Janeane Garofalo is a woman of contradictions: When we last saw the former Air America talk-show host, she was on 24 — the show that likes to debate torture, but always comes down on the side of testicle-zapping. And for the next month, the comedian who proudly admits “I am not a person that is particularly tethered to fashion” is appearing in Nora and Delia Ephron’s clothing-as-Proust’s-madeline play, Love, Loss, and What I Wore at New York’s Westside Theater. But both jobs attracted her for one very important reason: They were offered to her. We talked to the unfailingly honest comedian about Spanx, Botox, and the trouble a 45-year-old former Gen-X symbol can have finding work.
Why did you want to do this play?
Uh, they asked me. Which I was shocked by, and thrilled, and I wanted to do a play, and also, I wanted a job. Because, uh, as a lot of people know, unemployment is depressing. So I was thrilled to give it a shot. I was just very flattered that Nora and Delia asked me to do it.
Has unemployment been a problem lately?
Well, for the country, yes. And for me specifically, yeah. It’s been hard in entertainment as a 45-year-old woman to find jobs. They get fewer and far between if you’re older, unless you’re one of the few lucky ones who work constantly, like Meryl Streep. Now, having said that, I’m not comparing myself to Meryl Streep. She’s a national treasure. But, I think most women as they age would tell you that it’s harder and harder to find work.
What do you think you have to do to get noticed at 45?
I think that it would take someone to give you an opportunity, and then it’s incumbent upon you to do a great job. There’s a saying, “You’re only one part away from getting back into the swing of things.” I’m just hoping I can pull a Jean Smart in Garden State. Jean Smart played the mom in Garden State and then it was like the floodgates opened, and she was back in business again. You just need an opportunity and then you yourself have to do a good job, and then you hope that people go, “Oh yeah, I forgot about her.”
Is there a male actor whose looks have gone to shit that just makes you angry to see he still has a career?
Oh, there’s plenty of them, but I wouldn’t consider it going to shit, you know what I mean? Men are allowed to age. Men are allowed to gain weight. Men are allowed to be quirky looking.
And all aging actresses, you can see there’s no movement in the forehead.
Right. You know, I’ve had Botox. The woman who does it is very good, obviously. Very conservative. Yeah, I’ve had Botox here [between eyebrows], smoker’s wrinkles. It didn’t work on the crow’s feet. It just didn’t take.
You still do it?
I do it twice a year. So I’m not going to be one of those people that’s like, “Oh, isn’t it awful. You see no movement.” Yes, I do do that and, you know, whatevs. I do it and, I don’t know, sometimes it’s looked awful. Sometimes it looks fine.
You’ve had bad Botox?
Yeah, sometimes when I’ve done it, it was not good. It looked like I was surprised all the time. Or in awe of something. That was bad. … One of the times I did it, the eyebrows were just way up, and that was a bummer. I looked like shit. But I will continue to do it, and if there’s ever a process that somebody invents where there’s a laser-resurfacing in an office visit with no downtime, I’ll fucking do it. I will, I will do it. Pardon my swearing.
So was there anything about this play that spoke to you about clothes?
Honestly, no. I am not a person that is particularly tethered to fashion, which I think is obvious to anyone who’s seen me. I don’t have a love of shoes. I don’t care about labels. … So to be quite honest, there isn’t a reaction I have to the material that makes me say, “Oh, that’s me.” The only thing I actually do have a tethering to is Spanx. I’m committed to them, I love them, and I wear them every goddamn day. Summer, winter, fall. I’ve got them on now.
You don’t need it. You’re really skinny.
See, that’s the illusion, isn’t it? If I did not have my Spanx on, it’d be like a bunch of water balloons, or a melting candle.
You’ve had a lot of contradiction in your career: You’re liberal, but you did 24. You’ve said actresses don’t need to lose weight, but then you lost a ton of weight.
No, I didn’t say actresses don’t need to lose weight. Obviously, they shouldn’t have to. I still stand behind that. They shouldn’t have to, but I sold out. Total sellout, lost weight. Quitting drinking does contribute to that because apparently I was drinking about 22 pounds of vodka. But yeah, I fucking sold out. That is absolutely a fact. I was heavier and it really gets you almost nowhere, you realize quickly. I mean, I got very lucky in the nineties. Very lucky. But I was usually cast as a person wherein they’re so unattractive, that it defines them. And you get sick of it after a while, and then you realize that it’s just easier. And you don’t even have to be really heavy to be characterized as an overweight actor. So yeah, I sold out, lost weight. And in regards to me being liberal: Yeah, I’m a proud liberal, but 24 is a show where I’m not playing myself. If I was in a movie where I played an assassin, it would not mean that I was an assassin or advocating assassination. There were almost no right-wingers on 24 except for the show’s creator [Joel Surnow]. But nobody’s playing themselves, you know? And the show wasn’t about right-wingers, it just had a right-wing tilt.
What’s your dream role?
I’d love to be on 30 Rock. I’d be willing to be craft service on 30 Rock. I’d love to do a Wes Anderson film. I would love to be in a Noah Baumbach film [or a] Kathryn Bigelow film. Anything. I don’t know. It sounds so cloying and begging, but anything good. It doesn’t matter who it’s by, or whatever it is, it’s just nice to have (a) a job, and (b) a part you feel really creatively fulfilled by. Oh, I also love the show Medium. And then there are a ton of British shows I love. I love BBC and IFC. My dream would be to be on a show that shoots in New York, because I live here, and then I could walk to work.
I’m actually going to England in March to film Ideal, [a] British show I love. Steve Coogan’s company produces it. I was watching that show on IFC, thinking about how much I’d like to do it, and just coincidentally, I got a call asking if I was interested in doing it. … I would do anything over there, Ireland, Scotland. I’m a sucker for any guy with an accent with any kind. Then I’m going to Australia for stand-up. And coming back to America and getting a job, with your help.