I was really excited when I found out I was going to be interviewing Janeane Garofalo (I mean, who wouldn’t be?) Friday night after her stand-up routine at the 9:30 Club. That’s why it was all the more disappointing to find out that we weren’t exactly able to score press passes, which meant there was an extremely minimal chance for an interview. Regardless, I was happy to be at the show. After flipping a coin to find out the order of the performances, Janeane took the stage first. She was, as expected, hilarious. I felt a little creepy laughing by myself in the back, but it couldn’t be helped. I’m not going to try to relay the jokes to you because like most stand-up, this was one of those you-had-to-be-there things. What I will tell you is that she was very effortlessly funny and very comfortable in front of the audience. But I mean, duh, she’s got years and years of experience under her belt.
The other comic, Al Madrigal, was also very funny. A lot of his routine scored laughs at the expense of his kids, who sound like the coolest babies in town…I mean, they apparently swear and fight other babies in moon bounces, how much cooler can you get? He finished up his time and then agreed to tell one more joke before exiting the stage. I have to say, I didn’t think he ended on the strongest note, but he was working overtime so I guess I can’t be too displeased.
So at this point I’m scrambling to think of how I can scheme my way into meeting Janeane. I had pretty much given up all hope, but there was still a little part of me that thought I could somehow pull it off. To buy some time I walked up to the security guard on the left side of the stage. I started blabbering about how I am intern and please feel sorry for me blah blah blah. As I predicted, the only thing I got in return was a blank stare. The room had pretty much cleared out by then, and I remembered that Janeane had mentioned that her nephew was in the audience during her routine. I started looking for any awkward stragglers who MIGHT resemble Janeane, and sure enough, there was a guy and a girl walking towards the security on the other side of the stage. I saw the guy flash a piece of paper or something at one of the guards, who in turn proceeded to motion to the upstairs. This was my chance, I had to take it. I ran after them like a freaking weirdo (a bigger one than I already am) and pretty much dove in front of them to create a road block with my body. Both of them looked at me like I was insane (rightfully so…I had just come from work and looked doubly as homeless as usual) and I proceeded to make a nonsensical speech that went as follows:
Me: So, this might sound weird, but are you like…possibly…like…Janeane Garofalo’s nephew? (momentary uncertainty)
Janeane Garofalo’s nephew: Umm…I mean…yeah…(not sure if he wants to reveal information to a crazy person)
Me: Oh wow, that’s awesome. Okay, so…I mean…okay, I am an intern and today has been the most stressful day ever and we were supposed to have press passes but we didn’t and so I bought this voice recorder and everything and then I had to interview this other band and they had to call me back because they were hitting each other but then I had to go to work and then I drove so fast over here and so like I said we have no press passes but it would really help me out if you could like, I mean, I don’t want to be annoying, but like, can you just maybe possibly mention to Janeane that I’m out here?
Janeane Garofalo’s nephew: (blank stare, no fucking clue what I just said)
Me: Like, just tell her that I’m out here maybe? Please?
Janeane Garofalo’s nephew: (Fakes an apologetic look, probably so I don’t stab him since I obviously look like I am that kind of crazy) I mean, it’s kind of out of my hands…
Me: (Making the saddest face I possibly can) But it’s not though! It’s not. Just, please? Like, please. Just tell her I’m out here, if she wants to do the interview that’s awesome, and if she doesn’t, I’ll totally leave. (Lies, I would not have left.)
Janeane Garofalo’s nephew: (Longest pause ever) Okay, look, I’ll tell her you’re out here, okay? I can’t promise anything though.
Me: Yes, okay, exactly. That’s all I wanted.
And so Janeane Garofalo’s nephew and his girlfriend (I think it was his girlfriend, I don’t know…I do know she was silently judging me, but I mean, I guess I would silently judge me too) wandered off into the back while I sat down and waited. It wasn’t long before the heavenly choir that is Janeane Garofalo’s voice sounded.
Janeane Garofalo: Where is she? Is she out here?
Me: Yes! Yes I am out here! I’m out here!
