We recently got to sit down with popular comedienne/actress/activist Janeane Garofalo, prior to her sold-out stand-up performance at Comix in New York’s Greenwich Village, for a candid and in-depth interview:
Bambi Weavil: We heard about For Better or Worse, which we heard is about gay marriage…how did you become involved with it?
Janeane Garofalo: There was a guy I met when I was doing a made for Oxygen movie called Nadine in Dateland, I did this movie and Brad Rowe played my boyfriend in it and it turned out we had a lot of the same political interests and activist interests and stuff like that so we kept in touch over the years and then he called me recently and said ‘Look I feel like shooting this mostly improved movie about a gay wedding called For Better or Worse, so I don’t know anything about it other than him asking me to do it, and Jeremy Sisto is in it, you probably know more about it than I do. I think I play a nanny.
BW: How do you feel to being involved on the cast on 24?
JG: Well, I passed on it twice, because I don’t like the politics of one of the shows creators in particular, he’s gone now, but his right wing politics made me sick, still make me sick to this day, and I had never seen 24, but I heard about all the torture and stuff, and I thought I don’t need to do that and I passed on it twice, then I realized, I’m unemployed.
And, I also know some friends who work on it and love it, and they are very liberal and they are aspounding right wing propaganda, so unfortunately, the show sometimes does by it’s very nature, but not as much anymore because that guy is gone, but still, so I got there and started doing it. I hadn’t seen the show, but I saw the DVDs and got oddly sucked in, which is quite addicting, and then I met everybody and it’s one of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had because they have all been together 7 years, it’s a very well-oiled machine and they have this very good meat and potatoes ethic…they aren’t going to shoot 18 takes of something, it’s more like ‘if you have it let’s go, let’s move on, we want to be out of here by five,’ and I like that sort of attitude, everybody is very very nice, and funny and cool on the set…accept for the commute, I have to drive a hour each way, it’s in California and other than the commute, I hate to drive, I love working there, I really love the people there.
Again, I don’t like the torture, and I don’t like that some of our current torture policy is based on some of the premises on 24, because some of the right wingers of 24 worked with some of the right wingers in the Bush administration, and I didn’t know about it until today and I found out about it because somebody told me the Crooks and Liars blog and I guess some of it came out that some of it is based on the tactics used on 24, what were thought were fictional tactics and it makes me sick. And it also makes me sick, and you know, what can I say, if there was a show that represented my politics, you know what I mean, I would be on no show ever, the Che Guevara Hour, the Emma Goldman Review, Rosa Luxemburg Time, whatever it is, there is no show on mainstream television that will ever be something that most good liberals are going to be happy with, it’s just not possible. So you do what you can.
What I’ve done is make my character cry when people get tortured, I tear up, that’s what I’ve decided that I do. Even though I’m not supposed to, I make it that I find it morally reprehensible. I’m not saying that it’s a grand gesture and that I should be applauded, I’m just saying that it’s just something I’ve done to keep my conscious remembered.
BW: Is it something you plan to continue doing if they ask you to do another season?
JG: If I don’t get fired. Like I said, one of my very close friends works on it Mary Lynn Rajskub, it’s fun to go to work with her, and it’s fun to be very close friends with Rhys Coiro who used to be on Entourage, I actually look forward to going to work and that’s rare, knowing you are going to be laughing a lot and it’s a exciting environment because it doesn’t happen often.
BW: What attracted us to you and your work is your activism. What nonprofits do you support currently and in the past….
JG: I’ve been for years, I’ve always subscribe to Public Television, Public Radio, I try to subscribe Mother Jones, The Nation, In These Times…stuff like that, I just try to mostly because my nature is media reform it’s my most passionate to give my support, my money to, animal right stuff..
BW: Tell us about your new DVD special?
JG: I’m going to be doing a special for DVD I believe, in November in Seattle. The date isn’t written in stone because the writer’s strike moved the season of 24 back. I was going to do the special in the Spring in Seattle, but I think we are going to do it after the season of 24 wraps up in November.
