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Janeane Garofalo

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Janeane Garofalo

Janeane Garofalo
Garofalo in 2012.
Born (1964-09-28) September 28, 1964
Newton, New Jersey, United States
Medium Stand-up, television, film, radio
Nationality American
Years active 1988–present
Genres Alternative comedy
Subject(s) American politics, celebrities, feminism, body image
Spouse Robert Cohen (m. 1992–2012)

Janeane Garofalo (; born September 28, 1964) is an American stand-up comedian, actress, liberal political activist, and writer.

She began her career as a stand-up comic in the late 1980s. In 1992, she made her television debut on the Ben Stiller Show, and followed this up with roles as Paula on The Larry Sanders Show and as a cast member on Saturday Night Live.

She moved to film in 1991 with an appearance as a fast food restaurant counter person in Late for Dinner, and also starred in The Truth About Cats and Dogs.

Garofalo is an outspoken progressive and feminist activist. From March 2004 to July 2006, she hosted Air America Radio's The Majority Report with Sam Seder.

Early life

Garofalo was born in Newton, New Jersey, the daughter of Joan and Carmine Garofalo. Her mother was a secretary, in the petrochemical industry, who died of cancer when Janeane was 24. Her father is a former executive at Exxon.[1][2] Garofalo was raised as a conservative Catholic[3] and is of Italian and Irish descent. She grew up in various places, including Ontario, California; Madison, New Jersey; and Katy, Texas. Garofalo is quoted as having disliked life in Texas because of the heat and humidity and the emphasis on prettiness and sports in high school.[1][2]

While studying history at Providence College, Garofalo entered a comedy talent search sponsored by the Showtime cable network, winning the title of "Funniest Person in Rhode Island." Her original gimmick was to read off her hand, which was not successful in subsequent performances. Dreaming of earning a slot on the writing staff of the TV show Late Night with David Letterman, she became a professional standup comedian upon graduating from college with degrees in History and American Studies.[4] She struggled for a number of years, working briefly as a bike messenger in Boston.[5]

Garofalo has described herself thus: "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."[6]

Entertainment career

Stand-up comedy

Garofalo in 2008

Garofalo has said that she does not tell jokes as much as make observations designed to get laughs. She was part of the alternative comedy scene in Los Angeles in the early 1990s, appearing at Un-Cabaret and other venues and co-created the Eating It comedy series which ran at Luna Lounge on the Lower East Side of New York City between 1995 and 2005. She did a one-hour stand-up special, "If You Will," at Seattle's Moore Theatre, that aired on Epix in June 2010 and was released on DVD in September 2010.[7]

During her filmed stand-up show in Seattle, she proclaimed herself as asexual, and brought up her ten-year celibate relationship with her boyfriend.[8]


Garofalo's big break came in 1990 after meeting Ben Stiller at Canter's Deli in Los Angeles, where they were hanging out with stand-up friends. They bonded over their "love of SCTV, early Saturday Night Live, and Albert Brooks."[9]

Her first exposure on National TV came soon thereafter by way of her appearance as a stand-up comic on MTV's Half Hour Comedy Hour. Subsequently, her first television series debut was on the short-lived Ben Stiller Show on Fox in 1992, on which she was a cast member alongside longtime friends Bob Odenkirk and Andy Dick. A chance meeting on the set of that show led her to be offered the role of Paula on The Larry Sanders Show on HBO, earning her two Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series[10] nominations in 1996 and 1997.

After The Ben Stiller Show was cancelled, Garofalo joined the cast of Saturday Night Live (SNL) for its 1994–95 season. She left SNL in March 1995 (mid-season) after only six months, saying that the experience left her "anxious and depressed" and that a sexist attitude pervaded the show and she called many of the sketches "juvenile and homophobic". According to New York Magazine, Garofalo was "largely stuck in dull, secondary wife and girlfriend roles" and her friends said that she considered the stint "the most miserable experience of [her] life."[11]

Following SNL, Garofalo appeared in a plethora of guest star roles: the grown-up daughter of the Buchmans on the final episode of Mad About You; Jerry Seinfeld's female counterpart (and, briefly, fiancée) Jeannie Steinman on Seinfeld; a correspondent on Michael Moore's TV Nation and a former girlfriend of Dave Foley's character on Newsradio. Two television pilots starring Garofalo, the 2003 ABC show Slice O'Life about a reporter consigned to sappy human interest stories appearing at the end of news broadcasts, and the 2005 NBC program All In, based on the life of poker star Annie Duke, were not picked up by their respective networks.