Janeane appears through the curtain and invites me into her temporary home. So friendly! Obviously mildly creeped out, but still so friendly! I have a seat, joining Al and the miracle couple (I now know that Janeane Garofalo’s nephew is named Patrick), while Janeane asks me if I want anything to eat or drink and holds out a platter of crudites. Where am I? Narnia? Everything is so magical and everyone is so nice! I politely decline the food/drink and opt for a cigarette, mostly because I couldn’t think of anything not awkward to do. By the way, Al, if you’re reading this, I accidentally stole your lighter. Sorry. So we pretty much get down to business. Now, I’m not promising the interview of the year, here. I was completely frazzled and totally nervous. I also learned that you should not try to be funny when the person you are talking to is definitely funnier than you are. It’s like if I were to interview Michael Phelps and challenge him to a friendly lap around the pool. It’s not happening. But cut me a break because I fought for this goddamn interview, and here is what ensued:
BYT: So tell me how your life is going. Just, you know, in general.
Janeane: Oh, fine. We actually can’t take a lot of time with this because Al wants to go see another comic.
BYT: Oh, we won’t, we won’t.
Janeane: You know, because my life…that would take a long time. But it’s going well.
BYT: And PS, I was born like right before 1989. I actually do exist. I know you once said you couldn’t believe we existed…
Janeane: I know, I was just pretending.
BYT: Right, for sure. But I mean, all of us born after like 1985 are actually robots. It was supposed to be a pretty top-secret thing, but Dakota Fanning kind of ruined that for us.
Janeane: I had a feeling. You know, Haley Joel Osment.
BYT: So tell me why you keep doing stand-up.
Janeane: Well I never stopped…
BYT: No, I know, but…
Janeane: Oh, I thought you meant like, did you stop. I just started it in 1985. It was my career goal, it was what I wanted to do for a living. I still want to do that for a living, so that would be why I keep doing it.
BYT: Was it hard at first? Because things were pretty different when you started, right?
Janeane: I’m sure it was, but I was too naive to understand that. I was just utterly oblivious to how difficult it was, and how difficult it was going to be, and then also in the mid-eighties through the mid-nineties there was a boom of sorts. So there were plenty of stages. If I had started now, there would be very few places to get better and better. But at the time there was a thriving scene in Houston, Boston, San Francisco, New York…so it was…do you need an ashtray?
BYT: Yes I do, thanks.
Janeane: And also like I said I was too ignorant to realize, “Oh, this will be difficult.”
BYT: I think that’s kind of amazing, though.
Janeane: Well I was so young, I guess 19, that I didn’t understand that there would be hecklers and there would be bad shows and you will be bad for years, and…
BYT: What was your worst show?
Janeane: (Scoffs) Oh gosh, that is…just too numerous to mention. I just, for years, struggled. And occasionally did well, and that would encourage me briefly, but for the most part it was just tanking, tanking, tanking.
BYT: And what do you think of shows like Last Comic Standing?
Janeane: I’ve never seen it, I’ve actually never seen it.
BYT: I’ve heard it’s not real.
Janeane: Al, what do you know about Last Comic Standing?
Al: I don’t…I’m not a big fan of the comics competing against each other.
Janeane: Yeah, but it’s real, right?
Al: Yeah, I think it’s real, but I mean, anything that has producers behind it…
BYT: Right. And Janeane, what’s acting like for you? Is that something you’d still like to continue?
Janeane: I would love to, it’s just not up to me.
BYT: So how does that work, then? They just call you?
Janeane: Oh, they used to. Yeah, back in the nineties.
BYT: But you did Ratatouille, that was one of your more recent projects…
Janeane: Yeah. Well, I didn’t start acting until I was 27, and that was just through Gary Shandling and Ben Stiller who I knew through stand-up. And they both in the same year offered me parts on their programs which was unbelievably lucky and fortuitous. Then I wound up getting a lot of other opportunities in the nineties, and then sort of as quickly as it started, it just as quickly ended around 2001. And so yeah, I’d love to continue acting but it’s just not up to me.
BYT: Yeah, I mean, that’s understandable. So how are your dogs?
Janeane: The dogs are good, the dogs are good. I keep pretending that all three are still alive but they’re not. It’s easier than saying, “Well, two are dead now.” I’m waiting to kill the third when he’s least expecting it.
BYT: Oh yeah, when he’s not looking?
Janeane: Yeah, blunt object, back of the head. I’M KIDDING!
BYT: Of course! And so what do you do when you’re not doing stand-up?
Janeane: I make jewelry occasionally. I’m not a hobbyist. I’m a reader, I’m a lover of books, I like to watch movies, but mostly a lot of nothing. I’m quite content doing very little.
