Comedic heavyweight Janeane Garofalo is set to headline The Wilbur Theatre on Saturday, March 2 at 7:00 p.m. The much-loved actress and comedian has been an American institution since she burst on the scene in 1992. Known for her many memorable and critically acclaimed roles in films such as "The Truth About Cats and Dogs," “Wet Hot American Summer,” “Ratatouille,” "Steal This Movie," "Reality Bites," "Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion," "Mystery Men," “The Ten” and "The Cable Guy", Garofalo is very much looking forward to returning to her former stomping grounds and recently took the time to speak with the Boston Comedy Scene Examiner about her visit.
BCSE: “Boston’s pretty psyched to have you back. We’re really looking forward to it.”
JG: “I used to live in Boston, actually - I used to live in Allston.”
BCSE: “And you were a bike messenger, right?”
JG: “I was demoted to walking messenger. And I worked with David Cross downtown; he worked at Palmer & Dodge, and I worked at ASAP. This was in the 80's. But I started doing stand-up in '85 when I was at college in Rhode Island and then just moved to Boston. I've not stopped doing stand-up since then. So I'm doing stand-up; last season I was on ‘Delocated’, that show on Adult Swim, starring Jon Glaser, very funny guy.”
BCSE: “Now I hear that the show is ending, is that true?”
JG: “The final episode, I think, is March 7, unfortunately, because I love that show. Hopefully I will have the good fortune to get on another show of the same quality. So I'm going to try and do that. I've got road stuff coming up, and the usual stuff.”
BCSE: “I understand that you're somewhat of a political activist. What's on your radar right now?”
JG: “Some of the people characterized as political activists - which I don't think I am; I am a person who is certainly affected by things. I consider politics the same as culture - it's just life. It's not a separate category, so when there are things that happen that try and restrict women's rights, or rights of the LGBT community - any of those things, of course, anyone who is concerned tries do something about it, but I don't consider myself an 'activist' who deserves any special title, if that makes any sense. I've always been interested in those things, and I comment on it when asked. There's always something going on - as long as Obama's in office, there's going to be right-winged obstructions going on, not to mention the unfortunate racism that has reared its ugly head, yet again, in the Republican party. So that's something that affects anyone who's concerned with the evolution of society, or helping it move forward if they can.
What bothers me is when people feel like discussing the racism is in poor taste, not the racism itself. People seem to get angry if you bring up the topic. It's very clear to you because it's there, it's happening. It would be weird, since racism is not only part of our society, but societies around the world, any era - it would be odd if there was no racism here, now, now that there's a black president. That would be odd. So when people try to sweep it under the rug, or accuse you of being a hysteric, that always blows my mind, because to me either they're a liar, or they're unaware of anything going on around them - or the third option is they don't care. I just don't understand why some people are so reticent to discuss racism, sexism, homophobia, and how obvious it is. People get very angry; it makes me wonder where they're coming from. To bring up topics - racism, sexism, misogyny, anti-immigration feelings, anything like that - if you bring it up and people get angry at you, that really speaks volumes about them, which is an interesting phenomenon in society: how angry some people get, especially when women speak. There's a double standard; it seems to really infuriate people if a female says something. It's that low level form of misogyny that exists, again, not just in our society, but most, since the probably the dawn of society. It's just part of the fabric of the human condition, and some people are less evolved than others.”
BCSE: “It amazes me how people can exist day to day with such a lack of empathy, even.”
JG: “Well, that's the component isn't it? Lacking empathy. That's the key word to me - either you do or you don't care. Even if it doesn't affect you directly, somebody makes a racist comment or a homophobic comment. If it doesn't affect you directly, say you weren't even there - it still affects you, but the thing is, can you empathize with that person? Can you see how in the larger picture it harms everybody? And this goes for the environment, for animals - all kinds of things like that. Can you empathize with animals? Can you empathize with the environment? Can you empathize in general in life with the plight of others?
Sometimes people say I'm a political comedian, which, actually I'm not. I'm a comedian who sometimes discusses politics, culture - again, the word politics to me is just life. It's such a big part of everyone's lives that it would be remiss to never mention it.”
BCSE: “What would you say you enjoy doing the most in terms of working?”
JG: “It's case by case, really, because there have been certain jobs in the medium of acting that have been really fun, certain radio jobs I've had that have been really fun; I did a play last year that was incredibly enjoyable. I'd love to do another one; I really enjoyed myself. Stand up - depends on the night. And with all those mediums can be a shitty job, like any shitty job. I do like that my life can shift and change, radically, within a month. What I don't like, though, when it comes to theater and acting, whether it be trying to get jobs in television or film -and the key word is trying - I have no control over it. So that can be very painful because I can't make people want to hire me. And if you have a thin skin, which I do, that sense of rejection can be very depressing. And on the opposite end, you get elated when somebody does want to hire you. It's a strange position to be in, and it's an elective one - I don't mean to sound like I'm complaining, because nobody makes me do it. I have to realize - then, do something else. But I don't have any other marketable skills so I can't. But stand up, I can control it - I feel more confident in that area. I write it, I can wear what I want, I look how I want. I can book whenever I want to tour, and hopefully if I'm lucky, tour with who I want to like Dave HIll, who's working with me in Boston - dear friend, and he's a great guy - so, it works out really well. So I feel much more confident and comfortable in the area of stand up, because there's control - whereas I'm at the mercy of others in acting, so that can be very debilitating.”
BCSE: “What are some of your fondest memories of Boston?”
JG: “All of them. I was so happy, because first of all, it was my first apartment ever with roommates, because I had just graduated. I mean, granted I lived off campus at school, but it was still sort of campus housing. I'd never experienced the full freedom of living in Allston, and riding my bike everywhere, and just the joy of pursuing what I wanted to pursue for a living. I had day jobs, obviously, as well, but I was just always so thrilled. Here I am, I'm on my own - I have great roommates, I live in a great city, and I get to do stand-up once in a while - all of it was great. I don't have one bad memory of Boston.”
Garofalo was a cast member of the Emmy Award-winning “Ben Stiller Show” and played the role of Paula, the acerbic talent booker, on "The Larry Sanders Show" for which she received an Emmy nomination. During the fall of 1994 she joined the cast of "Saturday Night Live." Some of Janeane's other television work includes two specials for HBO, FOX’s “24,” “Mad About You," and the final season of NBC's "The West Wing" where she played Democratic campaign strategist Louise Thornton. She has also co-authored the best seller "Feel This Book” with Ben Stiller.
Bill Blumenreich presents Janeane Garofalo
Saturday March 2, 2013 at 7:00 p.m.
The Wilbur is located at 246 Tremont St. in Boston’s Historic Theatre District