Jeff Garlin on getting fit, reducing his carbon footprint, and Ed Begley Jr.
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Larry David may be the main draw on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, but it’s impossible to imagine the show without Jeff Garlin, who plays Jeff Greene, David’s best friend, manager, and loyal partner in crime. But the former Second City e.t.c. cast member and veteran stand-up hasn’t rested since the breakthrough of his signature character. In addition to directing the John Waters one-man show This Filthy World and his feature debut I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With, Garlin has released a stand-up CD and DVD, Young & Handsome, and most recently wrote a book, My Footprint: Carrying The Weight Of The World, which chronicles his efforts to get in shape and live an environmentally friendly lifestyle. Before his show at Park West on Thursday and book signing at Borders on State on Tuesday, The A.V. Club talked to Garlin about how writing the book changed his life.
The A.V. Club: The last time we talked you said you were just about to retire from stand-up.
Jeff Garlin: I don’t think I’m ever going to retire from stand-up, but what I have retired from is working the road every week. I don’t do that anymore. I’m going on a book tour where I’ll do a lot of stand-up on the book tour. I’m not saying I won’t go on a tour, but I used to do, I’d say, 26 weeks a year, because I love the art form. So I’m not going to stop, but I’m not coming to Zanies any time soon. I’m playing the Park West, one show. Zip in, zip out.
AVC: You’re tired of the drudgery of it all.
JG: Yes, exactly. That is for sure. And with Zanies, I’ll still go in and do a set. I did so recently, but I’m not going to be headlining there any time soon.
AVC: You also just did the Second City 50th-anniversary show.
JG: That worked out great. It was great, great fun. It was really fantastic. I did a bunch of different things. I did my combo platter thing, which I do here in L.A. every week at the UCB [Upright Citizens Brigade] Theatre, which is sort of like improvised monologues with two guests. I did it with Dave Pasquesi and Fred Willard. Then I did, on the Saturday night show, I did a few minutes of material.
AVC: Do you still enjoy doing improv?
JG: I love it. I do it on Curb Your Enthusiasm. That’s improv. So yeah, I love doing it.
AVC: I wasn’t sure, since I know Curb is somewhat scripted.
JG: Well that’s what improv is. Sometimes, like TJ and Dave, they literally go up and start improvising and a lot of times, with my stand-up, I just go up and improvise. When Second City is putting together a show, they have specific ideas or an idea of what they’re going to do. With Curb, we just have an outline. We improvise all our dialogue and all that stuff.
AVC: Your style as a stand-up comedian uses a good deal of storytelling. Did this help you write your book?
JG: Yeah, I would say so. I wrote it, so I didn’t have a ghost writer, so it’s in my voice. It seems like more of a natural thing.
AVC: You also go off on a lot of tangents when you do stand-up.
JG: I think my book is a lot more focused. I don’t think you can get away with that as much in a book. I’m sure there’re some tangents, but far fewer than in my stand-up.
AVC: Ed Begley Jr. helped you out environmentally?
JG: Yeah, sure. Ed Begley definitely helped me out a lot. He showed me the way in the world of green. He’s an extremist though. He’s an expert. He’s like the king of that. I’m just somebody who wants to know and wants to apply what he can. He is the guy in Hollywood to turn to when you’re curious about that sort of thing.
AVC: What did you guys work on together?
JG: Gentle lovemaking skills.
AVC: I’m curious what that would be like.
JG: You’ll have to take his workshop and then you’ll understand.
AVC: For weight loss, why not get the surgical procedure like Al Roker?
JG: Because I’m not Al Roker. That works for Al Roker. For me, it’s about admitting that I’m an addict and changing the way I approach the way I eat. There are no shortcuts. Plenty of people who have that surgery and don’t deal with their addiction gain all their weight back. That would seem dangerous to me.
AVC: Do you feel comfortable with your weight right now?
JG: Yeah, I feel very comfortable about myself right now. I felt very comfortable about myself when I was much heavier. I feel much better about myself from being fit. I never felt negative. It’d suck when you put on your pants and they were too tight and now I put on clothes and they are generally too big on me. I have to go to smaller sizes.
AVC: Was writing the book helpful in the weight loss process?
JG: Writing the book made me aware that I’m an addict.
AVC: You didn’t know before?
JG: No, I was in denial.
AVC: How did you realize you were an addict through writing the book?
JG: Well, when you see the things that you do to yourself, the self-destructive behaviors, and you’re writing about it, you’re like, “Oh. This is something I’m repeating.”
AVC: If you lose enough weigh, do you lose an element of your comedy, the self-deprecation?
JG: Well, first off, I don’t do self-deprecation comedy based on being fat. I would always talk about it honestly. Secondly, I don’t care how much I weigh. It’s losing fat, not losing weight, despite whatever the promotion of the book is. I won’t miss any of it. I won’t ever become a steroid-looking guy, like Joe Piscopo or something. I don’t know if he took steroids. I don’t want to become muscle-bound. I just want to be fit and healthy.