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Slate at Play

SNL newbie takes chances that the institution doesn't in her live solo showcase.

New Saturday Night Live cast member Jenny Slate got to show off all the kinds of material that Lorne Michaels never lets see the light of day in her live solo show, “Jenny Slate: Dead Millionaire,” seen at the UCB Theatre on January 21.

For a show that was just over a half hour, it took a few minutes for an audience to adjust to Slate and director John Flynn’s rapid shifts between on stage characters and a clever multi-framed and multi-faceted video that tied everything together for the show’s story. But once the show got rolling, Slate unveiled characters that definitely could have stood side by side with those of SNL’s original incarnation.

Character showcases like this usually need some reason for being, however nominal, and “Dead Millionaire” revolved around people who would have eulogized its star, had she become an eccentric Leona Helmsley-like millionaire. Out of all of these, Slate’s best characters were “Ruth Diamond Phillips,” an inhibited, repressed lawyer charged with administering the service and the will; and Gina, a blind girl portrayed unsympathetically to say the least.

Ruth recalls something Gilda Radner might have done. And Gina, whom Slate, in the videos between her live on stage appearances as the characters, states flat out is “dumb,” channels the lack of comprehension John Belushi’s foreign man taking a language class had in the very first SNL sketch ever, where he imitates Michael O’Donoghue having a heart attack. Told she’s inheriting Slate’s dog, she feels around the pet (Slate’s real-life dog plays this part on stage) and repeatedly proclaims “Oh, it’s a cat!” It’s delightfully sick humor that takes the kind of risks that today’s SNL should be taking.

For a commentary on NBC's other late night issues, see a recent Jester's Blog.

   

     

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