BYT: I think that’s a good lifestyle.
Janeane: I suppose so. Sometimes I am very pleased with it and sometimes I feel utterly worthless because I have so few interests, actually besides…
Janeane: I’m intellectually curious, that’s a plus. But I’m lazy as fuck.
BYT: Speaking of intellectually curious, I totally applied to be on college Jeopardy. What do you think my interesting halftime story should be if I get on the show?
Janeane: I think the thing is to not try too hard to be interesting because that is usually the most awkward thing.
BYT: Oh, it’s so awkward!
Janeane: It’s just corny. I think they should just let people say, “I do not have a noteworthy interesting story at this point in my life.” Or tell an incredibly immoderate story in very poor taste and see what happens. Like that finger banging that went awry. (Laughs)
BYT: Yeah, definitely should tell that story. I just want to ruin Alex Trebek’s life.
Janeane: Why, you’re mad at him?
BYT: No, I mean, I don’t know.
Janeane: You want to ruin Alex Trebek’s life? That is an interesting goal.
BYT: It is, it is. But you know, I hear Canadians cry maple syrup so I might not want to take it to that level, you know? It could get messy.
Janeane: Delicious if you lick their face.
BYT: So do you have any one liners?
Janeane: Nothing translates worse than comedy into the printed word. I sure don’t have any. As you can tell from watching the show, I’m not a strong joke writer per se.
BYT: Yeah how does that go for you? Because you have your notes up there sometimes, and then...
Janeane: Yeah I always have my notebook.
BYT: Yeah, so do you just during the day maybe think of something and jot it down?
Janeane: Uh-huh. Like today I thought of the Ethan Frome thing. So I jotted down Ethan Frome in my notebook today. But sometimes it will just say something like “Ethan Frome sled”. And sometimes I’ll remember what I meant and sometimes I won’t. And I’ll either continue to say it and elaborate on it or I will abandon it.
BYT: So is there a lot of impromptu stuff happening on stage? I mean, obviously you get rolling with it.
Janeane: Yeah sometimes there’s a lot of tangents because I forget what I’m going to say so much. Sometimes there’s very little tangents and stuff for some reason, and then some nights it’s all tangents and I can’t find my way, and then sometimes I wind up just talking about something completely extemporaneously and then never mention it again ever. It’s just completely different.
BYT: So where are you headed after this?
Janeane: Back to New York tomorrow, then Al and I go to Dublin and London which is great, we’re looking forward to that. I just got back from the Edinburgh Comedy Festival this week in Edinburgh, Scotland. I was there for three weeks, that was great. And I’m on tour basically through November.
BYT: Cool. Well I think that’s about it for our short little interview. I apologize, I’m super frazzled. Today’s been very hectic. I had to interview a band earlier. Do you know CocoRosie?
Janeane: Oh, I love CocoRosie!
BYT: I really like CocoRosie…they actually had to call me back because they were fighting.
Janeane: That’s what happens when you’re on the road together for too long as a band! Beatles, tore the Beatles apart…Third Eye Blind…all the greats.
BYT: But yeah they were interesting to interview.
Janeane: Well their music was so well-suited to that movie The Strangers. Did you see that movie? With Liv Tyler? Fucking scariest…
BYT: It’s SO scary because it could happen to anybody.
Janeane: Yeah, it’s totally plausible. No special effects, nothing, you know what I mean? It’s an actually good horror film based on a true story. It’s based on a real home intrusion story that happened. But CocoRosie is used in some of the songs. It’s utterly terrifying. I slept with the lights on. Terrifying.
BYT: I know, and like, the one line pretty much in the movie is, “Why are you doing this to us?” “Because you were home.”
Janeane: I know, and just the tone of voice of those people. And the CocoRosie music was just the extra factor of creepy.
BYT: Definitely. Well thanks so much for this interview! If you’d like to tell America, slash Washington DC anything, go for it.
Janeane: I would tell the Democrats in Washington who are trying to be civil with the “bipartisanship” to please stop and let the joker die once and for all, let the agents of chaos hit the pavement, stop picking them up. How long do we have to deal with conservative failure? How long? Thirty years is not enough? So I would say enough with that, and I would say check out the Center for American Progress, and the writings by Patrick Garofalo, economic guru. That’s what I would say.
rumor has it Garofalo will be back in DC in October for a certain, yet to be announced, BYT presented comedy festival. Watch this space.