by: Caroline Westbrook - Last updated: 2004-10-19
Funnyman Jeff Garlin has shot to fame since starring as Jeff Greene, Larry Davids 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 (hes 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 SJs 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 wouldnt use anything stronger than that because hes got a family but hes a pretty together guy. Everything you see on screen is heightened for the purpose of comedy.
Whats the process for filming each episode?
Its sort of like you guys do it over there, everythings written before you start filming, which is a great way to do it thats why a lot of our shows stink, because theyre 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 dont really rehearse and we shoot it scene by scene. We say OK the cameras will be here and here, and then well stand here and here, and then we shoot however many takes it takes for us to get it. Then theres a long period of editing.
Have you ever found yourself lost for words while trying to improvise dialogue?
Yeah, Im sure I have, not to the point where with the next take I didnt have something but with me, its not all about the words as it is about what does the scene need. If Im in a scene with four or five other actors sometimes I choose not to say very much, so maybe theyre lost for words because theyre trying to find words.
Do you have plans to direct any more episodes?
Not any more episodes, Im 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 its much easier. Network television here, theres just no way. Network television is such a wasteland, I mean I dont know how it is over there but all this reality stuff, Im just sick of it to be honest with you. I wasnt 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 Im at home I have two little boys and I dont have much time to watch TV but I watched a lot of TV lately and its horrible. Its 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 thats great and the reason its 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 whos as great as Larry David, and if you dont have that person doing the outlines or the stories its 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 dont want to spoil anything, but were not reinventing the wheel, theres no soap opera aspects to the show, you know everything is tied in. With Season 3 we open a restaurant and thats 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 thats about it.
Is there a plan on how long the shows going to run for?
Its not really down to HBO theyre thrilled with the show and theyd probably want us on for another 10 years its down to Larry, hes 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 Id be happy to do, but its a lot of reasons why its 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, Id go in and lay down, let their parents worry about it. And Eddie was hysterical. Its different to working with Larry David but at the same time there was a lot of laughing on set. Id like to see Eddie push himself a bit more creatively, Larrys always doing that, but Eddie Murphy is probably the funniest person Ive ever met or worked with.
What do you enjoy about directing?
I cant put it into words in terms of any level except that Id say that of all the things I do that is writing, directing, stand-up, acting, Im best at directing whatever it is about directing comes naturally to me. Its 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.
Whats 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. Its like on Curb Your Enthusiasm, I dont think were trying to be Jewish. But my favourite joke on the show that weve ever done is Jewish, theres 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 whats this? and they said what did you get Cheryl for Christmas and he says I got her my grandfathers tallis. I thought thats the funniest joke weve ever had on the show.
Tell us a good Jewish joke?
Theres another one I learned from Shelley Berman, who plays Larrys father on the show. A Frenchman, an Irishman and a Jew are walking through the desert. The Frenchman says Im so tired, Im so thirsty, I must have a glass of wine. The Irishman says, Im so tired, Im so thirsty, I must have a glass of beer. The Jew says, Im so tired, Im so thirsty I must have diabetes
Which comedians do you admire?
My favourite all-time comedians Richard Pryor. Then also Jack Benny, Shelley Berman, Woody Allen, Albert Brooks, George Carlin Im sure Ive left a dozen out.
Youre 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 its purely a creative role. So every scene on Curb Your Enthusiasm, even when Im not in the scene Im watching and then Ill 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 Id say last two or three months. Heres the thing my temple doesnt 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?
Theres no plans but theres enthusiasm, I would love to at some point. Maybe when the show gets a little more popular I will bring myself out there and therell 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.