Rachel Wenitsky is the Jewish queen of satire

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Photo by Alma

 

Rachel Wenitsky’s comedy can be categorized by four themes: anxiety, feminism, poop and France. Oh, and buttholes (I promised her I’d include that one).

Since her breakout role as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” in high school, the Jewish comedian has conquered all creative mediums. She’s half of the talented quirky comedy folk duo Friends Who Folk, the head writer for Gimlet Media’s Story Pirates podcast and former deputy editor (and podcast host) of Reductress, everyone’s favorite satirical women’s website. She’s dabbled in improv, musical sketch groups and even snags the occasional television role.


But, subjectively speaking, the 30-year-old’s — “spiritually almost 29” — best work of art is her Twitter account. Wenitsky first caught my eye in February with a 27-second clip that made me howl with laughter. The viral video jabs at men who capitalize on feminism, and it’s just one of the many gems sprinkled in her feed. Whether she’s making fun of her Jewish mother, men’s fashion or “hot” women dancing, Wenitsky’s satirical shorts are always relevant, always  relatable and always hysterical. I reached Wenitsky by phone.

You’ve conquered basically all of the creative mediums. You sing, act, podcast and write. Is there one you’re drawn to most?

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Oh my God. What if I was like, born wanting to be a podcaster? I think that I enjoy doing all of the above, and I love that. We’re living in a world where you can do everything and you don’t have to choose, but I love singing. I love music, and I think that no matter what I’m doing, I can always find a way to bring music into it.

My office is obsessed with the video short on Twitter where you “get in on the fun trend” of a female character making a joke about respecting women in order to be flirty. Was it inspired by a particular character?


Ah, well, you know, it’s kind of a controversial video. I posted it because I had seen a bunch of TV shows and movies in a row where it felt like there was this reaction to the feminist movement. There’s this kind of capitalism of feminism, where writers were really trying to put in these new characters that were facilitating the trope of women in movies and TV that we’ve seen for so many years, but then they were freaking out that people were going to call them out for not writing three-dimensional female characters, so they were giving them some feminist dialogue to fill the gaps. But the dialogue was often really reductive and not really saying anything.

I saw this over and over again, and then there was a pretty big example of it in the “Spider Man Homecoming” trailer, so I made that video, which in hindsight was probably too close to the “Spider Man” trailer because a lot of Zendaya fans started coming at me on Twitter, calling me out as if she had written the script. It was pretty scary because I love Zendaya and I’m a huge fan. I love Marvel movies, I love superhero movies. It wasn’t a call-out of any of the women involved in any of those movies. It was just this trope I was seeing over and over again, these sort of one-dimensional characters that they’ll give these lines to that are like, “You’re just saying that to get in my pants,” and then they go, “Just kidding! I’m so flirty.” It just feels very male gaze-y. So that’s what I was commenting on. It’s just a lazy way to make a character.

On a Sunday night during “Game of Thrones” you dropped “Hey Did You Hear You Died?” Tell me about the inspiration behind it.

That was inspired by everybody in my family. Truly. It came from a particular conversation at my family’s Passover seder. Everyone was going around and doing a rundown of who had died.

Oh, classic Jewish dinner discussion.

Oh, so classic! My mom does it, my grandma does it, my aunts do it. Everyone does it. And I do think it is a very Jewish thing. I feel like Jewish people have a close relationship with death and a morbid  ascination with it. Maybe it’s because we’ve been in so many situations where so many of us were dying and we wanted to remember and keep track of them, and then it becomes part of the gossip mill. But it is truly a discussion at every meal, and at every holiday. But then people were responding to the video like, “This is my Welsh Catholic uncle” and “This is my Puerto Rican grandmother,” so maybe it’s just a universal experience that we’re all obsessed with death and dying. But at every Jewish holiday we’re like, this terrible, terrible thing happened to us and we’re not going to let it go, even if it happened thousands of years ago. And now we’re going to eat.

Is the song you wrote, “Everyone At This Party Is Mad at Me,” inspired by yourself?

No, I’m actually perfect. I have no anxiety and I’m incredible in social situations.

Yes, 100 percent it was inspired by me. I feel like everybody has a little bit of anxiety in social settings. I am really interested in how that anxiety manifests when you’re around people who love you very much and people who you shouldn’t be anxious around. I think it’s very relatable. Like, having dinner with one of my best friends and then the next day, or that night, I’ll be like, “Oh God, I said all the wrong things.”

And this is like, my best friend! It’s that type of anxiety that is so relatable, but it’s such a waste of time in so many ways.

This story originally appeared on Alma.

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