Here are three examples of quotes from Jenny Slate's character in the rookie sitcom Married:
“I've been 'sexting' the neighbour.”
“My grandfather husband is a million years old, so he's asleep, and I'm here.”
“I wish (my husband) would give me permission to bang a stranger. I am so tired of sleeping with someone who is old enough to be my father's friend, who also happens to be my father's friend, which is totally on me.”
But one of the many complications with Slate's character Jess is that she actually loves her husband, who is played by Paul Reiser. In real life, Slate and Reiser are separated by 25 years, and that age difference is one of the things that's exploited for comedy in Married, which airs Thursday nights on FXX Canada and FX in the U.S.
“(Jess) is stuck at a time in her life where she's like, 'Well, I used to be sexy and up for anything,' and the sexiest, most dangerous thing I could have done is to marry this older man,” Slate observed. “She makes jokes about how she thought she was marrying him for his money, but what's even more complex and disturbing is that, no, she is truly in love with him, and she doesn't know how to deal with it.
“So she's just not sure how to measure her self-worth if she can't immediately plug it into something fun, sexy, dangerous. And now she has a child, and her husband has lost his job, and she's the bread-winner. She just doesn't want to be bored. She didn't really want to be responsible. For me, her vulnerability is really interesting, and the fact that she is filled with energy and is destructive when her vulnerability is revealed.”
Slate is best known to TV audiences for being a former cast member on Saturday Night Live, her recurring role as Mona-Lisa Saperstein on Parks and Recreation, her recurring role as one half of the PubLIZity PR team on Kroll Show, as well as her multi-episode arcs on House of Lies and Hello Ladies. Slate also is a children's book author, a standup comic and she has an active movie career, most recently with her lead role in Obvious Child.
But Married - which stars Nat Faxon and Judy Greer, with Slate playing a good friend of Faxon's character - is a new kind of job for Slate.
“I think that's just what I've asked for, to test myself to see if I can play a character (over a longer period of time) who maybe isn't lovable but is more grounded,” Slate said.
“So far on TV, I've played rather large and really sometimes even acidic characters. Like, my character on Parks & Rec is described literally as the worst person in the world. I tend to not go towards the dark in my life and my (standup) comedy is usually hopeful. But I was very drawn to this show because I like finding those moments of hope in this character and softness in a world that can go pretty dark and deep.”
One of the funniest scenes I've seen on TV all year occurred in the most recent episode of Married, in the aftermath of Jess' “sexting” incident with the neighbour. The bitter neighbour's wife has been assured by Jess that it was all in good fun and nobody ever was going to act on anything, but now the neighbour didn't come home the previous night and he isn't answering his wife's texts. So the grumpy but concerned wife asks a reluctant Jess to send some new “sexts” in the hope of ferreting out her husband.
I laughed out loud as Jess, her own husband and the neighbour's wife are together, uncomfortably collaborating to send increasingly dirty “sexts.” The wayward neighbour, of course, responds immediately.
At the end of the episode, Jess suggests to her husband, played by Reiser, that he weirdly likes all these messes she creates.
“I knew who I was marrying,” he says before they kiss quite affectionately. “You're really a lot of trouble.”
Jenny Slate always is a lot of trouble, in a good way.