Janeane Garofalo (born September 28, 1964) is an American stand-up
comedienne, actress, political activist, writer, and former co-host on Air
America Radio's The Majority Report. Despite her celebrity status, Janeane
continues to circulate regularly within New York City's local comedy and
performance art scene.
Janeane Garofalo is currently starring as Janis Gold on the Fox drama 24.
Janeane was born in Newton, New Jersey, the daughter of Joan, a secretary in the petrochemical industry who died of cancer when Janeane was 24, and Carmine Garofalo, a former executive at Exxon. Janeane is of Italian and Irish descent. She grew up in various places, including Ontario, California; Madison, New Jersey; and Katy, Texas where she graduated from James E. Taylor High School. While studying history at Providence College, Janeane entered a comedy talent search sponsored by the Showtime cable network, winning the title of "Funniest Person in Rhode Island." Her original gimmick was to read off her hand, which was not successful in subsequent performances. Dreaming of earning a slot on the writing staff of the TV show Late Night With David Letterman, she became a professional standup upon graduating from college with degrees in history and American studies. She struggled for a number of years, working briefly as a bike messenger in Boston. Janeane is quoted as having disliked life in Houston due to the humidity, heat, and emphasis on prettiness and sports in high school.
Janeane is a self-described pessimist: "I guess I just prefer to see the dark side of things. The glass is always half empty. And cracked. And I just cut my lip on it. And chipped a tooth."
She has dated comedian Ben Stiller, actor Craig Bierko, and actor Mitch Rouse. She married writer Rob Cohen in Las Vegas in 1992, but the relationship ended soon after.
Janeane officially began her career in stand-up comedy in the late 1980s during the pre-grunge era. Her appearance was often in line with late 1980s style: disheveled with thick black glasses and unkempt hair. Her comedy is often self-deprecating; she has made fun of popular culture and the pressures on women to conform to body image ideals promoted by the media.
Garofalo's comedy shows involve her and her notebook, which is filled with years' worth of article clippings and random observations she references for direct quotes during her act. Janeane has said that she does not tell jokes as much as make observations designed to get laughs. She was part of the alternative comedy scene in Los Angeles in the early 1990s, appearing at Un-Cabaret and other venues.
Janeane and comedian Marc Maron worked together during the creation and early days of liberal radio network Air America Radio.
In April 2004, she was selected as #99 on Comedy Central's list of the 100 greatest standups of all time. On July 15, 2006 she appeared as the "Not My Job" guest on NPR's news quiz program Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!. In June 2007 Janeane and Patton Oswalt toured together as part of their publicity tour for the movie Ratatouille.
Her television series debut was on the short-lived The Ben Stiller Show on Fox in 1992, on which she was a cast member alongside longtime friends Ben Stiller, Bob Odenkirk, Andy Dick, and David Cross (who was a writer on the show). A chance meeting on the set of that show led her to be offered the role of Paula on The Larry Sanders Show on HBO, earning her two Emmy Award nominations in 1996 and 1997.
After The Ben Stiller Show was cancelled, Janeane joined the cast of Saturday Night Live (SNL) for its 1994-95 season, as detailed in Tom Shales' book Live From New York: The Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live and mentioned in Jay Mohr's Gasping for Airtime: Two Years in the Trenches of Saturday Night Live. She left SNL in March 1995 (mid-season) after only six months, claiming that the material was weak and that a sexist attitude pervaded the show.
She is currently on the Fox Network television series 24 portraying FBI Special Agent Janis Gold who is part of the team investigating a terrorist crisis.
Janeane has done many special guest star roles, including a former girlfriend of Dave Foley's character in Newsradio. Two television pilots starring Garofalo, the 2003 ABC show Slice O'Life about a reporter consigned to sappy human interest stories appearing at the end of news broadcasts, and the 2005 NBC program All In, based on the life of poker star Annie Duke, were not picked up by their respective networks.
Throughout the 2005-2006 television season, Janeane appeared on The West Wing as Louise Thornton, a controversial campaign adviser to the fictional Democratic presidential nominee. Janeane participated in the series' first live episode, most of which was a debate televised live on the East Coast and then reshot live for the West. Garofalo's character can be seen walking backstage with her advisee before the start of each debate. In 2006, she provided the voice for the animated character "Bearded Clam" on Comedy Central's Freak Show alongside her friend David Cross. In 2007, she also wrote a dedication for the mini-book included in the six-DVD box-set of the 1994 cult series My So-Called Life.
Garofalo's best work is in Reality Bites but her first critically-acclaimed starring role in film was in 1996 in The Truth About Cats & Dogs, a variation on Cyrano de Bergerac which featured Uma Thurman in the lead role as a beautiful but simple model, while Janeane played a highly intelligent radio host. Initially an independent film, it became a studio movie when Thurman was signed on. The film was a modest hit, but Janeane detests it to this day, calling it anti-feminist (and admitting discomfort in the "ugly duckling" role).
