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'Wild Card' with Jenny Slate


When you're talking with somebody for the first time, usually you have to wait a little bit before you get to the real stuff. So you can talk about the weather or sports or your kids or whatever. And then once you've established some trust, you can venture into deeper waters, like a vivid dream that's always stayed with them or a different career path they wish they had taken or maybe their definition of God. Well, my colleague Rachel Martin has come up with a shortcut to get to the real parts of a conversation quicker.

RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: Pick a card, one through three.

DETROW: On her new show, Rachel asks guests to choose questions at random, questions that go deep.

MARTIN: What's the biggest sacrifice you've ever made?

DETROW: Rachel joins me now to talk about Wild Card, which is a brand-new NPR podcast and will be a regular segment on this show. Rachel, welcome back.

MARTIN: Thank you, Scott. I'm so happy to be here.

DETROW: Last time we talked to you, you were winding down your Enlighten Me series. You were going to go away for a few months to develop a new thing. That new thing? I guess it's been developed.

MARTIN: It has been developed. It is here. As you said, it's called Wild Card. I'm really happy about it.

DETROW: Tell me about the show.

MARTIN: OK. So it's an interview game show, right? And it's based on this deck of cards. Each card has a really big, interesting question written on it. I hold three of these cards up at a time to my guest, and then they pick at random one, two or three. They can't see what the question is. So there's an element of chance. And it's sort of, like, choose your own adventure. And I don't even know where the conversation is going to go.

DETROW: So I'm curious about where the format came from, because we were talking about the way that you were putting this new show together. And then I checked in a little while later, and suddenly it was a game. And I was very surprised by this development, but it seems to have worked well. When did that first pop into your head?

MARTIN: Oh, you know, it was a lot of conversations. And we wanted to create a place that was fun, you know, where, yes, we could talk about these meaningful questions about how to navigate a life and how to be a good person and how our beliefs shape us and questions - big, existential questions that we all have. And we wanted it to be playful at the same time. And I hope we do both. That was the intention is to do both.

DETROW: I see you've brought some cards with you, so we get a sense of what kind of questions we're talking about.

MARTIN: Yeah, you know. So I'll give you some examples. Right? Here are a few of them. What do you admire about your teenage self? Do you have an immediate answer to that or are you...

DETROW: Lately I've been focusing on the things that embarrass me about my teenage stuff.


DETROW: But I think I was very idealistic and opinionated.

MARTIN: And...

DETROW: I was very, like, up in people's faces in a way that I'm not as an adult.

MARTIN: And you liked that?

DETROW: There were some qualities to it that I wish I could bring back.


DETROW: There's some ways that I'm glad I'm a little more chill.

MARTIN: Yeah. But I love that. I love that.


MARTIN: Another one. This is a big one. Do you think there is order in the universe or is it all chaos?

DETROW: I think I'm very much order. Yeah.

MARTIN: Wow. See, and that's a question people have to sit and think. And you just had it.

DETROW: Yeah, absolutely.


DETROW: Because otherwise, we wouldn't be here. I feel like all of these things are spaced out, and these - we - I just did a whole interview on space, so I'm thinking about this.

MARTIN: Great.

DETROW: I feel like the one in a trillion chance of all of these things clicking into place for, like, the Earth to be here and atmosphere to be here and water to be here and then people to form, et cetera, and the way that we're all orbiting around black holes and going on and on again, like, that has to be ordered by some way. Or maybe I just don't want to deal with a world where it's not ordered.

MARTIN: Well, yeah. This is what I mean. Like, it's a shortcut to get to interesting, deeper places pretty fast.

DETROW: Yeah. So I'm excited to hear some of the people that you've done this with. You've got Issa Rae, Chris Pine, poet laureate Ada Limon. But your first episode is with comedian Jenny Slate, who I love. We'll listen to that in a second. But why did you want Jenny Slate to play this game?

MARTIN: Oh, she is just the best. People might know her as the voice and creator of "Marcel The Shell With Shoes On" or Mona Lisa Saperstein from "Parks And Rec." And she is just hilarious. And she is also deeply introspective. And she is weird and wonderful. And I just knew that she could occupy this space really well.

DETROW: All right. Well, let's hear it.


MARTIN: Round 1. This is about memories. OK? We're looking back at the people, experiences, places that shaped you. I am holding three cards in my hand.

JENNY SLATE: Well, I'm nervous. Why? OK. Whatever.

MARTIN: Oh, God. Don't be nervous. Don't be nervous. OK. Pick a card, one through three.

SLATE: Three.

MARTIN: Three. Oh. What's an ordinary place that feels extraordinary to you because of what happened there?

