Janeane Garofalo is known for biting standup, stints on SNL, The Larry Sanders Show and The West Wing, and her pioneering contributions to Air America Radio. But it was her 2003 opposition to the Iraq War that converted Garofalo into a high-profile target for right-wing nut jobs nationwide. Cut to 2009, and Garofalo is now a cast member on Fox’s long-running torturefest, 24 (Irony? Brilliant career segue? Indicator of job scarcity?). Garofalo also continues her standup routine, performing five shows on April 17-19, at Comix (“Don’t let the name fool you. It’s actually a good room.”). Recently, I spoke with her by phone at 8AM; only at the end of the interview did we realize that we were both on the west coast and had both woken early just to be courteous.
You suffered unimaginable right-wing abuse and death-threats in 2003. Now you’re on the cast of 24. Was there a quid pro quo for that? Like ‘I went through all this, so here are my demands’?
I was offered a good job. At first I passed on it because of the right-wing nature of a couple of the writers. But then I realized A) I’m not being me, B) I was unemployed, and C) a very good friend of mine is on it, Mary Lynn Rajskub. And she loves it there. There’s only one or two right wingers in the whole show, in the writer’s room. There’s nobody else whose opinions reflect that in the cast or the crew. And then midway through when I was working there the main right-winger left the show anyway.
That being series creator and self-described “right-wing nut job” Joel Surnow…
I was curious about that. I understand Kiefer Sutherland is kind of quietly lefty and Mary Lynn Rajskub was on Mr. Show–so by definition she’s completely awesome–but what were your dealings with Surnow like?
Actually, he was really a funny guy. He’s completely right wing, which you just have to deal with and realize what you’re dealing with. He himself, I doubt, believes half the shit he says. He’s good friends with Rush Limbaugh, good friends with Lynne Cheney; part of it is brand loyalty. That’s just sort of who he is, so he has to stick with the story as is given to him, by the people he hangs out with.
So it sounds like your relationship was closer to the playful back and forth banter of Patricia Heaton and Peter Boyle on the Everybody Loves Raymond set and less of a Nancy Kulp / Buddy Ebsen antagonism where you eventually run for political office and he takes out ads against you.
Exactly. In fact, I barely saw him. But when, on those rare occasions I did, he was extremely nice to me, and an extremely funny guy.
That is shockingly disappointing.
Now, having said that, when Rush Limbaugh visited the set, and when Lynne Cheney visited the set, I refused to have my picture taken with them or meet them or anything. I didn’t want to make a scene out of it and not even go meet them in front of people. When somebody came to me privately and said ‘do you want to meet them’, I said absolutely not. But I would never have made a big show of it and embarrassed people who worked there. Not that they were interested in meeting me. And, to tell you the truth, I doubt that Lynne Cheney even knew who I was…
Oh, come on.
No, why would she? That would be ridiculous to think that she knew who I was.
You can’t actually believe that.
Why would she?
You’ve been in over fifty movies!
I really doubt… [laughs] you flatter me to say that.
Have you ever thought about running for political office?
Good god no. Good god no. Not only am I not qualified to hold any office, I would not be interested in going into politics. At all.
Al Franken probably thought the same thing when he was your age.
He is qualified.
He was on Saturday Night Live!
But that does not define a person. And also, he’s always been an extremely bright guy, Ivy League graduate, always been extremely interested in politics since the sixties, and an activist since he was a young man. Just because somebody has been involved in entertainment, or had any other job, that doesn’t define them. Everybody’s a taxpaying citizen.
So, if in five years someone has a Draft Garofalo campaign…
I would say thank you, you flatter me, but I am highly unqualified.
Final question. You’ve collaborated onstage and on TV with Henry Rollins several times – do you ever have moments, when you’re working with him, where suddenly you go, holy shit, I’m hanging out with Henry Rollins!
All the time! All the time! I am not only a huge fan of his, and I adore him, I’m shocked that he has wanted to work with me. Shocked. I have said ‘holy shit’ tons of times.