BW: I heard you are a vegetarian, which I am as well, is that true?
JG: No I was, I’ve eaten bacon. I’m a vegetarian except for bacon. I eat meat you can count on one hand the amount of times in two years I’ve eaten, but I must admit, every once in a while there will be a crispy piece of bacon, and I can not, not take a bite into it. And the smell of it, and I was a vegetarian for years, and I believe in it, I support, I wish I was. But like I said, it’s so negligible but that does not excuse it, I’ve been known to eat bacon.
BW: Have you tried the veggie bacon?
JG: I have, and I do like it, that’s fine, I like all the fake meat and all the stuff and I’m fine with all of that and I think it
tastes good. There are times though where I am weak. And I do feel shame but I eat bacon, sometimes.
BW: As you know the gay community has always been supporting you for years. Why do you think that the gay community is drawn to you and your work?
JG: Because I am seemingly gay. I look like I may be gay. That is the thing… First of all I take it as a compliment, every time anybody says ‘oh you are not gay?’ I am flattered by that, ‘Oh wow..that must make me more interesting’ I find it to be a compliment that somebody mistakes me for gay. That’s why it’s weird when somebody acts like it’s insulting to say, ‘oh but you can’t say he’s gay or whatever?’ Why? You are acting like I’m saying something pejorative, about that person, that makes them seem more interesting to me..but also maybe, I have no way of knowing for sure, I think the gay community, not that it’s a monolith, but if we are speaking in broad generalities, tends to always have a soft spot for anyone seemingly on the outside looking in, or not classically accepted in Hollywood, or maybe has battled of their weight, or has issues with their looks or criticized for their looks, or criticized in some way by the popular opinion, but that’s just a theory, I have no idea, but they seem to respond really well to female comedians in general, but especially ones who don’t look traditionally girlie, or use their sexuality as their means as putting their best foot forward.
BW: How do you feel people can be more active in general to fight the apathy within our country…as we know it’s so incredibly
JG: First and foremost, I do discuss this a lot with people who want to throw their hands up. You have to be the change you want to see. Now, obviously a much more famous person than me has said that, has said that a million times, I don’t know who said ‘be the change you want to see’ but I know it’s written on posters and stuff. What I mean by that, if you don’t want people to be apathetic, you just worry about you. You just worry about you, YOU speak out more, and it will, if nothing else, affect one or two other people around. It’s all that you need to worry about because it’s too overwhelming
to think of it in terms of the masses, because there also many more activists than you know of, it just seems as if that you are going crazy..if you were to watch mainstream TV, they are always behind the curve ball, fuck them, they don’t know. If they had their way they would still be talking about… ‘segregation had just ended.’ There are so many, there is a famous phrase, ‘if it is on cover of Newsweek, it’s old news’, but it’s so true. They are so lazy, so behind the curve, so unwilling, to facilitate change or good government, or good society, they are poor citizens. They really are. They should have their FCC licenses revoked for poor citizenship, if nothing else. But really if you want to consider yourself a good citizen, and you are pissed off that others that aren’t being more engaged, you have to do it, and that’s it, you have to do it, and it really does make a difference. Because somebody is going to click to it, even if four people hate what you are saying…
Also, I feel like, when I was growing up in junior high and high school, I witnessed a number of bullying episodes. I wasn’t bullied, I was neither here nor there, neither popular nor in-popular, I was in the gray in-between. But I witnessed a couple of people being bullying, and I didn’t do anything. And there will be times when I just cringe about that at the age of almost 44, I will still remember something. And I made the decision in 2000, when the recount was forwarded, never again. I will not be partied to bullying and I consider the Republicans the fuck you bullies of all time. And with that miscarriage of justice perpetrated by King Bully, Antonin Scalia… With his gesture, what he was saying was ‘fuck it, we make and break the law.’ And to me that is no different, than witnessing in 7th grade a couple of jocks, fake ass raping a very effeminate young man, and I knew it was wrong, I could have said something, I knew they’d start picking on me for being fat or whatever, I knew that’d be the next in line if I spoke, but fuck it, I didn’t say anything. And that’s just one example where I could have said something. It was the usual garden variety shit, I am sorry to say it it’s garden variety, but it is when you got jocks around. And to me, you extrapolate from there and you got Antonin Scalia, George Bush Posse, Bill O’Reilly, they are no different…Sean Hannity is the guy, miming ass-raping the, you know what I mean, the effeminate guy…Karl Rove was getting mimed-ass raped and then he turned into the bully..there are two kinds of them, there is a bully who is still a bully, and the one who was bullied and is now a bully like Karl Rove, etc. But I equate the same exact thing. If you don’t speak out about evolution, science, reproductive rights, civil rights, then you are watching Sean Hannity fake ass-rape…(laughs). If you don’t understand that analogy then you’re not listening. (laughs)
BW: What is the thing you are most proud of?
