Jeff Garlin interview, Curb Your Enthusiasm

A chat with Jeff Garlin

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Reporter: I'm thrilled that the show's back, and I saw the first episode, and it's fantastic. But, on the other hand, it would've been, from an aesthetic standpoint, a great way to end the show.

Jeff Garlin: Well, we were going to end it then, and we chose not to. That was the end. And then he thought of this other thing, and then it's, like, "Fuck, that's great!" And it is.

Reporter: Is there an arc this season?

JG: There's a big arc. There's definitely an arc. Oh, yeah. Big time. That was a nice way to end, we thought, so then we got a new arc, and the arc is pretty great. There's some new characters, and surprises all the way through to the end.

Reporter: I know you're a producer on the show. What's your involvement?

JG: In the show? What are my responsibilities?

Reporter: Yeah!

JG: I'm heavily involved with the casting. When we shoot the show, after every take, I'm creatively involved in discussing what we should do or not do. And my job -- I have no ego -- my job is to get Larry David's vision on the screen. Not my vision. So I have no agenda, except what I think Larry wants.

Reporter: How did you guys become...

JG: I approached him with the idea for the show.

Reporter: Really?

JG: We were friends, we were comics, we were acquaintances.

Reporter: I never knew that.

JG: Well, nobody knows that, really. It's not really...

Reporter: Well, they will soon!

JG: Well, I don't know. It's not's been in the New York "Times," when they wrote about me. I approached him. I had directed Jon Stewart's unleavened -- I co-directed it -- and I co-directed Denis Leary's "Lock and Load." I directed what you saw on the stage; someone else directed the cameras. But while I was doing those, I thought it would be fascinating to do an HBO special about the making of an HBO special, where you never need to show the stand-up part, you just show the development. So I went to him and I approached him with that, and he said, "Let's do it." I was going to direct it; he's the one who insisted that I play his manager, and he's the one who insisted that I be the executive producer with him. So he's the one who told me that it's better than directing for television, being an executive producer.

Reporter: Why did you approach him about it? What was it about him that you felt that that would be a great idea?

JG: Maybe I'm smart and insightful.

Reporter: Maybe...

JG: 'Cause look where it ended up -- although I certainly never knew it was going to end up here! But, certainly, he was the guy to approach. He said to me -- we went to lunch, and he was asking me questions about stand-up, and I said, "If you ever want to do an HBO special, I have the perfect idea for you." 'Cause I had this idea, and it never went, like, "Oh, so-and-so should do it." So I'm at this restaurant in Beverly Hills with him, and he mentions that, and suddenly a light bulb goes on. "Here's the guy for that show!"

Reporter: Did you ever at any point think that you would be the guy for that show?

JG: Never. I never thought that I would be the guy. It was always...I was looking for somebody else. Because, truthfully, before we did that special, I was just about ready to give up acting. I was still doing stand-up, but -- still, to this day, if you told me today I could sign a piece of paper and work as a director of films for the rest of my career and I'll never, ever do stand-up or act again, I would sign that paper.

Reporter: Really? Why?

JG: Being a director is the most creative job there is.

Jeff Garlin interview, Curb Your Enthusiasm Reporter: But you have so much freedom in stand-up.

JG: Well, stand-up, yes. But you're, when I make a movie, I make the finished movie, the audience sees it, and they decide. When I'm doing stand-up, a lot of times I'm also at the mercy of how my audience is that night. But when I'm making a film, I'm not at the mercy of anyone except for my own ideas. Especially independent films. Studio films, you have a lot of other obstacles, like you would with network television.

Reporter: Can we jump back to "Curb" for just a second?

JG: Sure.

Reporter: What was it about were saying, "Okay, I'd get out of the business," but what was it about it that made you say, "This is it?"

JG: It wasn't the idea that I thought was it. It was, like...when Larry called me back after I'd approached him and said, "This was an idea that I have." Like I said, he asked me first about stand-up, and I said, "I've got the perfect idea for you, if you want to do an HBO special." And he said, "You know, HBO's been after me to do something, so let's do it." But once he said that to me, I said, "Great, I'm going to be a director. I'm not going to be in it." And he insisted that I play his manager. "You have to, you have to!" Well, all right. And he's the one who said that I had to be executive producer and not direct it.

Reporter: So your idea was, Larry David comes out of retirement, hasn't done stand-up in many years...

JG: Right. And we see the evolution of it. And my idea was originally, I'd say, maybe 70 percent stand-up and 30 percent behind the scenes.

Reporter: Now, did you know that that was how it was going to evolve, that, as the day got closer, he was going to...

JG: ...what, that he was going to drop out at the end?

Reporter: Yeah.

JG: Oh, yeah, we knew that going in. That was all part of the story.

Reporter: Now, you've haven't directed an episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

JG: I did. (Season 2's) "The Thong," when Larry sees his therapist in a thong.

Reporter: Oh, you directed that one?

JG: I directed that one.

