“My main career goal has been to get to go to work every day on something that I’m proud of, with a bunch of people I really like and respect, who make me laugh.”
This is Jessi Klein, interviewed by Cosmo, for its “Get That Life” series, which considers how “successful, talented, creative women got to where they are now”.
A detailed accounting of the various roles she filled, before she became an executive producer on “Inside Amy Schumer”, reaches back to her days as a temp at Comedy Central; it’s as complete as a CV, replete with dates and titles, but it is followed with this recognizable and familiar statement.
Jessi Klein has a knack for sharing experiences which are uniquely her own, and then inviting onlookers and readers to respond to the universalities therein.
For every element which makes her uniquely Jessi Klein, there are so many shared experiences, human experiences, as straightforward as the desire to produce meaningful work with good people.
“When I’m in the rhythm of doing stand-up regularly, it makes me more observant. You get in the habit of coming up with material and writing things down and you become more attuned to what’s going on around you. In that process, you remind yourself what you think is funny. Then you find out if what you think is funny is what other people think is funny.” (Writers’ Guild of America East Interview)
Her writing process for her new book, You’ll Grow Out of It, was slightly different. A longer project “encourages tangents and twists and turns that you can’t indulge in a half-hour script”. She was particularly pleased to find the pieces developing around a theme, because it “felt very book-y to have one”. (This from an interview with “The New York Times”.)
“[T]hroughout my life I’d always felt like an outside observer to my own experience of growing into a woman,” she explains.
This sensation is immediately apparent in You’ll Grow Out of It, from the opening pages of the first piece, “Tom Man”.
“Once I reached high school, however, my transformation from Pippi Longstocking-esque tomboy to are-you-a-lesbian-or-what tom man began in earnest, I was supposed to be entering into the full bloom of puberty, nibbling, like a delicate baby panda, at the first tiny bamboo shoots of womanhood. But I resisted. Even though I was interested in men, and wanted a boyfriend desperately, I didn’t relate to any of the activities women partake in to create the circumstances where a teenage boy might be coaxed into the role.”
The furry animal comparisons continue, as she considers contrasting models of womanhood, categorizing women into poodles or wolves.
Comedy can be polarizing, and immediately I thought about the quote about there being two kinds of people in world, those who think there are only two kinds of people and those who don’t.
Before reading You’ll Grow Out of It, I’d have said that two kinds of animals wouldn’t be enough. But, as Jessi Klein describes it, I am obviously a wolf.
And, so is she. Which is possibly why she made me laugh so hard and so often. Because our kind travels in packs.
But I think I would still have enjoyed this collection, even if I was more of a poodle. Because I’m not a perfect wolf either.
“Standards are something you accumulate over a lifetime of interacting with potential romantic partners and figuring out, as you encounter new bullshit, what is bullshit you will tolerate and what is undeniably deal-breaker bullshit.” (“The Cad”)
Ultimately, what I most appreciate about Jessi Klein’s humour is that she is as willing to look at herself through its lens as she is willing to look at others. I wondered if I would think she was so funny if I identified as a Buddhist, after finding this passage (and laughing).
“The Buddhists say that you shouldn’t let shame about pain cause you to feel a second, self-inflicted pain, which is good advice; but sometimes it’s hard to do what the Buddhists say mainly because so many of the people who currently talk about Buddhism are in those newfangled sweatpants with the cuffs on the ankles and are otherwise insufferable.” (“All the Cakes”)
But there are times in You’ll Grow Out of It, when I am the person with the habit or characteristic that she is observing, and I still think it’s funny, Because each of it has our own insufferabilitites, and even while she’s pointing out other people’s, it’s clear that Jessi Klein has been just as observant of her own.
“…I had a dim feeling that it might be nice to have a kid when I was old. More specifically, I would think about being on my deathbed (I’m fun), and how if there was no kid, it would be sad and lonely (for me – I didn’t think about how the kid would feel).” (“The Infertility Chapters”)
In response to “The New Yorker”‘s characterization of “Inside Amy Schumer” as “raucous feminism”, she had this to say in an interview with “Vulture”:
“‘We don’t sit down and think, Let’s make sure we write a super-feminist show today, but, and I include the men in this, we’re all feminists,’ Klein says. ‘It’s rewarding that people think that it’s an incredibly feminist show.'”
Whether Jessi Klein sat down and said “I’m going to make a super-feminist collection of essays about the lives of girls and women” or not, You’ll Grow Out of It is an incredibly feminist collection. It made me think, it made me laugh, and Jessi Klein has so many reasons to feel super proud of her work.