SLATE: Oh, you know, this sounds really almost - oh, I don't know, maybe gross or something. But I really feel that way about our bedroom in Massachusetts. And not because I'm like, you won't believe what went down in here.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

SLATE: But that my husband is someone who I met as a stranger. And I really felt that I would not see him again. I thought about him a lot. And I heard from another friend about where he lived in Massachusetts. And it felt to me that he lived almost in another dimension. The more I would hear about his personality, the more I just felt like, yeah, but I would never be able to be with someone like that. You know, they would never like me. And it just wouldn't work. And how would I get there? And whatever. And I just remember the first time that I went to sleep in that bedroom. And we were sleeping. And I was like, wow, this is a real place. You know, like, it's kind of like seeing the Eiffel Tower. And I just was like, I can't believe. Like, it is real.

MARTIN: Wow. You had been married before. You were divorced. Did something have to change in you to make this relationship work? Or did it - it was just, like, timing, and he just met you at the right time?

SLATE: I think it's all of those. Like, you know, my experience is that, unfortunately, you don't usually get to work on one issue at once. And I couldn't stop the timing of falling in love with him. And it was right for both of us to fall in love. And that was totally right on. But while walking down that path, I was very aware that I was injured. And yeah, like, I want to walk down this road with you, but will you be with me if I limp? And will you carry me if I just am, like, too tired? Will you accept me for the state that I'm in if I promise that I really am working to heal and go forward?


MARTIN: OK. We are moving on Round 2. This is about insights. These are lessons that you're learning, things you're working on right now. Three new cards. Pick a card, one through three.


MARTIN: What is something you think about very differently today than you did 10 years ago?

SLATE: Wow. I guess dressing. Like, not salad dressing. I've always loved it. And I'll never stop.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

SLATE: Love ranch. I love ranch. Dressing my body, dressing, yeah.

MARTIN: Dressing your body. What is different about how you think of that?

SLATE: I'm pleased to say that I've come through a fair amount of internalized misogyny. And, like, so 10 years ago, I was 31. And it was like, you better wear that bikini (laughter). You better wear that bikini. You know, this just - this horrible, brutal feelings about my physical body and about how I needed to present, like, what sexiness was and how much of my body to show and what it was like. And I've always had a pretty clear sense of actually what I find to be beautiful, but I feel like it was sort of muddled up. And now I just, like, kind of want to dress like Jane Goodall.

MARTIN: She has amazing style.

SLATE: But, like, sometimes with a crop top. Yeah. I don't know.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

SLATE: Like, let it flow. I don't really know. But I'm just like, I just used to feel that I had to prove that, like, my butt was there. And now I'm like, it's not relevant whether or not you think my butt is there. I know it's there. My toilet knows it's there.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

SLATE: And, like, my husband knows it's there. And unfortunately, some of my friends know it's there.


MARTIN: This is Round 3. It's about beliefs. And this is our final round. So pick a card, one through three.


MARTIN: Oh, I'm so glad this one came up. Is there anything in your life that has felt predestined?

SLATE: I'm not sure. I don't really connect to the concept of destiny. I mean, and because I met my husband through, like, he really - I mean, I met him through friends, but he's really a random person. Sometimes I get scared, and I say to him, like, what if we hadn't met each other? What are the chances? And he always goes, 100%. And I like that. And I don't know about the, like, soulmate thing. But I know - and it sounds so cheesy. But I do feel - like, I'm like, oh, he is my spiritual match.

And I guess I believe in a spiritual eventuality, which you could call destiny, but that it doesn't - it's like a point on the globe, let's say. Like, it's like a point in your life cycle, a fixed point. But it doesn't mean that you'll get there. Like, you still have to do - you have to still do things to get there. It's an option. But I guess, no, I've never felt that anything was predestined. I've just felt as if every now and then it feels like there's kind of a meteor shower, and, like, good fortune falls into my life like that. But that doesn't feel like - it just feels like it's random.

MARTIN: Yeah. Have you always been good about appreciating the meteor shower or has that come later in life for you?

SLATE: I think I actually have been. And I think that's because my mother, who I love dearly, will not be surprised to hear me say that I think sometimes her vernacular can be rather negative. If you ask her to tell a story, it often sounds like as if it were cloudy in the sky. Like, it's just like with this sort of tinge of dread and negativity. And it's like - it's kind of drama. It's drama. But I think, like, my response to that has been to be like, no, no, sunshine, no. And it can also make me be like a terminal optimist in the worst way, like almost a fool. But I think I've always truly been keeping that kind of lookout. It's not a pollyannaish thing. It's looking for light in the dark. That's what it is.

MARTIN: Jenny Slate, actress, writer, comedian. Her most recent special is called "Seasoned Professional." It's streaming now on Prime Video, and it is so worth your time. And this has been the best time. Jenny Slate, thank you so much.

SLATE: Thank you so much for having me.

DETROW: And you can hear more of that conversation with Jenny Slate by listening to the new NPR podcast Wild Card With Rachel Martin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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