Pint-sized, whip-smart Janeane Garofalo has written some pretty spot on, pitch-perfect jokes over her stellar 25-year (!) standup comedy career, none more so than this beaut: “They have these runway shows and then they have a commentator going, ‘A return to glamour this season. A pretty face is your best asset this season.’ Ahhh, as opposed to last season when ugly girls had a free ride, and back fat was all the rage.”
Hi-yo! You’ll find a similarly perfect mix of social critique and healthy cynicism sewn throughout most of Garofalo’s act, which takes center stage at the TLA this Tuesday. And despite what you may think or what labels have been hoisted upon her, it won’t be chock-full of politics.
“I am not a political comedian,” she says over the phone from New York City, where she makes her home. “I don’t want to be passed off as that because I’m not a strong political joke writer like Lewis Black or Bill Maher, so I can’t take that title in good conscious. I have been labeled that, mostly internationally, and I don’t know why.”
We’ve got an idea. For years, Garofalo has been unafraid to speak her mind about all issues political, hosting a talk show on the now-defunct left-leaning Air America radio and even going into the conservative lion’s den, Fox News, on occasion to make the oh-so-radical case that torture is illegal or that United Nations inspectors should’ve been allowed to do their jobs in the drum up to the Iraq war. In doing so she’s caused quite a stir on the right side of the political aisle, and is frequently castigated by conservatives like Bernie Goldberg, who gave her the distinct honor of being named to his list of “top five worst smear merchants of mainstream media.”
Despite the pestering from the right (and perhaps because of it) Garofalo has remained busy. She’s just finished shooting a medical drama for CBS and John Wells (ER, West Wing) in North Carolina. Before that she was in Manchester, England, shooting a few episodes of a dark comedy called Ideal for Steve Coogan’s production company Baby Cow. It will air abroad on BBC, and stateside on IFC.
We started a couple sentences and asked Garofalo to fill in the blanks. You’re about to read them.
If McCain and Palin had won the election of ’08, America would be ... “very similar to the way it was in the Bush era, if not exactly the same. And maybe we’d be making bigger noises about attacking Iran. There’d be much more fear mongering going on. There’d be much more religion thrown in, which is a violation of the seperation of church and state, but that’s always the way it is. There would probably be more stopping of scientific progress. There’d be no Nobel Peace Prize. So probably just like the Bush era, but slightly worse, because we’d have to listen to Palin ... although listening to Bush was annoying too. But Palin and the dropping of her ‘G’s is annoying and her faux-folksy matter.”
A big misperception of me is ... “if anyone is thinking of me at all, and I don’t presume anyone is, but if anyone is under a misapprehension about me it would be that I’m mean, maybe? Or that I enjoy controversy, which I do not at all. Or that I have thick skin, or that I’m impervious to criticism. But I’ve gotta say I don’t think anyone is thinking about me. Oh! I know. People think I’m taller. They think I’m taller than 5 foot 1. People always say that when they meet me. ‘I didn’t know you were so short.’”
I’m at a power lunch with Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and Roger Ailes. One thing I have got to get across to them before we get the check is ... “Oh gosh. I guess, going back to the question before, the misperception of me is that I’m somehow on the receiving end of invitations to lunch from Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and Roger Ailes. Although I have sat down with Sean Hannity a few times. I did a half-hour interview with him once. So I have spoken with him before. Have never spoken to Glenn Beck. Roger Ailes I interviewed with years ago too. He spent a lot time talking about the color of my contact lenses. But anyway, there’s nothing to say to those guys because they have no respect for me (or most people). So I suppose I would just read my book.”
I just read this book that will blow your fucking mind, it’s called ... “Ok, I don’t know if it will blow your mind, but I just finished Henry James’s The Awkward Age, and I am now reading the prequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Dawn of the Dreadfuls. I am enjoying the hell out of it. I don’t know if it will blow anyone’s mind, but I enjoyed a great deal The Awkward Age, and now I am enjoying a great deal Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith. Mind blowing, I don’t know ...”
I have been doing standup for 25 years, the main difference between my approach then and now is ... “When I started I had a lot of material about being a 19-year-old history major at Providence College. Not so much anymore. But, no, I am much more myself now. I am exactly myself onstage now, whereas before I was sort of nervous and self-conscious and I would be a version of me which was not me, not really the way I spoke. I mean, the material was true, I was not interacting with people in a natural way. I was interacting with them in a nervous or sometimes drunken way. Now I’m just me.”
Tues., April 27, 8pm. $22.15-$29.50. With Marc Maron. Theatre of the Living Arts, 334 South St. 215.922.1011. livenation.com
PW's Music Issue 2014