Janeane Garofalo: Unmasked

If you’re in Tennessee for Bonnaroo, please say hi to Janeane Garofalo for me. She doesn’t have an email or use the Internet, so she likely won’t be reading this. That’s one of many things you might learn about Garofalo in her interview for Unmasked on XM satellite radio, which premieres Saturday.

Early in her career, Garofalo says she worried about actual typecasting, as she kept hearing industry people talk about "looking for a Janeane Garofalo type," as in dark and sarcastically deadpan. "Looking back, that was a mistake," she says. "They asked me to always play that one note."

"I think The Aristocrats was a social experiment, because I have never heard of that joke," she says. I hadn’t heard of the joke before the movie, either, but I think if you were in the Friar’s Club or played the Catskills, perhaps that demographic had a better chance of circulating jokes like that one.

Garofalo started comedy while still a junior in college, in Rhode Island, in 1985. She’d take the bus from Providence College to Boston. And even early on, she was "more of a rambler or a storyteller, and I don’t mean that in a good way." Her third comedy home is Houston and rural Texas, where she grew up in the same neighborhood as Bill Hicks (her brother was in his grade in school).

She’s always had that notebook onstage with her, filled with chicken scratch, news clippings, whatever was on her mind. She aims to be current, and say things differently enough so that every show is new to an audience. Naturally, then, she doesn’t take well to comedians who always repeat themselves.

Her time on Saturday Night Live "was like Lord of the Flies," she says. "If you can’t showcase Michael McKean, Chris Elliot and Mark McKinney, there’s something wrong with the system." Instead, she recounted great table reads on Wednesdays that devolved into infighting and the selection of the least funny sketches for Saturdays. Garofalo first auditioned for SNL at 25, failed, got offered a writing gig, then NBC called again at 30.

The presidential recount in 2000 got her actively involved in politics, but she said she was naive at first to the cruelty from fans and media criticism of her for speaking out. But she’s not running for office anytime soon. "I don’t want to be in politics," she said. "I’d like to open a bookstore."

Other quotes from Garofalo…
"You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It just has to be a good wheel."
"A hack is someone to me who is just not naturally funny."
"I never really made it as a comic."
"I wanted to move to New York and become a page (for David Letterman) and work my way up. My parents would have none of it."
"There’s nothing better than a young Albert Brooks."
"To me, Dane Cook is an X-File."
"I bomb now still!"
"Your style chooses you."
"I like my tickets to be no more than $10, but it’s not up to me."

On women in comedy…
She said clubs used to have a double standard for women and minorities, such as if a female comedian bombed, the club wouldn’t book any other women. Would they say that about white guys? she wondered. "Looks help everybody, for sure," she says. But the Vanity Fair article this year was a little much. "Oh, my God, there are women who are attractive and they’re funny…alert the media!"

Not so fun fact: She stopped drinking after an intervention on Sept. 1, 2001.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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One thought on “Janeane Garofalo: Unmasked

  1. I always wondered how one would secure an interview for Janeane Garofalo. I’ve always wanted to pick her brain. I guess you need to know her or her agent’s number. How old-fashioned.

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