Throughout the 2005–2006 television season, Garofalo appeared on The West Wing as Louise Thornton, a controversial campaign adviser to the fictional Democratic presidential nominee. Garofalo participated in the series' first live episode, most of which was a debate televised live on the East Coast and then reshot live for the West. Garofalo's character can be seen walking backstage advising before the start of each debate. In 2006, she provided the voice for the animated character "Bearded Clam" on Comedy Central's Freak Show. In 2007, she wrote a dedication for the mini-book included in the six-DVD box-set of the 1994 cult series My So-Called Life.

Garofalo had a segment in several episodes of the 2007 season of The Henry Rollins Show. These took place in her apartment, much in the same way Rollins' take place at his house.

In 2009, Garofalo joined the cast of 24, where she starred as Janis Gold.

Garofalo was a cast member of the Criminal Minds short-lived spinoff TV series Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior.[12]

In 2010, Garofalo joined the cast of Ideal as Tilly.


Garofalo's breakthrough into film came in 1994's Reality Bites as Winona Ryder's Gap-managing best friend Vickie. The role helped solidify Garofalo's status as a Generation X icon. In 1996, Garofalo earned a starring role in the critically acclaimed The Truth About Cats & Dogs, a variation on Cyrano de Bergerac which featured top-billed Uma Thurman in the lead role as a beautiful but dim-witted model, while Garofalo played the larger role of Abby, a highly intelligent radio host. Initially an independent film, it became a studio movie when Thurman was signed. The film was a modest hit, but Garofalo disparaged it back in 2003, saying:[13]

I think it's soft and corny, and the soundtrack makes you want to puke, and everybody's dressed in Banana Republic clothing. The original script and the original intent was very different than what it wound up being when it became a studio commercial film. It was originally supposed to be a small-budget independent film where there would be much more complexity to all the characters, and Abby and the guy don't wind up together at the end.
—Janeane Garofalo, Interview, the A. V. Club

Based on the success of this film, a producer then offered her the leading lady role in Jerry Maguire with Tom Cruise if she could lose weight; after trimming down, however, she learned that Renée Zellweger had won the part instead.[14] Garofalo turned down the role of Gale Weathers in Wes Craven's Scream because she thought the film would be too violent: "I said I didn't want to be in a movie where a teen girl was disemboweled. I didn't know it turned out so good, and it was a funny movie."[15] Garofalo had also been David Fincher's first choice for the role of Marla Singer in the film Fight Club, but she turned it down, uncomfortable with the film's sexual content.[16]

Before The Truth About Cats & Dogs, she was visible from television work and supporting roles in films such as Reality Bites, Bye Bye Love and Now and Then, and a leading role in I Shot a Man in Vegas. Garofalo has had a variety of leading, supporting and cameo roles in Cop Land, Wet Hot American Summer, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, Dogma, The Cable Guy, Half-Baked, Mystery Men, The Wild, and Clay Pigeons.

Garofalo played the leading role in the The MatchMaker, a 1997 film about the misadventures of a cynical American woman who reluctantly visits Ireland. In 1998 Garofalo starred in her first voice-acting job playing Ursula the Artist in Disney's English dub of Studio Ghibli's Kiki's Delivery Service. In 1999, she starred as "The Bowler" in the film Mystery Men, about an underdog group of super heroes in the not too distant future. In 2002, she played Catherine Connolly in The Laramie Project. A puppet version of Garofalo appeared (and was graphically killed off) in the movie Team America: World Police; while Garofalo was irritated by the parody, she was more upset by the filmmaker's lack of correspondence. "I ran into them in the street, Trey and the other guy, and I said to them, 'The least you could do is send me a puppet.' And they said OK, took my address down ... and never sent me a puppet! So while Team America bothered me, the fact they didn't send me my puppet, that bothered me even more."[17]

In 2007, she provided the voice of Colette, a chef in the Pixar/Disney feature film Ratatouille. Garofalo affected a pronounced French accent in the role, highlighted by her character's soliloquy about being the only female chef in the all-male kitchen.

She made cameo appearances in The Guitar in 2008 and Labor Pains in 2009.

