A Conversation With Jenny Slate And Dean Fleischer-Camp, Creators Of Marcel The Shell

If you’ve been on the internet at all in the past year, odds are you know Marcel The Shell With Shoes On, the devastatingly adorable young shell whose small scale affords him the pleasure of hang gliding on Doritos and keeping a piece of lint as a pet. And, like us, you’re very excited to watch the newest installment of the series that premieres today.

We were lucky enough to get a chance to talk to Jenny Slate and NYU alum Dean Fleischer-Camp, the duo behind the videos and the newly released book  (Slate voices Marcel, Fleischer-Camp directs, and they co-write the material). Their other projects include Bestie x Bestie, a hilarious series that Slate co-stars in with Gabe Liedman, and Fleischer-Camp directs. Slate is perhaps best known for her time as a cast member on Saturday Night Live and her current work in Bored to Death. The also have great twitter accounts and are a good-looking couple. The interview is after the jump.

To begin, congrats on the release of your book and your recent engagement!

J: Thank you!

D: I always knew we would be together until we were dead, but now it will be officially noted.

Could you give a quick description of each other, Bestie x Bestie style?

J: I’m an Animaniac and Dean is a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. I’m a Dorito and Dean is a Bugle. I’m Spaghettio’s and Dean is Mac and Cheese. I’m Home Alone and Dean is Space Jam. I’m a girl and Dean is a boy.

D: Nothing is more thrilling to me than the opening montage of Space Jam. Jenny is wild and fierce like a Monstar, but she looks more like the sexy bunny who joins the Tunes Squad and gives all the ‘toons boners. Jenny gives me a ‘toon boner.

How did the Marcel the Shell character come about? 

D: It really began with Jenny doing Marcel’s teeny little voice around the house. It came from nowhere but so do a lot of the characters that fly out of Jenny’s face, so it didn’t seem strange. We were asked to create a short for a friend’s local comedy show, so we decided to make something with that voice.  I knew I wanted it to be sort of documentary style, so we wrote a few one-liners together and then I interviewed Jenny as Marcel. Her ad libbing in character resulted in some of the best and most authentic lines. Jenny also loves shells, and we have a lot of them around the house, which is the reason I decided to make Marcel the way he looks. The shoes are from a Polly Pocket set. His eye is from a craft store.

Did you anticipate such a positive response to the video?

J: Not at all; it was a total surprise!

D: I had a distant notion that I might submit it to festivals if it turned out well, but we only put it online because friends kept asking me to send them a link so they could watch it again.

Anything you can tell us about the development of the television show?

D: All we can say is that we are very excited about the prospect and that we’re getting closer every day.  I can tell you that it’s going to rule!

How do you reconcile releasing a children’s book with putting out videos like Self Esteem and calling people tampons on twitter?

D: Children are real and so are tampons!  Honestly you’re the first person to call us on it. But I think it’s pretty important to always be yourself and not try to hide the more raw parts from public view. Otherwise you could go through what Paul Reubens did.  I think it’s horrible how the public turned on him, because he’s obviously so talented and funny, but it happened because parents thought he was supposed to be some kind of squeaky clean mascot for kids and that’s never what he was. One nice thing about the internet/digital age is people basically have to represent themselves honestly all of the time now.

I guess maybe what I’m asking here is, did you ever feel like you needed to censor yourself in order to publicize the book?

D: We obviously watch our language if we’re doing a reading where young children are in attendance. But that doesn’t really feel like self-censorship because it’s basic decency.  You wouldn’t curse in front of your nephew, either. But we also don’t talk down to kids. They don’t require it, and dumbing stuff down for kids is just so brutally boring for everyone involved.  That said, if your kid finds his way onto Jenny’s twitter, may god help him. If that happens, it’s your fault and my advice would be to have another child and start over from scratch. It’s over.

It seems to me your experimental, darker approach to humor comes just as naturally as the supremely innocent Marcel.

D: We just make everything to entertain ourselves so it’s natural, because it all comes from the same place.  I don’t know how you could make something for a specific age or demographic that isn’t your own. That seems hard and unrewarding. I think it was only after we put Marcel online that we realized it didn’t have anything in it about farts or BJ’s.

Dean, you graduated from NYU. Jenny, from Columbia—any bad blood between the two of you? Ivy League envy?

D: No way! Columbia is so incredibly beautiful! They definitely have that over NYU. But it would be really difficult for me to be envious of Columbia, because a lot of the best people I know went there and because their film program is so inferior.

Could you speak briefly about your experience at NYU. A fond memory, noteworthy professor?

D: I was blown away by a professor I had named Antonio Monda. He is probably the most thrilling teacher in the film department. He is warm, witty, and passionate, but he is also well-read, well-travelled, and well-respected as an author and film esthete! He juries far-flung film festivals. He interviews famous directors about God. He shows up in bit parts in Wes Anderson movies. Also, he has this beatific Italian accent.  It’s so soothing. I’m still marrying Jenny and all, but I would listen to him read a receipt over and over again.

You both have pretty great twitter presences, and Jenny you often tweet at Lena Dunham and Gabe Liedman, other great accounts—who are some of your favorite people to follow?

J: A couple of my favorites are @judyblume and @WeirdHorse.

D: We both follow @maxsilvestri, who is very very funny. I follow @LucasCruikshank and @RyanTrecartin, who are basically analogues of one another, except one is in the avant garde and one is on Nickelodeon. I am a big, big fan of both of their work and I always wonder if they recognize how much alike they really are.

You’re very busy with the book, development of the TV show, periodically releasing videos, doing Big Terrific, is it possible that you have any other projects in the works? 

D: Jenny has roles in several movies coming out this winter and I am writing a terrifying feature-length comedy in which Jenny goes berserk.

What can we expect at the Apple Store appearance on the 15th?

D: Jenny and I will read the book and demonstrate the new Marcel app, which is like an enhanced version of the book where the illustrations come alive and everything is interactive and you can play around with lots of different of elements. We are also going to screen a brand new Marcel short which we haven’t put on the internet yet! And we’ll sign…your ipad? Jenny will sign your regular pad.

Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer-Camp will be at the SoHo Apple Store on Tuesday, November 15th at 6:30 PM.

(image via)

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