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Jeff Garlin

by: Caroline Westbrook - Last updated: 2004-10-19

Jeff Garlin

Jeff Garlin

Funnyman Jeff Garlin has shot to fame since starring as Jeff Greene, Larry David’s long-suffering manager, in the comedy show Curb Your Enthusiasm.

The 42-year-old now combines his work on the show – which follows the everyday life of David as he lurches from one calamity to another – with stand-up comedy, film appearances (most recently in the Eddie Murphy hit Daddy Day Care) and a spot of directing (he’s currently working on forthcoming film I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With, starring fellow Semite Sarah Silverman).

As Curb Your Enthusiasm series 2 is released on DVD, Garlin talks to SJ’s Caroline Westbrook (from his hotel room in Cincinnati, just hours before a live show) about the success of the programme, working with Larry David, and what he looks for in his ideal shul.

How similar is Larry David to what we see on screen?
I would use the word similar but I wouldn’t use anything stronger than that because he’s got a family – but he’s a pretty together guy. Everything you see on screen is heightened for the purpose of comedy.

What’s the process for filming each episode?
It’s sort of like you guys do it over there, everything’s written before you start filming, which is a great way to do it – that’s why a lot of our shows stink, because they’re hustling to write it during the season. With our shows, all the outlines are written before the season begins. We cast, which is sort of like our rehearsal process, myself, Cheryl and Larry are in on the casting, and then when we shoot we don’t really rehearse and we shoot it scene by scene. We say ‘OK the cameras will be here and here, and then we’ll stand here and here’, and then we shoot however many takes it takes for us to get it. Then there’s a long period of editing.

Have you ever found yourself lost for words while trying to improvise dialogue?
Yeah, I’m sure I have, not to the point where with the next take I didn’t have something – but with me, it’s not all about the words as it is about what does the scene need. If I’m in a scene with four or five other actors sometimes I choose not to say very much, so maybe they’re lost for words because they’re trying to find words.

Do you have plans to direct any more episodes?
Not any more episodes, I’m working on a movie right now.

How much easier is it for a show like Curb Your Enthusiasm to get on TV now we have channels like HBO?
Well with channels like HBO it’s much easier. Network television here, there’s just no way. Network television is such a wasteland, I mean I don’t know how it is over there but all this reality stuff, I’m just sick of it to be honest with you. I wasn’t sick of it a year ago when all the articles were coming out about it, but being on the road I watch more TV than I do when I’m at home – I have two little boys and I don’t have much time to watch TV – but I watched a lot of TV lately and it’s horrible. It’s really really embarrassingly horrible. I am actually almost approaching the point of anger over it.

What do you think of other shows using a similar format like The Office?
The Office is the only similar show that’s great and the reason it’s great is Ricky Gervais. I think the actors are great and it has all the right ingredients but Ricky and Stephen Merchant write great episodes. Everything is there to be able to improvise and do different things whereas people who are trying to do shows who are similar – you have to have someone who’s as great as Larry David, and if you don’t have that person doing the outlines or the stories it’s going to be crap, even if you have the best storylines in the world.

What can we expect from the forthcoming seasons?
More of the same except different, I don’t want to spoil anything, but we’re not reinventing the wheel, there’s no soap opera aspects to the show, you know – everything is tied in. With Season 3 we open a restaurant and that’s the whole season and then when Season 4 starts you never see the restaurant again, so any continuing storyline continues for the arc of the season and that’s about it.

Is there a plan on how long the show’s going to run for?
It’s not really down to HBO – they’re thrilled with the show and they’d probably want us on for another 10 years – it’s down to Larry, he’s quite wealthy, so one of the reasons that our show is good is because he only continues from
year to year if he has a good story idea.

Is there going to be a sequel to Daddy Day Care?
As of right now, no – which is kind of strange because of all the money it made, but as of right now they wrote a script and offered me a lot of money which I said I’d be happy to do, but it’s a lot of reasons why it’s not going to happen.

Did you enjoy doing it with all the kids?
Yeah, the kids were great – if they bothered me at all I just went to my trailer. If my kids act up I have to deal with it but in the movie I had a trailer, I’d go in and lay down, let their parents worry about it. And Eddie was hysterical. It’s different to working with Larry David but at the same time there was a lot of laughing on set. I’d like to see Eddie push himself a bit more creatively, Larry’s always doing that, but Eddie Murphy is probably the funniest person I’ve ever met or worked with.

What do you enjoy about directing?
I can’t put it into words in terms of any level except that I’d say that of all the things I do that is writing, directing, stand-up, acting, I’m best at directing – whatever it is about directing comes naturally to me. It’s like a puzzle, figuring it out as you go along, trying to put the puzzle pieces together to make the best movie, I like that.

What’s your own background?
My background is that I was always the class clown. I went to Hebrew school, had a barmitzvah, used to go to Temple with all the old Jewish men and then have lox and bagels, married a Jewish girl, my boys will be Barmitzvahed, very proud and happy to be Jewish, and I think everything that I do is naturally Jewish. It’s like on Curb Your Enthusiasm, I don’t think we’re trying to be Jewish. But my favourite joke on the show that we’ve ever done is Jewish, there’s this episode where Larry – whose wife on the show (played by Cheryl Hines) is not Jewish – comes home and is horrified to find her and her parents putting up a Christmas tree in his living room, and he says ‘what’s this?’ and they said what did you get Cheryl for Christmas and he says ‘I got her my grandfather’s tallis’. I thought that’s the funniest joke we’ve ever had on the show.

Tell us a good Jewish joke?
There’s another one I learned from Shelley Berman, who plays Larry’s father on the show. A Frenchman, an Irishman and a Jew are walking through the desert. The Frenchman says ‘I’m so tired, I’m so thirsty, I must have a glass of wine.’ The Irishman says, ‘I’m so tired, I’m so thirsty, I must have a glass of beer’. The Jew says, ‘I’m so tired, I’m so thirsty – I must have diabetes’

Which comedians do you admire?
My favourite all-time comedian’s Richard Pryor. Then also Jack Benny, Shelley Berman, Woody Allen, Albert Brooks, George Carlin – I’m sure I’ve left a dozen out.

You’re executive producer on Curb Your Enthusiasm – what exactly does an executive producer do?
On movie, an executive producer helps with getting the money, putting the movie together etc – on television it’s purely a creative role. So every scene on Curb Your Enthusiasm, even when I’m not in the scene I’m watching and then I’ll go up to Larry and tell him what I think of the scene. And I have a say in casting.

When did you last set foot inside a synagogue?
Within the past couple of months. Also my children both went to Jewish nursery school so I was at the temple almost every day picking them up and dropping them off, but in the actual shul itself I’d say last two or three months. Here’s the thing – my temple doesn’t have this but I would love to go to one where they have a big lox platter after the service on a Saturday morning. And I love being around old Jews. My great-grandparents lived in London and I went and saw where they lived and went and saw the oldest synagogue in London.

Are you planning to bring the comedy act back to Britain?
There’s no plans but there’s enthusiasm, I would love to at some point. Maybe when the show gets a little more popular I will bring myself out there and there’ll be some interest.

Curb Your Enthusiasm Series 2 is released by HBO DVD on October 18. Series 3 is currently being screened on E4 on Thursday nights at 11.40pm.