Born 28 September, 1964, in Newton, New Jersey, Janeane Garofalo1 is a talented comedienne and actress who has repeatedly questioned, and at times antagonized, the establishment of modern-day show business. Hollywood still has a very chauvinistic and restrictive environment which limits the choices for women in the field. Garofalo has (both on purpose and inadvertently) brought light to this issue due to her own experiences.
The Weight Issue
She does not fit the criteria for beauty and perfection of the human female as dictated by social constraints and stereotypes. This has often been an obstacle for her in her profession, but she has turned it into a strength and an advantage. Her true fans see the absurdity of this issue, and agree with her: she should not have to lose weight to be given ingenue roles. Despite this, she has been relegated by Hollywood to the title of 'character actress'. This is a category reserved for women who deny the outdated definition of female beauty.
Just over five feet tall, she is what some closed-minded types would call 'overweight.' Garofalo has spoken out about her fight not only with her weight but also how Hollywood and society views overweight people. For some she has become a sort of reluctant spokesperson and 'poster child' who inadvertently brings pride and confidence to others who share her situation. She is helping to bring about a change in social standards: being bony does not mean being healthy or beautiful.
In actuality her physique appears more healthy than the anorexic walking mannequins used today in fashion shows and clothes advertising. Though she bucks the standard 'look' Hollywood assumes beauty to be, her sense of humour, personality and courage outshine any glamour girl in the world, and one would be hard pressed to find a heterosexual male who wouldn't find her attractive.
Her Rise To Stardom
She has admitted in interviews that her childhood was middle-class and relatively uneventful. At least no more or less eventful than any other person. It wasn't until around high school that she began to study the comedy of David Letterman and Steve Martin. In her senior year of college, Garofalo attended a local Open Mike night and won a contest. Though she found the award bordering on the absurd, the damage had been done: she caught the stand-up bug.
Moving to Boston after college, she spent her days in jobs that paid the bills while her evenings were spent cultivating her comedic talents. For several years she developed a brand of comedy now referred to as 'alternative' but is actually just a modern-day equivalent of socially conscious stand-up comedy which evolved from the work of Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor. Her use of blue humour and profanity is less than many of her contemporaries, but she does not flinch or shy away from controversial subject matter.
In 1992, she found her way on to television in programmes like The Ben Stiller Show and Gary Shandling's The Larry Sanders Show. Though the Fox network dumped Ben Stiller's programme, it still went on to win an Emmy award, which was one of many examples of irony that Garofalo has faced. Often it is clear that the entertainment industry has no clear idea what the public really wants, or what is critically acclaimed.
In 1994, she began her short-lived stint on NBC's Saturday Night Live. Lasting less than a season, what could have been a dream come true for any American comedian brought up in Saturday Night Live's heyday turned into a nightmare. Her outspoken tendencies and abrasive personality conflicted with some of the other egos on the set. She had, prior to acquiring the job, stated publicly her opinions about how the show's humour had deteriorated over the years. The incumbent talent on the show took her criticism personally, and made her brief stay there unpalatable.
Ben Stiller found Garofalo's talent useful again in '94, hiring Garofalo for a part in Reality Bites, which started her film career. During production of that movie, she found herself fighting the studio brass in regards to her weight. She learned from this event and others that it would be difficult for her to get many roles in television and movies due to the negative stigma the entertainment industry places upon hefty 'normal looking' women.
After Reality Bites, Garofalo shed 35 pounds and admitted openly that she 'sold out' in order to get auditions for better roles. She then spoke publicly about how she suddenly seemed much more talented in the eyes of the entertainment industry now that she weighed just over 100 pounds. Having made her point, she then gained back all the weight and hasn't looked back since.
In the last five, Janeane Garofalo has performed in over two dozen motion pictures, predominantly in character roles like officer Dale Shelby in Clay Pigeons which have granted her critical acclaim and her own special niche in the entertainment industry. She has also found a few ingenue roles in movies like The Matchmaker and The Truth About Cats and Dogs, proving all of her harsher critics wrong.
In partnership with Ben Stiller, Feel This Book is a publication presently available in bookstores, which is a candid look at the genre of self-help books from their own unique and daring perspective.
Most recently, she played a super heroine called The Bowler in the movie Mystery Men opposite her long-time friend Ben Stiller, and also the talented Paul Reubens (of Pee Wee Herman fame) and William H Macy (Pleasantville). She is also slated for several other projects in the next two years with no end in sight for the talent and beauty of this living goddess of laughter.
The name of her production company is I Hate Myself Productions. Now divorced, she was once married to Robert Cohen, and admits to a brief love affair with her long time friend and contemporary comedic talent, Ben Stiller. She once jokingly admitted to a crush on comedian and talk show host Craig Kilborn. Garofalo's last reported boyfriend is Craig Bierko. She is a vegetarian and at last count sports seven tattoos.
Fan mail should be sent to:
c/o United Talent Agency
9650 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills CA 90212
I guess I just prefer to see the dark side of things. The glass is always half-empty. And cracked. And I just cut my lip on it. And chipped a tooth.
- Mr. Showbiz
If you went out on the street, you couldn't find five people who know who I am,' she says. 'The only reason I'd like to be known is if a band, like the Afghan Whigs, comes to town, and it's sold out, I can make one call and get a backstage pass. Or if there's a movie I want to see and the line is really long, that somebody would say, 'Go right in'.
- Where Garofalo RoamsEntertainment Weekly, 4 August, 1995
Stand-up clubs are not the place to be anymore. There are so many bad comics that an intelligent person who would go to the average comedy club is gonna be bummed out and really insulted by the low caliber of entertainment. Now, luckily, there's a groundswell of alternative venues where people are doing comedy - like bookstores, coffeehouses, rock clubs - where you have comics that don't cater to the lowest common denominator.
- Reality Bites Back, BAM