Ingrid Jungermann and Desiree Akhavan on “The Slope” and writing funny lesbian jokes

Last summer, a new web series called The Slope debuted and was instantly my favorite show by and about queer women. NYU grad students Ingrid Jungermann and Desiree Akhavan created and played characters based on themselves (and with the same names) and they say all of the things lesbians and bisexual women have thought, said or wanted to say, but couldn’t because of political correctness. Things like “I’m sure if you went on one of those Rosie O’Donnell cruise ship tours you would be the belle of the ball” or “I am the more ladylike of the two of us so I would be the bottom. You, as the more masculine one, should take up more of a hunter/gatherer type role. … Gertrude Stein topped Alice B. Toklas.”

All photos by Grace Chu

Comparisons have been made to Portlandia, which feels quite accurate, especially considering the web series is named after the Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope where a lot of New York lesbians live. The setting is perfect for the everyday conversations and interactions Ingrid and Desiree have with each other as a couple and with the people they come across on trips to the sex toy shop or while sitting on a patio of a local bar. Even Michael Showalter (The State, Wet Hot American Summer) dropped by for a recent episode, playing the parent of an unruly toddler.

Desiree’s frankness and Ingrid’s consciousness create a hilarious dynamic that, coupled with the dialogue queer women have longed to hear spoken on screen by someone who was like them, makes The Slope one of the most watchable pieces of women-created content we could ask for — and it’s delivered to us for free. After working on an entire first season on their own budget and strengths, Desi and Ingrid raised $8,415 for a second season, allowing them to concentrate on the writing and acting and leaving other aspects to producers, directors and sound people who could devote their entire time and energies to it. Because of that, Season 2 has been more slick in production, but just as funny ever, with Ingrid and Desi breaking up momentarily but realizing they’d rather be miserable together then have to date other miserable people.

AfterEllen has championed The Slope since we first watched, and we wanted to know more about the women behind our favorite series. Desi and Ingrid answered some of our questions, including where they might draw the line with possibly offensive jokes (they don’t) and how they find inspiration for their episodes. Is there anything off limits for you guys? Jokes that were maybe a little too crossing the line or that you thought really might offend someone?
Ingrid Jungermann:
I think with comedy, it’s less about being offensive and more about being honest with yourself. I think offensive jokes/jokes that don’t land are too wrapped up in what an audience might think or they’ve just been told before. If you write from your specific experiences and have a sense of humor about yourself, then the joke will work. And if a joke works, it shouldn’t be offensive.

Desiree Akhavan: We haven’t had an experience where we killed a joke because we feared it was offensive. There isn’t one joke in the show that I think crosses a line because there’s nothing in there that should be taken at face value.

Of course, it’s very personal what people find offensive and acceptable. My brother was absolutely disgusted by the joke in episode 1 where Ingrid mentions oral sex during menstruation. I love that joke. I think it’s hilarious especially because it’s so graphic and shocking. You’re either drinking the (red) kool-aid or you’re not.