“The only thing I’m proud of is Larry Sanders. Everything else I take great issue with. My best experience was The Ben Stiller Show. My worst experience was Saturday Night Live. That’s well-documented. No need to go into that.” Janeane Garofalo
The razor sharp witted, post-Generation X actress/stand up comedian Janeane Garofalo is well-recognized to most from her days as the supremely cynical and acerbic character on “The Larry Sanders Show” (1992-97), wherein she received two Emmy nominations, and as Winona Ryder’s roommate, Vickie, in the Ben Stiller-helmed Reality Bites (1994). A film actress of Italian and Irish descent, Garofalo continued to make an impact with such notable performances in such films as Bye Bye, Love (1995), the romantic comedy hit The Truth About Cats & Dogs (1996, received a MTV Movie nomination), Ben Stiller’s The Cable Guy (1996), Larger Than Life (1996), Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997), the romantic comedy The MatchMaker (1997), Permanent Midnight (1998, rejoined with Stiller), Mystery Men, Dogma, and The Minus Man (all in 1999), among others. Her more recent and forthcoming projects include Steal This Movie (2000), The Independent (2000), Wet Hot American Summer (2001), The Search for John Gissing (2001), The Laramie Project (2002), Big Trouble (2002), Wonderland (2003), Manhood (2003), Ash Tuesday (2003), Jiminy Glick in La La Wood (2004), Duane Hopwood (2005), Nadine in Date Land (2005,TV), the animated The Wild (2006) and the musical Southland Tales (2006). She currently stars as media strategist Louise Thornton in the NBC drama “The West Wing” (2005- ).
Off screen, a best friend of comedian-actor Ben Stiller, Garofalo, who formed a production company called I Hate Myself Productions, co-wrote a book titled Feel This Book: An Essential Guide to Self-Empowerment, Spiritual Supremacy, and Sexual Satisfaction (1999), with Stiller. She is an activist who has been open and outspoken regarding her liberal political views, appeared in the past with figures such as Ralph Nader (whom she supported in 2000, but opposed in 2004) and Jello Biafra at events, while expressing feminist views in interviews throughout her career. She became more prominent as an activist when she voiced opposition to what became the 2003 Iraq War, appearing on CNN and Fox News to discuss it. On a more private note, the brown-haired beauty was once the wife of The Ben Stiller Show writer Rob Cohen, but they later split up. Her private life has also been involved with Ben Stiller (briefly dated in 1992), actor/comedian Bob Odenkirk (no longer together), actor Craig Bierko (together in 1999), actor/director Mitch Rouse (separated in 1997) and Pete Caldes, a drummer of the Boston rock band The Gravel Pit.
Rhode Island’s Funniest Person
Childhood and Family:
In Newton, New Jersey, Janeane Garofalo was born on September 28, 1964. Her father is Carmine Garofalo, an Italian-American who worked for Exxon, and her mother is Joan Garofalo, a former secretary of Irish-American descent who died of cancer. Janeane spent her childhood in Madison, New Jersey, along with her two older siblings until her family relocated to Houston, Texas, when she was in high school. This movement forced the young girl to switch schools and this led to trauma. She later cited the trauma of this move as the momentum for her sardonic tendencies.
After graduating from James E Taylor High School in Houston, Texas, Janeane attended Rhode Island’s Providence College, where she majored in history and American studies. Motivated by the writing of The David Letterman Show, Janeane, whose childhood ambition was to follow in her mother’s footstep to be a secretary, decided to become a comedian and hoped someday she would write for Letterman. While still a college student, she made her first attempt to fulfill her dreams by joining a comedy talent search and took home the title of the “Funniest Person in Rhode Island.” Upon earning her BA in 1986, Janeane began her professional career as a stand up comic and later added acting to her endeavors.
Garofalo was married to The Ben Stiller Show writer Rob Cohen in 1992, in a Las Vegas chapel (as a joke). The relationship later ended in separation, but the marriage has never been officially annulled.
The Larry Sanders Show
Deciding to pursue a career as a comedian after being inspired by the writing of The David Letterman Show, Janeane Garofalo began performing stand up material at “Open Mike” nights in East Coast nightclubs while an undergraduate in 1985. After winning the title of “Funniest Person in Rhode Island” and receiving her B.A. degree, she moved to Boston to become a professional standup comedian while also taking on such odd jobs as bike messenger, shoe saleswoman, waitress and temp secretary. She found little success for years until she met actor/comedian Ben Stiller, following her relocation to Los Angeles in late 1989.
Arriving in Hollywood in the late ‘90s, Garofalo made her first film appearance in Late for Dinner (1991), where she was cast as a counter girl. She was then seen in the small role of Jennifer in That’s What Women Want, in the next year. However, it was her first collaboration with Ben Stiller in 1992, when she was invited to join the cast of his short-lived Fox television sketch comedy program “The Ben Stiller Show,” that put Garofalo in the spotlight. The same year, she also began her five-year stint as Paula in Garry Shandling’s breakthrough HBO series “The Larry Sanders Show,” during which time she was nominated for an Emmy twice.