Reporter: So, now, you really love what you do!

JG: I've always loved what I do! I do love what I do. But, yes, I really love what I do.

Reporter: As do I!

JG: Being an executive producer in television is very similar to being a director in film, creatively. I love collaborating. I'm not just the guy in charge; I love being part of something.

Reporter: I guess my point is, though, that you said, "I'd give up stand-up, I'd give up acting," but what is it about this particular acting?

JG: Well, I love doing "Curb Your Enthusiasm," but I gotta tell you: I'd be happy to sign off from that, too, even though I enjoy it. But it's different. It's collaborative on "Curb." And on my own movies, it's collaborative, with myself and everybody else. I like collaborating. But, generally, 98 percent of the acting work that I do outside of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and my movies, I'm just told to stand somewhere and say the lines, and that is...well, I might as well be an accountant.

Reporter: How much lines, how much ad-libbing?

JG: What, in "Curb?" It's all made up, every bit of dialogue.

Reporter: So you walk in, and "go?"

JG: Well, we don't just make up...we know the scenes. Larry writes...usually, a sitcom script is, like, 35 pages. Ours are seven pages. So we fill in the rest. So all the dialogue is, yes, made up.

Reporter: And how unpredictable or predictable is Larry? How well do you know what he's going to say?

JG: Well, we're not predictable with each other. We know what has to happen in the scene, but we're...we challenge each other to do it differently and surprise each other. I love surprising him. I try and do it different every take. But we're pretty comfortable with each other.

Reporter: You have influenced a lot of television shows now, in terms of everybody trying to do an improv-like show.

JG: Yes. Or even a show like "The Office," where they try to have an improv-like feel to it.

Reporter: Well, yeah, but I get the feeling that that's probably scripted, but...

JG: No, it's scripted! But I'm saying style-wise, moreso.

Jeff Garlin interview, Curb Your Enthusiasm

Reporter: ...but with all these new shows being pitched...

JG: ...but you know they're not going to be good! What's the difference? Not me, not other people. The difference is Larry David. When Larry David's writing your outlines, you know you're headed down a good path.

Reporter: But that the secret? To have a great outline?

JG: Larry David is the secret to having a great outline. I will say that 100 percent.

Reporter: The scene at the opening of Bobo's (in the Season 3 finale), when everyone starts screaming obscenities, how scripted was that?

JG: Oh, you mean the finale in the restaurant? That's all improvised. Everyone's things were improvised...although Larry actually said to me, "One less 'jism' and one less 'grandma.' Because I yelled "grandma," "cock" and "jism" - a mixture of things - and he was very specific. He came over and actually said, "Uh, one less 'jism,' and...maybe one less 'grandma.'"

Reporter: I gotta ask you: what was it like working with Eddie Murphy?

JG: He was great to work with!

Reporter: He was?

JG: Here's the best way I can say it, just in terms of how funny he is: he's funnier than anyone who I've ever worked with, including Larry. Anyone I've ever worked with. Here's how funny he is. I think I'm funny, okay? Something would happen on the set, I would think of -- I'm quick, and I would think of something funny to say -- but before I could say what I was going to say, he already said something about what was happening. There wasn't one time where what I was going to say was funnier than what he said. Not once. Every single time. It blew me away. I didn't think anybody could be that funny.

Reporter: Here's the thing for me as a fan, though. I mean, when I was growing up, I grew up when he was the "Saturday Night Live" guy, and I thought, this is going to be the most important comedian of the next 50 years.

JG: I never thought that.

Reporter: Well, I did.

JG: OK, anyway, but what I'm saying is, yes, he was really important, but...

Reporter: ...but I feel like sometimes it seems like that promise was never fulfilled.

JG: No, it was completely fulfilled! There's "48 Hours," "Trading Places." When he was young, he could be...

Reporter: ...but it seemed like he lost it.

JG: ...but that was all about his age, and who he was. His problem came after that, when he wanted to be Cary Grant. And, then, after that, he did the smart thing.

Reporter: And he wanted to be Michael Jackson, when he released that album.

JG: Well, I don't know about that. But he wanted to be a huge star. But that was also part of the early "Trading Places" Eddie.

Reporter: But when was the last time you saw that kind of talent?

JG: There's a guy on our show this year who is that special and that funny. Chris Rock and I got were just talking, and he's the funniest comedian in the country: J.B. Smoove. He's in the second episode through the ninth episode, he's in every episode, he's a new character. Amazing.

Reporter: I've never heard of him!

JG: I know. But you will!

Reporter: What about him? Why do you like him?

JG: Because he's really crazy funny! Like, gut-grabbing funny. Half the projects that I've got going now are involving him, because I think he's the next thing.

Reporter: What is it about him that makes him stick out?

JG: What is it about Eddie Murphy that makes him stand out? It's the same type of thing. And Richard Pryor. You just go, "Wow, that guy is funny, and, oh, my God, does he have great energy!" It's amazing.

