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Janeane Garofalo - Biography

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Photo of comedian Janeane Garofalo Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

Born:

September 28, 1964

Quick Janeane Garofalo Facts:

  • Garofalo was born in Newton, New Jersey.
  • She began doing stand-up comedy around New England during the late 1980s.
  • In 1992, Garofalo joined the cast of the short-lived FOX sketch show The Ben Stiller Show.
  • She was a cast member on Saturday Night Live during the 1994-95 season, but left due to differences with the producers.
  • Garofalo is an outspoken political comedian. In 2004, she began hosting her own radio show, The Majority Report, on the left-wing Air America Radio.
  • She has acted in over 50 films and had guest appearances on dozens of TV shows.
  • Her second stand-up special, If You Willl, premiered in 2010.

Janeane Garofalo Overview:

Janeane Garofalo's persona is so well-known that it's become a "type": the smart, diminutive, pessimistic girl with a sarcastic wit and self-deprecating sense of humor. A veteran of the "alternative" comedy scene, Garofalo's style is loose and unscripted; she often relies on notes scribbled in a notebook during her sets. She's also an outspoken political comedian, typically progressive and left-leaning. Her impact on stand-up -- particularly for female comics, for whom she's opened doors for new voices and styles -- has been significant and lasting...though she would be the last to admit it.

In the Beginning:

Jane Ann Garofalo was born in New Jersey in 1964. Growing up all over the country -- including New Jersey, California, and Texas, where she attended high school -- Garofalo eventually settled out East. While attending Providence College, she began doing stand-up comedy and won a talent search that declared her the "Funniest Person in Rhode Island." Throughout the late 1980s and early '90s, Garofalo continued to perform stand-up around Boston, New York and New England before moving out to Los Angeles and becoming a part of the alternative comedy scene at clubs like Un-Cabaret.

Janeane Garofalo on TV:

In 1992, Garofalo joined the cast of the FOX sketch comedy series The Ben Stiller Show. It was canceled after one season, but Ben Stiller cast Garofalo in his directorial debut, the Gen-X comedy Reality Bites. The movie was a modest hit, and Garofalo's brand of irony and self-deprecation won audiences over. She was quickly becoming a household name.

When that show ended, Garofalo joined the cast of Garry Shandling's HBO series The Larry Sanders Show, playing Shandling's assistant, Paula. She received two Emmy nominations for her role, which she played until 1997.

In 1994, Garofalo joined the cast of a newly-relaunched Saturday Night Live. Her experience there, however, was mostly unpleasant; she was unhappy with the environment -- which she called sexist -- and felt the writing was poor. For the most part, Garofalo's coworkers returned the ill feelings, and she was voluntarily released from the sketch show after only six months.

In 1995, she taped her first stand-up special for HBO, the HBO Comedy Half-Hour.

Janeane Garofalo in Movies:

Though she continued to do stand-up, Garofalo began acting in movies and TV a lot more over the next few years. In 1996, she got her first leading role in the romantic comedy The Truth About Cats and Dogs. She subsequently had lead and supporting roles in films like The MatchMaker (1997), Cop Land (1997), Clay Pigeons (1998), Mystery Men (1999), Dog Park (2000), Wet Hot American Summer (2001) and others. In total, Garofalo has over 50 film credits to her name.

Garofalo also popped up as a guest star on a number of TV series, including Seinfeld, NewsRadio, The King of Queens, The Sopranos (playing herself and others. In 2005, she began a recurring role on the political drama The West Wing, and in 2008 she joined the cast of 24 as an FBI agent.

In 1997, Garofalo taped her very own hour-long stand-up special for HBO. In it, she covered topics ranging from politics to her film work and new found celebrity to owning dogs.

Air America:

As years passed, Garofalo got more and more outspoken about politics, both in her act and as a frequent guest on talk shows like Politically Incorrect, Real Time with Bill Maher and Dennis Miller Live. In 2003, she created some controversy as a critic of the Iraq war; one year later in 2004, she became the co-host of her own political talk show, The Majority Report, on the left-wing Air America radio network. She left the show in 2006, citing her busy schedule and some tension with her co-host, Sam Seder.

In 2007, Garofalo voiced the female lead in the animated film Ratatouille, alongside fellow comic Patton Oswalt.

Additonal Janeane Garofalo Facts:

  • In 2000, Garofalo co-authored Feel This Book, a parody of self-help books, with Ben Stiller.
  • She was named number 99 on Comedy Central's list of the 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time in 2004.
  • In 2010, her second hour-long stand-up special, If You Will, debuted on the Epix cable network. It was her first since 1997.
  • Garofalo admitted during a 2012 reunion of The Ben Stiller Show that she drunkenly married writer Rob Cohen during the show's run and didn't realize the marriage was legal. They were married without knowing it for 20 years.

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