Netflix boasts its ability to release a number of comedy specials. If you have seen one special, you kind of get the gist of every other special. The material always differs but the presentation is the same. A comic stands alone, on stage, hoping their zingers land and their poignant messages get across. But when Jenny Slate’s “Stage Fright” landed on Netflix in October 2019, it redefined the comedy special. Slate’s comedy is a certain brand. Watch her in 2014’s “Obvious Child,” and you will understand what you are getting in for. In the film, Slate plays, Donna, an underemployed, struggling comedienne who learns that she is pregnant after a one night stand. The jokes, and delivery, are killer. Slate adds heart to her humor and humor to her heart. The moments read different but all of the same elements are in play.
Re-watching and reappraising "Obvious Child" in 2019 for the In Their Own League top 50 films directed by women since 2010 list, it’s hard to imagine the film finding distribution in the US in an era where stricter abortion laws are being imposed, and the government-backed film Unplanned was a box office hit. Not that the film wasn’t without its share of anti-abortion outrage on its initial 2014 release. This is a personal film, with a shot of the political. Gillian’s Robespierre’s debut feature isn’t as steeped in the abortion debate as something like Alexander Payne’s "Citizen Ruth", but it balances a heavy subject with a lightness of touch that shines through Jenny Slate’s leading performance as Donna.