Political views

Garofalo has been open and outspoken regarding her liberal political views. She is a staunch feminist. In an interview for Geek Monthly magazine, she stated that she grew up conservative in a conservative family.[18]

She has appeared with political figures such as Ralph Nader (whom she supported in the 2000 election, but opposed in 2004) and Jello Biafra at various events. In 2007, Garofalo described herself as an atheist,[19] and participated in a radio interview by Freethought Radio, a show by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.[20]

She became more prominent as an activist when she voiced opposition to what became the antiwar voices to be heard. Garofalo and the other celebrities who appeared at the time said they thought their fame could lend attention to that side of the debate. Her appearances on cable news prior to the war garnered her praise from the left and spots on the cover of Ms. and Venus Zine. Garofalo has had frequent on-air political disputes with Bill O'Reilly, Brian Kilmeade, and Jonah Goldberg.[21]

Prior to the 2003 Iraq War, she took a position on the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. For example, in an interview with Tony Snow on a February 23, 2003 episode of Fox News Sunday,[22] Garofalo said of the Iraqi dictator:

Yes, I think lots of people are eager to obtain weapons of mass destruction. But there's no evidence that he (Hussein) has weapons of mass destruction. There's been no evidence of him testing nuclear weapons. We have people that are in our face with nuclear weapons. We've got Iran and North Korea. We've got a problem with Pakistan. You know, I don't know what to say about that. There's a whole lot of people that are going nuclear. And I think that Saddam Hussein is actually, with the evidence, the least able to use nuclear weapons and the least obvious offender in that area at this moment.
—Janeane Garofalo,  Fox News interview

In March 2003, she took part in the Code Pink anti-war march in Washington, D.C. That autumn, she served as emcee at several stops on the Tell Us the Truth tour, a political-themed concert series featuring Steve Earle, Billy Bragg, Tom Morello, and others. Throughout the year, Garofalo also actively campaigned for Howard Dean.

While on Fox News' program The Pulse, O'Reilly asked Garofalo what she would do if her predictions that the Iraq war would be a disaster were to turn out wrong. Garofalo stated:[23]

I would be so willing to say, 'I'm sorry'. I hope to God that I can be made a buffoon of, that people will say, 'You were wrong. You were a fatalist.' And I will go to the White House on my knees on cut glass and say, 'Hey, you and Thomas Friedman were right ... I shouldn't have doubted you ...'
—Janeane Garofalo,  Fox News interview

In April 2009, Garofalo drew criticism from The Washington Times when she denounced the Tea Party protests, calling them racist.[24] Garofalo has continued to criticize Tea Party protesters.[25]

Air America Radio

In late March 2004, Garofalo became a co-host for Air America Radio's new show The Majority Report alongside Sam Seder. The early days of Air America Radio are chronicled in the documentary Left of the Dial, which includes a debate between Garofalo and her conservative father Carmine, who was initially a regular guest on The Majority Report.

Garofalo commented on her April 28, 2006 show supporting the Scientology-linked New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project, a controversial treatment for workers suffering ailments from 9/11 clean-up efforts in New York City.[26]

Personal life

Garofalo married Robert Cohen, who was then a writer for The Ben Stiller Show, in Las Vegas in 1991. She later explained it was intended to be a joke, not thinking it was legal unless it had been filed at a local courthouse. It was discovered later, when Cohen tried to actually marry someone else, that the marriage was indeed legal. The marriage was dissolved in 2012.[27]

In Garofalo's 2010 stand-up show If You Will, she says "I don't have a fear of intimacy, I have sort of a genuine lack of interest", adding jokingly, "which is not good for my boyfriend of ten years".[28]



Year Title Role Notes
1991 Late for Dinner
1992 That's What Women Want
1994 Reality Bites
1995 Bye Bye Love
I Shot a Man in Vegas
Now and Then
1996 The Truth About Cats & Dogs Abbey Barnes
The Cable Guy
Larger Than Life
1997 Sweethearts
Romy and Michele's High School Reunion Heather Mooney
The MatchMaker Marcy Tizard
Cop Land
1998 Clay Pigeons
Kiki's Delivery Service Voice — English version
Thick as Thieves
Permanent Midnight
Half Baked
The Thin Pink Line
1999 The Bumblebee Flies Anyway
Torrance Rises
Can't Stop Dancing
Mystery Men The Bowler
The Independent
200 Cigarettes
The Minus Man
2000 Dog Park
Steal This Movie! Anita Hoffman
Titan A.E. Voice
The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle
What Planet Are You From?
2001 The Laramie Project Catherine Connolly
The Search for John Gissing
Wet Hot American Summer Beth
2002 Martin & Orloff
Big Trouble Officer Monica Romero
2003 Manhood Showtime
Nobody Knows Anything!
2004 Jiminy Glick in Lalawood
2005 Duane Hopwood
Nadine in Date Land Nadine Barnes Oxygen Network
Stay Dr. Beth Levy
2006 The Wild Voice
2007 Ratatouille Voice
Southland Tales
The Ten
2008 Girl's Best Friend TV movie
2009 Labor Pains TV movie
2012 General Education
2013 Satan, Hold My Hand