Based on the success of this film, director Cameron Crowe then offered her the leading lady role in Jerry Maguire with Tom Cruise if she could lose weight; after trimming down, however, she learned that Renée Zellweger had won the part instead.
Before The Truth About Cats & Dogs, she was visible from television work and supporting roles in films such as Reality Bites, Bye Bye Love and Now and Then, and a leading role in I Shot a Man in Vegas. Janeane has had a variety of leading, supporting and cameo roles in Cop Land, Wet Hot American Summer, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, Dogma, The Cable Guy, Half-Baked, Mystery Men, The Wild, and Clay Pigeons.
Janeane played the leading role in the The MatchMaker, a 1997 film about the misadventures of a cynical American woman who reluctantly visits west Ireland. In 2002, she played Catherine Connolly in The Laramie Project. A puppet version of Janeane appeared (and was graphically killed off) in the movie Team America: World Police; the film's credits state that she did not authorize or endorse this screen appearance at the time.
Janeane had a segment in several episodes of the 2007 season of The Henry Rollins Show. These took place in her apartment, much in the same way Rollins' take place at his house. In 2007, she provided the voice of Colette, a chef in the Pixar/Disney feature film Ratatouille. Janeane affected a pronounced French accent in the role, highlighted by her character's soliloquy about being the only female chef in the all-male kitchen.
Janeane has been open and outspoken regarding her left-wing political views, appearing in the past with figures such as Ralph Nader (whom she supported in the 2000 election, but opposed in 2004) and Jello Biafra at various events.
She is an atheist and has participated in a radio interview by Freethought Radio, a show by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
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. She said that she was approached by groups such as MoveOn.org and Win Without War to go on TV, because these organizations say that the networks were not allowing antiwar voices to be heard. Janeane and the other celebrities who appeared at the time said they thought their fame could lend attention to that side of the debate. Her appearances on cable news prior to the war garnered her praise from the left and spots on the cover of Ms. and Venus magazines. Janeane has had frequent on-air political disputes with Bill O'Reilly, Brian Kilmeade, and Jonah Goldberg.
Prior to the 2003 Iraq War, she took a position on the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. For example, in an interview with Tony Snow on a February 23, 2003 episode of Fox News Sunday, Janeane said of Saddam Hussein, "Yes, I think lots of people are eager to obtain weapons of mass destruction. But there's no evidence that he (Hussein) has weapons of mass destruction. There's been no evidence of him testing nuclear weapons. We have people that are in our face with nuclear weapons. We've got Iran and North Korea. We've got a problem with Pakistan. You know, I don't know what to say about that. There's a whole lot of people that are going nuclear. And I think that Saddam Hussein is actually, with the evidence, the least able to use nuclear weapons and the least obvious offender in that area at this moment."
In March 2003, she took part in the Code Pink anti-war march in Washington, D.C. That fall, she served as emcee at several stops on the Tell Us the Truth tour, a political-themed concert series featuring Steve Earle, Billy Bragg, Tom Morello, and others. Throughout the year, Janeane also actively campaigned for Howard Dean.
In April 2009, Janeane criticized the Tea Party protest: "Let's be very honest about what this is about. This is not about bashing Democrats. It's not about taxes. They have no idea what the Boston Tea party was about. They don't know their history at all. It's about hating a black man in the White House."
In late March 2004, Janeane became a co-host for Air America Radio's new show The Majority Report alongside Sam Seder. Janeane once said getting on the radio was an early career goal. A program advertisement: "The battle to reclaim America from the forces of darkness continues with hosts Janeane Garofalo and Sam Seder." The early days of Air America Radio are chronicled in the documentary Left of the Dial, which includes a debate between Janeane and her conservative father Carmine, who was initially a regular guest on The Majority Report.
Janeane was criticized by some of her listeners for comments she made on her April 28, 2006 show supporting the Scientology-linked New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project, a controversial treatment for workers now suffering ailments from 9/11 clean-up efforts in New York City.
Her last broadcast as co-host of The Majority Report aired on July 21, 2006. Since then, she has made a few appearances on The Sam Seder Show. She called on October 4, 2006 to discuss the Mark Foley scandal and on October 31, 2006 she was in studio, where she portrayed Katherine Harris in a Halloween skit. Janeane has continued to portray Harris on the show in numerous appearances following the 2006 elections.
Janeane made a series of appearances in New York and Los Angeles with Henry Rollins and Air America personality Marc Maron in April 2007.
This Janeane Garofalo Biography Page is Copyright © 2004 - 2009 Chuck Ayoub