

JS: Adderall is real evil. It’s supposed to be a medicine but for so few people, and so many people get their hands on it. It’s destructive. But weed is a beautiful plant that’s for everyone. It does make a trip to the beach or a ride in a car really wonderful.

MS: Performing and laughing with friends aside, when you have to sit down and write something, do you prefer to be high?

GL: If I sit down to write the TV show I write for [Brooklyn Nine-Nine], I don’t like to be high.

JS: Good move, Gabe.

GL: Thanks. In case anyone from the Universal Television Group is trolling the internet.

MS: Nice save.

GL: All of my best stand-up jokes come from me walking around. Now, in L.A., it’s like hiking and thinking on a topic and making myself laugh because I’m stoned in the middle of nowhere. And usually that becomes a joke for me. I never sit down and think, Okay, you have to bang out a bunch of stand-up jokes today. That’s probably why I’m not a very successfully stand-up. I always come up with my jokes stoned. I also always perform them stoned. I’m a little different than you guys.

JS: You can handle it. My anxiety is too much. The vibe, the energy that I get before I do stand-up is a really delicate balance. Usually it’s a really exciting, terrifying adrenaline that I need in order to feel free onstage, and weed turns that into something else. I really enjoy smoking pot and going on an elliptical machine — that’s when I think about jokes. I make up so many jokes and make myself laugh a lot. It’s kind of like in The First Wives Club when Goldie Hawn is like, “I get my best ideas when I’m exercising.” I’m like an uglier version of that.

MS: That does not surprise me at all that your comedic process is a lot like Goldie Hawn’s in The First Wives Club.

GL: A lot of people call you “the Goldie Hawn from The First Wives Club of comedy.”

JS: I like it for writing with Gabe. Gabe and I once wrote a screenplay together, and there was a lot of marijuana involved there. The screenplay is neither here nor there, but the experience was wonderful.

GL: It was very pleasant.

MS: I’ve tried doing it. I certainly think I have some of my best ideas while doing it, but then I’ll look through my notes and I can’t connect my high brain and sober brain. I can never bring the ideas back through the wormhole. I’m like, This is it, I’ve cracked the code. It really feels potent and creative, and then when I try to string those ideas into a sober, logical framework it always feels artless and clumsy, and like I’m trying to push through to an absurd premise. I don’t think I’m as good at being high as you are, Gabe.

JS: I don’t think anyone is as good at being high as Gabe.

GL: You’re welcome, world.

JS: I can really organize a closet. That’s my sweet spot. I can be a great passenger in a car. I can say a lot of dumb, fake social-anthropology-type stuff to friends. I’m like, “You know, when people used to have to be in a band to make music, they really had to get along, and now the phase of music has changed because we can all just do it by ourselves in our tiny rooms. “

MS: I’m so good at having an opinion on every second of a film or TV show I’m watching and vocalizing it to the quieter people around me. That’s a really cool part of my personality. Just taking apart whatever we’re enjoying for hours until they say they have to go home.

JS: Recently, when I went to see the Entourage movie — which I felt wounded me deeply and made me feel scared for all of us as a society — I got stoned before. And the movie theater had seats that lay flat, like beds. Everybody was lying down and I was like, This is so repulsive in such a deep way. I’m lying down next to a stranger where a stranger has laid down before. I was really stoned and I felt like I was about to say something really smart about it, but then my brain flip-flopped, like a little bitch, “Damn it, Turtle’s actually pretty cute right now. Darn it!”

MS: Where were there beds?

JS: Right outside of Cleveland there was a movie theater [with] the seats that weren’t even like La-Z-Boys, they went all the way back.  And they were leather.

GL: Ewwwwww!

MS: Oh, well, then they’re easy to clean, at least. They just hose them down or whatever between. Oh, that’s repulsive. At least it was outside Cleveland.

GL: How’s the weed outside of Cleveland, Jen?

JS: You know, wherever I go, people tend to give me some joints. And I was too afraid to smoke them because I was afraid I wouldn’t memorize my lines, but I told myself that smoking a vaporizer from Los Angeles wouldn’t make me bad at memorizing my lines, so I just smoked the same old grapefruit vaporizer.

GL: Grapefruit. That’s so healthy.

JS: I’m very healthy. Sometimes I do binge on Fancy Feast or a milk-bone here or there.

MS: That’s why your teeth are so white. You’re always chomping on those dental biscuits.

JS: Yeah. My teeth are so white because I eat a ton of Greenies [a dog treat that helps with dental care and joint help].

MS: That’s why when you do an hour-long stand-up set, you use those applause breaks to eat a couple Greenies onstage. You can’t go more than 20 minutes without a new Greenie.

JS: If I don’t get my Greenies, I go into the bathroom and knock over the trash.

MS: “Aww, Jenny got into the toilet paper. It’s everywhere. And you’ve got another show at 10:30.”

JS: As you know, we’re about to go on a triple-date vacation at Martha’s Vineyard, which Gabe Liedman was invited to. It’s a time where I’ll have no end to smoking weed. I can’t stop. Once I’m on vacation by the beach, I need to smoke weed all day into the evening. Then I go to bed at 8:30 and do it again.