Short films




  • Feel This Book: An Essential Guide to Self-Empowerment, Spiritual Supremacy, and Sexual Satisfaction ISBN 0-694-52146-9 (with Ben Stiller)


  1. ^ a b Westbook, Bruce (June 22, 2007). "Garofalo talks politics, 'evil oil empire' and life in Houston".  
  2. ^ a b Westbrook, Bruce (June 24, 2007). "The world according to Janeane Garofalo". Zest Magazine, Houston Chronicle. p. 10. Retrieved August 8, 2009. 
  3. ^ Span, Paula (2005-04-27). "And Don't Even Get Her Started on the War".  
  4. ^ "Janeane Garofalo Biography – Yahoo! Movies". Retrieved May 9, 2010. 
  5. ^ NINA WILLDORF. "Funny Girl: The real Garofalo". The Boston Phoenix. Retrieved May 9, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Janeane Garofalo Quotes". Brainy Quote. 1964-09-28. Retrieved May 9, 2010. 
  7. ^ Jamie S. Rich. "If You Will". DVD Talk. 
  8. ^ Suarez, J.M. (October 4, 2010). "'Janeane Garofalo: If You Will': 'Life Is Too Long to Worry About the Afterlife'".  
  9. ^ Muhlke, Christine (August 1999). "The Ben Stiller Show 'N' Tell". PaperMag. Retrieved August 16, 2014. 
  10. ^ Janeane Garofalo Emmy Nominated
  11. ^ Smith, Chris (1995-03-13). "Comedy Isn't Funny: How Saturday Night Live Became a Grim Joke". New York Magazine. Retrieved August 19, 2009. 
  12. ^ Episode of Sam Seder's political podcast The Majority Report
  13. ^ Robinson, Tasha (2003-12-24). "Janeane Garofalo".  
  14. ^ "Q & A With Janeane Garofalo". Inked Magazine. January 2009. Retrieved February 12, 2010. 
  15. ^ "'Matchmaker' helps Garofalo fall for Ireland". Boston Herald. 1997-09-30. 
  16. ^ "The Story Behind Fight Club". Total Film. 2009-11-20. Retrieved May 11, 2010. The studio wanted Winona Ryder. Fincher wanted Janeane Garofalo, but she was "uncomfortable with the idea of all this sex”. 
  17. ^ Kettle, James (2009-08-01). "Seriously funny". The Guardian. Retrieved May 29, 2010. 
  18. ^ "Janeane Garofalo". 2009-01-13. Retrieved May 9, 2010. 
  19. ^ Michael Janusonis (2007-07-06). "Just the right spice". Retrieved May 9, 2010. 
  20. ^ "Freethought Radio". 26 May 2007. Retrieved May 9, 2010. 
  21. ^ Jonah Goldberg (2003-02-28). "Garofalo’s World". Retrieved May 9, 2010. 
  22. ^ "Transcript: Janeane Garofalo on Fox News Sunday". 2003-02-24. Retrieved May 9, 2010. 
  23. ^ "Hollywood Celebrities Pull Out the Punches on Iraq – The Pulse". 2003-04-09. Retrieved May 9, 2010. 
  24. ^ Carpenter, Amanda (2009-04-17). "Liberal actress says tea parties were racist – Hot Button Blog". Washington Times. Retrieved May 9, 2010. 
  25. ^ "Garofalo Stands By 'Racist' Remarks – Hannity". 2009-05-12. Retrieved May 9, 2010. 
  26. ^ Walls, Jeannette (2006-05-02). "Garofalo gushes over Scientology-linked project".  
  27. ^ Stanhope, Kate (2012-11-13). "Janeane Garofalo Had No Idea She Was Married for 20 Years".  
  28. ^ Clip shown in (A) Sexual, 2011 documentary film.
  29. ^ "'"Time right for Garofalo on '24. Retrieved May 9, 2010. 
  30. ^ "Janeane Garofalo Heading to Adult Swim". Retrieved October 11, 2011. 

External links

Preceded by
Courteney Cox and Jon Lovitz
MTV Movie Awards host
1996 (with Ben Stiller)
Succeeded by
Mike Myers
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