Comedian, author and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” star Jeff Garlin visited The Sunset Strip’s prestigious literary boutique, Book Soup, earlier this month to discuss the re-release of his weight loss/“going green” chronicle, Curbing It. A longtime fan of Book Soup, Garlin hosts and moderates a monthly-ish book club dedicated to supporting the local landmark he so frequently patronizes.
Before diving into a lengthy Q&A session with fans and book club “enthusiasts,” The Comedy Store regular and Book Soup mascot spoke to TheSunsetStrip.com about his journey to a life of sustainable health and eco responsibility.
So, this is a new book, a re-write..?
It’s actually a re-release, but I added a little intro and added a last chapter. It’s a new cover, and a new title that I’m acquiescing to the demands of the publisher [laughter]. Although, I’m happy to write the intro and the extra chapter; and I’m fine with the title and the new cover. People seem to like it.
The book sort of marries the topics of weight loss and environmentalism/carbon footprint. The weight loss issue, being a personal one, is an understandable subject you would want to discuss, but “carbon footprint”? How does that factor in? Was there a particular event in your life, or way you’ve been affected, that made you want to tie that topic in as well?
No, it’s just being thoughtful — as being a human being, and a person who lives on planet Earth. But I’m sure my next car will be a big V8.
What I’ve learned in terms of the green thing…I drive an electric car, a Nissan Leaf, it’s nice if all of us do our best to recycle, and be conscious of turning off lights, get greener cars… but really the main problems that we have are caused by corporations. Really, they do all the crap that’s causing the problems that we have today.
It’s a little teeny thing when us individuals do things; but it’s good, it all helps. But the big problem is the corporations, and not just here in the United States, but around the world.
Places like China. Places where you can’t breathe. I mean, that’s not because someone is driving a car that’s wildly inappropriate. It’s the industrialization of the world that’s led to a less green world.
And how do the two topics integrate?
Well, they don’t really… Except for the fact that if I don’t eat a piece of meat, I’m being a lot greener because what goes into creating a piece of meat for me — between trucks transporting it, and the way that piece of meat is farmed…
That makes a distinct difference if I make the choice to not eat meat. It’s a good choice, but the more important thing is that I’m healthy; because if I’m not healthy it doesn’t matter whether I’m green or not. So there’s no comparison as to which is more important to me.
Jonah Hill has been in the news recently with his tremendous weight loss —
I wouldn’t call it “tremendous.” If you weigh 500, 600 pounds and you get down to 180, that would be “tremendous"! I thought Jonah Hill was a sweet, chubby kid, whose body is just sort of changing into more of a man’s body than a boy’s body. I wouldn’t use the word “tremendous.” That’s all I’m saying. It’s commendable yes, and a big bowl of good for him.
Fair enough… Well, with his slim down, there’s been sort of this talk of—are people going to find him less funny now that he’s not this big jovial kind of caricature.
Yeah, The New York Times wrote a piece on that about me… As far as he is concerned and as far as I am concerned — I’m not talking about opinion, I’m talking about fact — we’re both funny, no matter what. We’re both good actors, no matter what. Weight doesn’t matter for us. What weight adds to anyone is a level of vulnerability, but I think he naturally already has that, as do I.
I don’t see a problem there. The problem for someone who’s fat, and loses weight, and is no longer funny… Can you give me an example of that? Maybe Jim Belushi was funnier when he was fatter because there was that level of vulnerability? But in general, you’re either funny or you’re not. You’re either a good actor, or you’re not.
I’m sure before this most recent change in diet, you had made numerous other attempts at losing weight. What was the strangest, most bizarre diet that you remember attempting?
I never did ridiculous. I had a roommate once who only ate M&M’s. She thought that would be the way to lose weight, and I told her, “You’re going to get scurvy.” I’ve never even feared for someone getting scurvy.
So I never tried a bunch of different ridiculous diets. The reason that I have kept my weight off, and I will continue to lose weight — I’ll be it, slowly — is that I’ve just changed my life. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.
Tell us about your book club that you do here at Book Soup. How did that start?
Well actually, I was asked by Book Soup if I’d be interested in doing some sort of book club; that’s really how it started. It started off very early as people coming who hadn’t read the book and wanted to ask me questions about “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
Now, most of the people have read the book, and it’s a nice discussion. It’s fun… And the important thing is they sell a lot more books, not just to people who show up for the book club. I wish everyone showed up who bought a book. But for me the objective is to sell books at Book Soup. It’s very important as someone who lives in Los Angeles and loves this store that the store continues to sell books.
Lots of people, whether they come or not, have heard about the book club. I want people when they think of books, to think of Book Soup. That’s the purpose of it.
How do you go about making your book selections?
There’s really no science to it. Someone will suggest a book to me. I’ll know of a writer I like, a book I haven’t read of theirs… This next book club is a nonfiction choice. It’s been all fiction up until this point.
I’m a big fan of your indie film I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With. Any future film plans in the works?
Yes, I’m making a film in May called Dealing With Idiots. It’s already financed, and I’ll be going into pre-production in April… It’s about little league baseball parents.
After the success of your first film, was it a little easier finding financing this time?
No, it’s always hard. God is it hard! It shouldn’t be that hard. If you’re not making Batman or something in 3D, it’s hard to get your movie made. That’s across the board. I don’t care what budget it is: whether it’s 500,000 or 50 million…
A big movie, a “tent pole” movie, costs hundreds of millions of dollars to make. So that’s what they are interested in. They want the big payout; not anything smaller. The great time for filmmaking in this country was in the ’70s, when real personal movies were being made by the studios, but now it’s a difficult time.
I know you quit eating sugar, and have cut out a lot of things from your daily diet. What’s the one thing you miss eating the most? The one treat that you really crave?
I have to tell you — because it’s a sensation, more than just eating sugar — I miss ice cream. And I won’t eat sugar free ice cream, because that’s like drinking a non-alcoholic beer if you’re an alcoholic. It serves no purpose. It’s dangerous.
So I do miss that. There’s a lot of sensations to ice cream beyond just getting a sugar high. So, without a doubt, ice cream. And vanilla, ironically. Just plain vanilla. I miss it.
Anything else people should know about you, the book, the book club, upcoming projects?
I’d like people to know more in general. I think everyone should go back to school. I don’t want them to necessarily know more about me, but everyone should just know a little bit more… One more semester.
We should do a program in high schools, elementary school, colleges — depending on your level of education — where for free, you get one more semester. Anything you want to study for that semester. That’s all. And you have to do it. Like a mean, controlling 1984 world where you have to go for another semester.
Jeff Garlin is known to make regular appearances at The Comedy Store's "16 Headlining Comics" show. Check www.thecomedystore.com for updates and info, and follow @jGarlin to continuing learning things about Mr. Garlin.
–Brent X Mendoza