MS: If everything goes as planned, I don’t ever want to see that it’s dark out. I want to be sound asleep by 7:45 and wake up 11 hours later at 6:30 and start smoking weed and eating eggs again. You know me, I’ll be eating a lot of eggs there. I’m real deep paleo now. I eat a whole roast chicken every day at 12, 3, and 6, so please tell your parents to buy a lot of chicken.

JS: I just eat a lot of those doggie pill pockets that you’re supposed to put the pill in them, but I just eat the pocket.

MS: Oh man, so many heartworm pills.

JS: I just snuck in Frontline [a flea-prevention medication] right between my boobs. Every day I just put on like a smear of Frontline. The dog owners are going to love this.

MS: You guys like jokes about dog medicine? Because that’s what we’re talking about!

GL: You guys, we got to jump on the phone and talk about some dog products real quick.

JS: Yeah, make sure you catch me ten minutes after therapy, so I can talk about my drug issues. Not issues, my drug celebration.

MS: One of the other questions Vulture had for us was, what are some are your favorite dog medicines? But I guess we covered that pretty thoroughly, so …

JS: You know, I’m a Trifexis [heartworm and parasite-protection medication] girl myself. What are the other questions? Are they about whether I bought a giant pair of purple overalls in Cleveland? Because I did.

MS: We were talking about how we don’t talk a ton about weed onstage. What is a pothead now? Is that even a type of person anymore? Especially in L.A., with pot being as normalized as it is now and everyone just casually smoking. It’s not like, “Only weird hippies do that.”

GL: When Cheech and Chong was comedy, it was enough to be like, “Huuuuuuge joooooints!” and everyone would be like, “Yeeeeeeees! So funny!” Now it’s more normal. Like Joe Mande and I have the exact same setup for a long weed joke about how pot is too strong for us or whatever, but it just leads into a longer, funny thing. Here’s a given: I smoke weed when I watch TV or when I go to concerts or whatever. It’s more of a setup now rather than a reveal or the topic.

JS: Yeah, it’s not a sensation to smoke pot. It’s pretty integrated into our culture. That might be wrong, I feel like there are some people …

MS: Yeah, we’re all comedians. We perhaps live in a very specific sphere of people.

JS: When I think of, Oh, that person is kind of a pothead, it’s like they’re relentlessly smoking weed. They’re smoking one of those vape pens almost as often as someone might smoke a cigarette. They don’t even get high. That’s what I think of: They’re a crazy weed-head and they’re majorly addicted to weed. I think of myself as a fun pot smoker but I don’t need to smoke pot every day. A lot of times when I’m working I don’t, it makes it harder for me to memorize lines. That’s literally the thing that has happened now.

GL: There are tons of people who smoke weed regularly, once a week, who are high achievers and don’t stink or bum people out. We talked about Cheech and Chong, or Fast Times at Ridgemont High — to have a character who smoked weed had to be like, “I do society my own way, man. Get out of my face.” Now if you’re watching something and a homicide detective came home from work and smoked a joint, you wouldn’t be like, “Whoa, this is the most game-changing thing I’ve ever seen.” You’d be like, “I imagine that probably a lot of people do that. What a tiring job.”

JS: The kind of pothead who I find really un-chill is the person who decorates their house with pot leaves and things, and their whole décor is about weed. It’s on their T-shirts …

GL: Do you meet a lot of those people, Jenny? Do you go over to their house?

JS: I don’t!

GL: You have those friends whose, all their wallpaper is giant pot leafs and Rasta flags. It’s a person we all have.

JS: Yeah, that’s a mental institution where I live occasionally. There are people who really go too far. And I’m like, “That’s why you’re here. I’m here by mistake. You’re here because your décor sucks.”

MS:  Yeah, is this the plot of Girl, Interrupted? I never saw it.

JS: I’m in a movie called Squirrel, Interrupted.

MS: Squirrel, Interrupted. Oh man.

JS: I really wish there was somewhere else to go with that. I was hoping one of you guys would cut me off.

MS: If you were writing a sitcom about Silver Lake, that would be a funny thing for someone to call one of the waitresses at Sqirl. “Hey, Sqirl Interrupted, you fucked up my falafel.” You guys have any other weed stuff you want to talk about?

JS: Weed dry mouth always makes me feel really embarrassed. Like when you’re super-stoned and your mouth is really, really dry. That’s an experience that makes me feel exposed and full of shame. One of the main reasons why it would be scary to smoke weed onstage and do stand-up is just the idea that maybe my mouth would stick together, like I was like a peanut-butter head.

MS: You would literally have a microphone amplifying the sounds of your gums. Just sticking …

JS: You ever listen to NPR and there’s somebody saying something kind of interesting but they need a drink of water and you’re just like, “Drink a sip! Drink one sip!” They have the missing link to how humans became humans from monkeys or whatever, but you can’t even listen because their mouth is too dry and you hate them.

MS: I actually get much more annoyed by really wet mouths on television. I was just watching a TV show this morning and there was one take of this actor who just had a little bit of spit at the corner, but he wasn’t even angry, he was just talking. It was like, Did you just finish a glass of milk? Are you speaking underwater? It’s just so viscous. Ugh. It grosses me out.

JS: That’s so gross. That’s really gross. Wet mouth. I never even think of that.

MS: It’s like, “Swallow and then call action.”

GL: You guys are disgusting.

Slate, Liedman, and Silvestri on Weed in Comedy