Jeff Garlin of “Curb You Enthusiasm” fame was in Chicago to promote his new film, “Dealin’ with Idiots.” We met at the James Hotel on July 9, 2013. He’s witty and was lots of fun to talk with. We chatted about his film, new projects, and many Hollywood stars: Larry David, Mel Brooks, Richard Kind, Roger Ebert and Lena Dunham to name a few.
Sarah Knight Adamson: I’m speaking with comedian Jeff Garlin who wrote, directed, and stars in the new film, “Dealin’ With Idiots.” Welcome to Hollywood 360 radio network. It’s so great to have you on the show.
Jeff Garlin: Thank you. As a matter of fact as I look around, all I see is Hollywood.
Jeff: Every direction.
Sarah: There you go! (Laughs)
Jeff: Yes, it’s an appropriate show.
Sarah: The film is based on your family’s experience with Little League baseball. Could you tell me is it the combination of both of your sons or just one?
Jeff: Only one. My older one played. The younger one didn’t. But it’s influenced by, but it’s not based on. Does that make sense?
Sarah: Yes it does. It absolutely does. I have two sons and a daughter, that both played baseball and softball, and oh, my goodness, I encountered so many of those parents; the stereotypical parents that you have in your film as well as the wacky coaches. Can you tell our listeners about any stand out personalities that you’d like to talk about in the film?
Jeff: Well, the film is just loaded with characters. Idiots! Richard Kind’s character I’m very fond of, who is a guy who just goes along with everything even if it’s wildly inappropriate. Bob Odenkirk is the coach who literally it’s all about him, not about the kids. Fred Willard is a dad whose son is nine years old, and he’s thinking about professional baseball for him already. The movie’s filled with these great characters.
Sarah: Oh yes. I could especially identify with the wacky snack-mom. Oh my Gosh!
Jeff: Oh Jami Gertz, yes.
Sarah: With the snack binder and photos!
Jeff: When I was a kid there was no snack-mom. If you were a kid playing and you wanted a snack, you went to the snack bar.
Jeff: Somewhere along the way each week there’s a snack-mom, and this one’s responsible for this. Crazy stuff.
Sarah: Exactly. We also as parents had to sign up and work the snack bar.
Jeff: Yes that was part of the thing. Also like with soccer, you have to referee. I mean it’s all just a bunch of bull!
Sarah: I really enjoyed your directing style. The scenes that sort of fade away, sort of after the joke, but the character’s still just kind of standing there, and it’s all kind of quiet. You know, it just gives it a sense of reality and actually, awkwardness, for lack of a better word.
Jeff: Awkwardness is always funny.
Sarah: It’s incredible.
Jeff: I love the quiet subtle moments.
Sarah: Yes. That makes it so real.
Jeff: It does add to it. Thank you.
Sarah: You did mention Richard Kind who we’ve interviewed before; he’s a wonderful guy. What does he bring to something like this?
Jeff: Besides great skill, he brings his unique point of view. When you do an improvised movie, you’re bringing these people in for not only their skills, but for their point of view. He gets my humor and he knows kind of what I want, but he still surprises me all through the filming.
Sarah: Oh that’s wonderful. That is so great. What do you enjoy most about directing?
Jeff: I like telling a story, but there isn’t much of a story in this movie, or anything I do, but it is sort of composing a feeling, composing just the vibe. And… the movie is on my shoulders, and I dig that.
Sarah: You know, Roger Ebert really enjoyed your last movie, “I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With.” What does a positive review like that do you for you?
Jeff: I have to say a couple of things. Number one, I won’t be reading reviews this time out. I didn’t get much out of it except for the adventure of it all before. But Roger Ebert said it was a ‘must see three star movie’.
Sarah: He did! He did!
Jeff: And that I thought was really cool. I had dinner with him one night; I told him that it meant a lot to me, it really did. I don’t know if it was a must see but it was a three star movie it wasn’t a four star movie, he wasn’t wrong.
Sarah: I have to tell you, it’s number one now in my Netflix queue.
Sarah: You were on the show “Curve Your Enthusiasm,” from the beginning in 2000 to 2011, reflecting back on those times, how do you feel about that show and Larry David?
Jeff: Well I’m crazy fond of Larry David. He’s one of my best pals in the world, and I’ve learned so much from him. I mean what an honor to have spent all these years with him. But the thing that strikes me is that when we were first doing the show, we had no idea anybody would watch. I was surprised by the success of the show because we’ve always done what we think is funny, never once taking the audience into consideration, certainly with our topics. So, I’m shocked by the success.
Sarah: I remember one of the first shows. I believe it was in a movie theatre. There’s a scene in one I believe.
Jeff: Well that’s the first episode! “The Pants Tent” is the name of the first episode.
Sarah: So I’ve really watched it from the beginning! I loved the show, and I loved you on the show. I just want to ask about one of your guests, Mel Brooks.
Jeff: Mel Brooks yes.
Sarah: How is he to work with? Did he participate in your improv that you and Larry do?
Jeff: Yeah. He completely improvised he was great.
Sarah: Oh did he? I love that.
Jeff: There was never a time when he was on set that I wasn’t amazed that he was there. Like, “There’s Mel Brooks!” And all the time I was so excited, and when I was in scenes with him it’s like, “Are you kidding me, I’m in a scene with Mel Brooks?” It made me so happy.
Sarah: Oh that’s wonderful. Thank you for that. Right now you seem to be one of the hardest working guys in Hollywood. I mean movies, standup, your new live podcast show By the Way, in which you interview people.
Jeff: Yeah. I have conversations with different people in front of an audience.
Sarah: Yes at the Largo Theater. I did listen to your podcast with Lena Dunham.
Jeff: Oh, it’s one of my favorites!
Sarah: She’s one of my favorites! I laughed for over an hour, seriously.
Jeff: Oh thank you.
Sarah: I was cracking up so much. Can you talk about Lena for a little bit?
Jeff: Well Lena is truly one of those unique talents that comes around once in, I want to say Blue Moon, generation, whatever you want to say. I’m amazed by her. I just adore her. I respect her and am enthralled by her. There are some episodes of “Girls” where I just can’t believe how great they are. She’s amazing.
Sarah: I agree. I saw her film “Tiny Furniture,” at Roger Ebert’s Film Festival. She stuck out in the film. She stuck out in my mind. I’m like, hmm… that girl’s going places.
Sarah: Is there anything else you’d like to say about “Dealing with Idiots?”
Jeff: I just hope people dig it. That’s all. I have another movie coming out that I helped put together. I’m the Executive Producer. It’s called “Finding Vivian Maier.” It’s about a woman who was a nanny who is now one of the most renowned street photographers in the world. She’s no longer alive. It’s a wonderful documentary.
Sarah: That sounds great too. I want to thank you so much for speaking with us on Hollywood 360 Radio Network, and now I’d like to take you back to the host of our show, Carl Amari.
Jeff: Thank you.
Sarah Knight Adamson© July 11, 2013