In 1994, after finishing the movie Suspicious (1994), her fruitful alliance with Stiller garnered Garofalo more attention when she was cast as Vickie, Winona Ryder’s roommate, in the Stiller-helmed Reality Bites. The role gave the stand up comic-turned-actress the much-despised tag of “Generation X comedian.” On the small screen, finding herself in demand, Garofalo briefly joined the regular cast members of the NBC popular “Saturday Night Live” (1994), but left the show before the conclusion of the season, reportedly due to the show’s increasing drop-off in quality. She then served as a special correspondent for Michael Moore’s “TV Nation” (1994) and took double duties in the stand-up showcase “Comedy Product” (1995), where she was a host and co-producer, before headlining her own “HBO Comedy Half-Hour” (1995).
Continuing her film career, Garofalo got her breakthrough role in 1995 when director Sam Weisman tapped her to play Randy Quaid’s “blind date-from-hell” in the comedy Bye Bye, Love. After a series of small roles in films like Coldblooded (1995), Now and Then (1995), Sweethearts (1996), and Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy (1996, had scenes deleted), she eventually landed her first major film role in Michael Lehmann’s romantic comedy hit The Truth About Cats & Dogs (1996), costarring opposite Uma Thurman. As a sexy radio talk show host named Abby, Garofalo was so impressive that she was garnered a MTV Movie nomination for Best Comedic Performance. Still in 1996, she made a memorable cameo performance as a serving wench at a medieval-themed restaurant in Stiller-directed The Cable Guy and was featured opposite Bill Murray in another high profile film, Larger Than Life.
Garofalo’s mounting star status was further confirmed in the following years with a number of film projects such as Paul Schrader’s Touch (1997), Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997), James Mangold’s Cop Land (1997), the romantic comedy The MatchMaker (1997), The Thin Pink Line (1998), Half Baked (1998), Thick as Thieves (1998), Permanent Midnight (1998, rejoined with Stiller), Bruce McCulloch’s comedy Dog Park (1998) and the dark comedy Clay Pigeons (1998, opposite Vince Vaughn and Joaquin Phoenix). She rounded out the end of decade with a supporting part in the ensemble 200 Cigarettes, a female lead as an eccentric action heroine called the Bowler in Mystery Men (which also featured Stiller), as well as outstanding turns in the satirical comedy Can’t Stop Dancing (opposite fellow comedienne Margaret Cho). She was also seen in Kevin Smith’s eagerly awaited Dogma and Hampton Fancher’s psychological thriller The Minus Man. The same year, she also voiced Sally on the WB series “Felicity.”
Entering the new millennium, her choices immediately grew less marketable and more adventurous and she portrayed yuppie Abbie Hoffman’s wife Anita, opposite Vincent D’Onofrio, in Steal This Movie (2000) and starred with buddy Ben Stiller’s father Jerry in the offbeat comedy The Independent (2000). She was featured as Minnie Mogul in The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (2000), while in the following year, she offered a nice portrayal of a romantically challenged camp counselor, fumbling into love with David Hyde Pierce, in the bumpy, but sometimes hilarious, retro summer camp comedy Wet Hot American Summer (2001) and starred as Linda Barnes, opposite writer-director Mike Binder and Alan Rickman, in Binder’s Woody Allen-esque comedy The Search for John Gissing (2001). She lent her voice for character Stith in Titan A.E. (2000) and was seen as a hotel employee in Housekeeping (2001). In 2002, Garofalo made three films. She had a small supporting role in the serious The Laramie Project (2002), was seen as a hairdresser in Martin & Orloff (2002) and had a stint in director Barry Sonenfeld’s Big Trouble (2002).
The actress seemed comfortable undertaking smaller and smaller roles. In 2003, she went on to assume another small role by playing murder victim Joy Miller in James Cox’s Wonderland, starring Val Kilmer and Kate Bosworth. Following a costarring role opposite Nestor Carbonell and John Ritter in Manhood (2003) and a starring role in the comedy drama Ash Tuesday (2003), she played bit parts in Nobody Knows Anything (2003) and the comedy Jiminy Glick in La La Wood, starring Martin Short (2004). In 2004, she also co-hosted Air America Radio’s new show “The Majority Report,” alongside Sam Seder.
2005 saw Garofalo star with David Schwimmer in the Sundance-screen drama Duane Hopwood, appear with Ewan McGregor, Ryan Gosling, Kate Burton and Naomi Watts in the thriller Stay and make the television film Nadine in Date Land. She also joined the cast of the 1999’s NBC drama “The West Wing” (2005- ), portraying Louise Thornton, a media strategist hired by Democratic presidential hopeful Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits). In 2006, she can add the animated film The Wild (2006, provided her voice for Bridget) and the upcoming Southland Tales (2006), a musical film which stars The Rock, Seann William Scott, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Mandy Moore, to her resume.
- Slamdunk Film Festival: Lifetime Achievement Award, 2001