“Why am I telling you this?” Jeff Garlin asks me as I press him for details about the upcoming season of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
With some gentle prodding, he not only reveals that the 10th season is set to premiere Sunday, Jan. 19 on HBO but then also starts spilling details about the notoriously secretive show, including the fact that actor Vince Vaughn has a multi-episode arc—in which he does not play himself.
“It’s my favorite season,” Garlin says on this week’s episode of The Last Laugh podcast. “I know there are other seasons that people will like as much, if not more, but for me, the premise of [this] season is my favorite one we’ve ever done.”
The upcoming season is the first that Garlin, Larry David and the rest of the team has filmed since the death of comedian Bob Einstein, who played Marty Funkhouser on the show. “That was such a hit to all of us at Curb Your Enthusiasm, because he was our friend,” Garlin says. “And we rose above it, but boy that hurt.”
Garlin, who is also an executive producer, tells me that while Einstein obviously does not appear in the new season, his character will be mentioned. “By the way, no, we don’t talk about his character dying on the show,” he says. “Why do we need that on a comedy show? That doesn’t fit on our show. There is no melancholy on Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
Before Curb returns, Garlin has a much more personal project to share with the world. When I tell him how much I enjoyed his new stand-up special Our Man in Chicago, which starts streaming on Netflix today, he replies, “That thrills me because I’m so proud of it.” Typically, Garlin fully improvises his act, but when Netflix offered him a special, he spent three years “preparing a beginning, middle and end.”
The results are some of the most impressive stand-up he’s performed in his nearly four decade-long career—Garlin taped the special in his original hometown 37 years to the day after he first told jokes on stage. It includes long, hilarious stories about how he nearly got himself fired from the ABC sitcom The Goldbergs and the 2013 arrest that he admits led to the end of his marriage. We got into all of that, plus his take on comedy’s “woke culture” controversy and a lot more.
On daring ‘The Goldbergs’ to fire him
“I dared them to fire me. Look, I’m a pretty normal guy, but when I stand up from a couch, I tend to say, ‘Ugh, my vagina.’ Just because it’s fun and it’s silly. Or I might put two words together that don’t belong together like ‘grandma’ and ‘cock.’ But when I’m saying these types of things, there’s no context. They’re non-sequiturs. And they’re silly. And to me, they’re joyful and they keep my energy up, especially when I’m doing The Goldbergs when I have to do the same scene over and over that’s not exactly Paddy Chayevsky. It’s not classically written. It’s excellent, I love the writers, don’t get me wrong. So to keep myself present, I say silly things. Someone complained. They were uncomfortable with it. I don’t say anything disrespectful to any man or woman directly, in a sincere way. So I found myself in the Sony human resources [office] and they were really serious. And one of the executives said, ‘What if TMZ finds out about this?’ And I said, ‘Please let TMZ find out.’ That will be the first time I’ll ever do an interview with TMZ and I’ll tell them that it’s all true. Because we have to stop the silliness.”
On ‘Joker’ director Todd Phillips’ ‘woke culture’ comments
“Todd Phillips came out recently and said he can’t make comedies anymore. The only reason he couldn’t make comedies is that he doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing. I haven’t changed my stand-up comedy. The things that make me laugh still make me laugh. I watch old movies, they still make me laugh. Funny is still funny. This time has not made comedy not funny. There’s nothing that’s changed. Most people that go to the movies don’t have a political correctness agenda. And when one person speaks out in The Daily Beast, for example, good for you, that’s your opinion. By the way, there’s always been people wanting to spoil fun. Not everyone’s going to think I’m funny, not everyone’s going to dig what I do. I hope and pray that what I say isn’t ignorant.”
On turning his arrest for ‘felony vandalism’ into comedy
“The idea that you would need to put someone like me in jail, even for the 12 hours I was in jail, is insane. When I was in jail I was like, well, I’ve got a story out of this. The woman that I had the altercation with, she was very mad that there were no criminal charges. She had an agenda, but what she wanted was money. So I made a deal with her that I was happy with, it was what I thought [was fair]. She wanted an insane amount of money from me, but when I gave her the money, she had to sign a paper that I could do this in my stand-up. I was like, if I can’t do this in my stand-up, I’m not paying her a penny.”
How he came up with the idea that launched ‘Curb’
“I always thought it would be fascinating to do a special where it’s the making of the special and ultimately they didn’t do the special. So I sat down with Larry [David] at lunch one day and told him this idea and he loved it, thought about it, said let’s go pitch it. We pitched it to [then Chairman and CEO] Chris Albrecht at HBO with Ari Emanuel, the agent, the three of us went there. And Chris Albrecht’s response was, ‘How can I not do this?’ Which is just amazing. Then the first day of filming the hour[-long] special, Larry and I felt like we’d been comedy partners forever. There was a natural thing. So [Larry] said to me, at HBO that first day, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to do a series like this?’ And I of course said yes, but in my head I said, ‘Right, I’m gonna be on a show with Larry David on HBO.’ Little did I know my whole life would be changed.”