Reporter: If you had to guess now, do you think you'll go for another season after this?

JG: You know what? I have no idea. I'm being totally honest. I have no idea.

Reporter: Have you finished this season?

JG: Yes, we're done. A couple of the re-shoots here and there, but, yeah, we're done.

Reporter: So as to another season, it's totally up to Larry, then?

JG: 100 percent. Well, you could say it's up to the network, but they'd be more than happy to have more.

Jeff Garlin interview, Curb Your Enthusiasm Reporter: How cool was Shelley Berman to work with?

JG: How cool was Shelley Berman to work with? Shelley Berman's great! It's an honor to work with him! People don't know who he was. I try explaining it to them. I say, "You know when Adam Sandler was at his top?" Not in terms of talent, but in terms of popularity. That's how big he was. He was the first comedian to win a Grammy, the first to play Carnegie Hall, he was the first to have a gold album. He was the biggest.

Reporter: And then he goes across the street, over to "Boston Legal" and plays on there!

JG: Well, "Curb" has certainly revitalized his career.

Reporter: And he's still got it!

JG: He's still got it, yes. The only way you lose it is if you're about the money. Whenever you're about the money, that's when you stop being funny.

And, now, a quick flashback to the panel, when yours truly asked this question:

Reporter: Jeff, if there hadn't been a sixth season of "Curb," would we be seeing you in 'Daddy Day Camp?"

Jeff Garlin: No. They didn't offer me enough money. And to be in a sequel to "Daddy Day Care," you need to be paid a lot of money. They offered the job to me, and I laughed. It was just not enough money. I'm very pragmatic, you know. It's, like, you'll do certain things, "Curb" is the greatest job I'll ever have because I'm being paid well, and I'm doing, I'm involved with good work. I made a movie that's coming out in September and that movie, called "I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With," I got paid by taking out a second mortgage to pay my bills. That's how much I got paid. So if I'm going to do something like "Daddy Day Camp," I must get paid a great deal of money, because there's no joy in that.

Reporter: You were incredibly honest today about why you didn't do the sequel to "Daddy Day Care."

JG: The only the way, it was six weeks worth of work, and, initially, they offered me less than I made on the original, and I said, "No!" And then they came back and they had a decent offer. "No!" Then the father of the producer, Tom Sherak, who used to be the head of the studio, he called me personally and said, "Would you do this for me? Let's talk, you and I, no agents." And we came to an agreement, and then he called up the studio, and the studio said, "No." So why would I...what reason would I have? I have a family, I like earning money, and I like working a short time on something and making a lot of money. And, by the way, like I just said, when it's about the money, it's not funny...and there's no way that movie's funny. There's no way I'm gonna make it funnier. It's just not good.

Reporter: What was funny, though, about your answer is that it wasn't the politic answer.

JG: I will never give the politic answer. I'll always be honest, as long as I don't hurt people's feelings. I won't stop. (Says goodbye to a woman who, as she walks up, observes that he's got the biggest crowd.) That's my publicist. She cringes sometimes. She really does cringe a lot, because I tell the truth.

Reporter: Keep it up! So what's this movie, "I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With?"

JG: It's myself, Sarah Silverman and Bonnie Hunt. IFC is releasing it as part of their "First Take" thing, which means that it opens Sept. 5 in New York and, at the same time, it's available on Pay Per View on TV. And then it opens in L.A. the week after,'s a platform thing.

Reporter: What do you think about this platforming thing?

JG: I think it's great!

Reporter: I mean, the more people that see it, the better, right?

JG: Well, yes, but, like someone asked, "Are you going to have a premiere?" I could've had a premiere, but I don't want a premiere. I like coming in under the radar. When you're making a small movie, you don't want it opening, if my movie opened in, say, 200 theaters, which would be a lot for my kind of movie, I'd be a wreck. But one theater? It's gonna sell out in New York. And then it comes to L.A, it's gonna sell out. And I'm showing up opening weekend in both places. It's gonna do great! I'm doing Letterman, I'm doing everything. So it's gonna be great. And, this way, it'll come out slowly and build word of mouth, and...y'know, I'm happy if anyone sees it! I'm happy it's getting released! But independent movies...platforming is a good way, as opposed to putting it in 200 theaters and having it pulled the next week. That's the alternative.

Reporter: And they're showing it on IFC how soon?

JG: They aren't showing it on IFC. They're showing it on Pay Per View on opening night.

Reporter: And releasing it on DVD?

JG: Well, I wouldn't have done...when I first heard their offer, and I heard a certain day and date, I thought they were going to be releasing it on DVD that day, too, and I told my agent, "No. No way." Because I don't believe in that. When it's on DVD at the same time, I believe that it hurts DVD sales and it hurts people attending the movie. But if it's on Pay Per View, if they like it, they'll buy the DVD, y'know? Or they might see it in the theater. Or if you live in Oklahoma, and there's no art house theater, you can still see it. So I'm all for it, and I'm excited about it.