Jeff Garlin is a funny man. Recently he was logged into Ask Me Anything on Reddit.com. And happily, he didn’t disappoint.
I was first introduced to Jeff’s comedic prowess as Phil in Daddy Day Care. Although the relative straight man to Eddie Murphy, his voice, laughter and comedic sense made him memorable. He seems to find comfort acting alongside comedic geniuses. The next time I saw Jeff was playing Larry David’s manager in Curb Your Enthusiasm. Now, I love Curb. It is easily one of my most favorite television shows. It’s Seinfeld on steroids. When I asked the reason why he thought Curb is so popular, he wrote, “Because it’s funny, and it’s about the human condition.” Curb is definitely both. It consistently puts me into hysterics. It’s “throw-up funny” – those moments when you are laughing so much you feel like you might hurl – one of the true joys in life.
So, how did it all happen for Jeff? While commenting on another AMA chatter’s question, he stated, “I made the bold choice to audition at the Comic Strip comedy club in Ft. Lauderdale in June of 1982. I was a film student at the University of Miami, where I eventually dropped out and completely focused on my comedy career.” A touching tale of walking away from something toward one’s dreams, but Jeff’s next statement shocked me. “Coming back from having a stroke in 2000 was my greatest challenge. It was a real fight for me to get onstage and perform because I was slurring my words a bit, and I was very slow moving, but I kept on pounding away and hi everybody, I’m here!” An incredible tale, something I had no idea of. I find the pursuit of one’s dream in the face of clear heartbreaking adversity fascinating. That type of story has always made me curious, is there a difference between those who succeed and those who don’t? Was Garlin’s success a byproduct of just getting up on stage and doing something he wanted to do, or was there something more cosmic at play? I wonder if he had dreams beyond just doing it for its own sake. Is success as much talent as it is luck? Or is it, as Jeff said, about pounding away, letting the world know you’re here. Perhaps that’s the trick, then, getting out of the way and letting the rest of the details sort themselves out.
Since his trials and tribulations, Jeff has had steady work especially in animated films. His voice talents have been used in such modern classics as Wall-E and Toy Story 3. When I asked what draws him to his work, he replied, “I’m not drawn to any particular type of work. I’m drawn to good work. Because believe me, I’ve been offered bad animated movies to do, and I’ve chosen not to do them. I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with some great animated movies.” When I asked what it feels like being a part of such critically and monetary successes, he responded, “It feels great, I have to say, not to say I go around feeling that way all day, but when I do think about it, I’m quite thrilled to be a part of those movies.”
This fall, Jeff will be staring in a new sitcom The Goldbergs on ABC. Curb Your Enthusiasm is a rare beast. There is no script; its actors are given a general story-line and then the cameras roll. It’s improv at its finest. I was curious about Jeff’s new work environment in comparison to Larry’s. He replied, “It’s completely different, but full of positivity and passion for creating something funny.” That seems to be Jeff’s main focus, on consistently choosing work that touches his funny bone.
In closing, I was again curious, as I am with most successful people, what they would be doing if things didn’t work out in their present field. When asked, Jeff responded “I would be a teacher or a baseball announcer.” Both jobs would take him out in front, talking a great deal, kind of like an actor. It’s what Jeff does best.