“To me, ice cream is proof of God,” Jeff Garlin says a little more than halfway through his excellent new Netflix stand-up special Our Man in Chicago.
“If you don’t believe in God and you love ice cream, I’d re-examine things,” the comedian elaborates on this week’s episode The Last Laugh podcast. “Ice cream is proof of, at worst, that there’s some higher power in the universe. That and sex. And the birth of the children. That moment is the most miraculous that there is. But it’s not one where you go, ‘Oh, I want to have the birth of my child again this week.’ But you do want to have sex and you do want to have ice cream.”
Garlin describes himself as a sugar “addict” who has struggled with weight issues for his entire life. Just a few years ago, he finally went cold turkey on sweets. “I’ve lost over 70 pounds, very slowly, over about five years,” he tells me. “I’m still losing.”
Since there is so much material about his weight in the new special, I’m curious what he made of the big “fat-shaming” debate that played out between late-night hosts Bill Maher and James Corden earlier this fall. Garlin admits he didn’t hear a thing about it. “But please tell me,” he says. “I love when guys like that fight.”
Here’s the quick recap: Maher used his “New Rules” segment to argue in favor of “shaming” people into eating better and losing weight. “Fat-shaming doesn’t need to end, it needs to make a comeback,” Maher told viewers. “Some amount of shame is good. We shamed people out of smoking and into wearing seat belts. We shamed them out of littering and most of them out of racism. Shame is the first step in reform.”
A few days later, Corden responded with a mostly serious, sometimes emotional monologue, telling Maher, “Fat-shaming never went anywhere. Ask literally any fat person, we are reminded of it all the time.” After taking a shot at the HBO host, who he joked is lucky to “have a sense of superiority that burns 35,000 calories a day,” Corden added, “Let’s be honest, fat-shaming is just bullying. And bullying just makes the problem worse.”
“You didn’t hear about this at all?” I ask Garlin.
“No, but I have an opinion on it,” he replies. “My opinion is this: James Corden needed material. Bill Maher did too. But James Corden should have more of a sense of himself and go, ‘Oh, that’s his opinion.’ Because that’s really what this all comes down to in comedy: That’s your opinion, that’s your style of comedy. You work your side of the street, I’ll work mine.”
“James Corden wanted to be part of the conversation, and so I’m sure it was emotional,” he continues. “I’m sure James Corden’s been fat-shamed. I’ve been fat-shamed before. Anyone shamed for anything, besides a man bun, is inappropriate.” He takes a brief detour to tell a story about how he “inadvertently” shamed an acquaintance into shaving off their man bun, adding, “He’s a better man because of it.”
“In terms of fat, my take on fat is, if you’re comfortable, you’re good,” Garlin says. “I don’t care how fat you are. If you’re really fat and you love it, enjoy.” Garlin then lets out a heavy sigh as he says, “Let me tell you something about fat people—most fat people—who are not comfortable in their skin, they’re living with shame, their own shame, everyday.”
“So to me, I say to Bill Maher, pick more noble targets,” he says. “And I say to James Corden, stay in your lane. Let him do his stupid shit.”
Ultimately, Garlin doesn’t think Corden should have stooped to Maher’s level. “Here’s the thing about James Corden: People dig him because he’s full of joy and positivity,” he says. “Keep it up, man, because that’s what people want from you.”
“So I say, ‘Shame on you, James Corden.’ And not for being fat,” Garlin concludes with a laugh. “And Bill Maher, you can do better.”