JG: Air America Radio, working at Air America Radio. Not that I’m responsible for it. I’m not particularly proud, it’s just the TV/movie stuff, I was happy to be in the Hoffman movie. Proud of the quality of the Larry Sanders Show, I was very proud of my time at Air America and proud of my co-host Sam Seder who is still there, and I am honored to have worked there, and to have met those people, am honored to have worked on the Howard Dean campaign. That’s not really work, but that’s different from that, but I don’t feel that same sense of honor about, oh I am proud of the West Wing, because it’s a quality show, but I felt they were too soft on the Right wing nuts. I was very proud of the Laramie Project.
BW: We are proud of you for doing that.
JG: Thank you!
BW: How do you feel we’ve progress since Matthew Shepard was killed in a hate crime, as far as hate crime legislation and in the gay community?
JG: I do know that the gay community has certainly made strives in pop culture. If you think in terms of the gay mobile network, or In The Life, which has been around forever, the old touchstone of old public television shows. Now, it’s absolutely ratings, gay, gay-friendly programming, whether it be on Logo where it is ghettoized or be on cable networks…People love a gay scenario whether it be “reality television” or a make-over show…what is the show with the five guys? Queer Eye For the Straight Guy! They were rock stars, think about that, think about what that means for pop culture…that it is something you turn on and love, in John and Jane Q. Public’s living room. And the good thing about that is, to me I feel like that children today will find gay bashing hopefully as preposterous as we find segregation, or that Sammy Davis Jr. had to go in the back door of the Sands up until ’63. That seems preposterous, you can’t conceive of a world where in Vegas, Sammy Davis Jr. would have had to walk in the back door, right? To me, I’m assuming that the logical next step is, it will be absurd, to some women sitting on a couch, 20 years from now ‘you mean they had a Republican that would say that homosexuals are like terrorists? That they try to end gay marriage?’ They would think it is funny, I don’t mean that in a demeaning way, as in ‘that is ridiculous.’ I think that’s true. Just like African-Americans were on television a lot more in the late 50s and early 70s whether it be Laugh-In, or Julia, there was a African-American woman who had her own series. There was the Flip Wilson Show. These shows that were brought into your living room…
What about that guy having that baby? I think it’s important. First of all, leave him alone, let him/her, it’s their womb. I saw Geraldo talk about it this morning, that opportunist fuck face..you don’t have a say in their baby!
Shannon Smith: We were at a taping of Good Morning America the other morning and some of the people in the audience were like ‘I can’t believe that that guy would transition into a man to have a baby for publicity..’
JG: That’s the type of person, nothing will be clear to them. That’s the person who loves to write a angry letter. This week it’s that, next week it’s ‘I can’t believe she’s lactose intolerant to bread milk.’ There are some people that love to fuckin’ just have their say. It’s important that their feedback on someone else’s womb matters. I know it’s the human condition, everyone wants to be heard. We want to be understood and be heard, but not everyone wants to be heard for the right reasons…it’s not about empathy and community – it’s about they want to be heard about who they hate. It’s got a sort of narcissism to it, they want to be better than, a manufactured higher hierarchy of some kind, they real comfortable with that.
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