- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 16, 2002

Janeane Garofalo cracks wise onstage about the day's headlines, our weight-obsessed culture and any other topic she can skewer with her considerable wit.
Just don't call her observations jokes.
"It's more chatty than joke, joke, joke," Miss Garofalo, 37, says of her act during a phone interview recently. "I don't have much talent for joke making, per se."
With or without punch lines, the actress continues to find work in edgy, independent features such as 1998's "Permanent Midnight" while pursuing roles in conventional fare such as the upcoming "Big Trouble" with Rene Russo.
Her stand-up brings her to respectable venues nationwide, yet she maintains the persona of the girl who didn't make a dent in the high school cliques of yore.
Miss Garofalo, adored by the alienated but picked on by Joan Rivers and fashionistas for her schlumpy ensembles, will perform two shows Feb. 23 at the Warner Theatre.
"I'm preaching to the converted," Miss Garofalo says of her audience, whose numbers forced the Warner Theatre to add the second show. "You're not getting a room of conservative, status-quo thinkers."
Fitting comedy into her work routine isn't as hard as it might seem, she says.
"It's sorta easy to do with the film work, unless you're in Ogden, Utah," says Miss Garofalo, intermittently feisty, intelligent and exasperated in conversation. While filming in New York City or Los Angeles, she might sneak away to work a few comedy clubs or college amphitheaters.
She says she began "chatting" with audiences in the mid-1980s, while a junior at Providence College in Rhode Island.
Inspired by such rising stars as Ellen DeGeneres and Dennis Miller, she preferred comedy "that wasn't well-suited for the mainstream," she says.
The mainstream caught up with those comics, and, later, with Miss Garofalo.
She went on to co-star on "Saturday Night Live" for its 1994-95 season, where she bemoaned the lack of quality writing for female cast members. She found a more nurturing environment on HBO, where she supplied support on "The Larry Sanders Show."
Many see Miss Garofalo, based on her screen work, as either the sardonic pal (1994's "Reality Bites") or the embittered loner (1997's "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion").
Her highest profile role struck a middle ground. She portrayed the ugly duckling talk show host who pretends to be statuesque Uma Thurman's character in 1996's "The Truth About Cats and Dogs."
"When they're casting for that role, I was their go-to person," she says of her unglamorous image. "That doesn't bother me."
Image, she says, isn't everything.
"I'm not self-deprecating, that's a popular misconception," she says. "Comics are perceived as being more cynical than they are."
The angry feminist label also isn't accurate, or at least fair, she contends.
"Yes, I have a feminist agenda," Miss Garofalo says. That should not be seen as a "dirty word," she adds.
If she dares mentions any double standards during her feminist-friendly act, it's "man bashing," she says, her voice guttural for effect.
"No one accuses Tim Allen of being a female basher," she says of the grunting, tool-crazed comic with whom she co-stars in "Big Trouble."
Some of her Hollywood tales become part of her act, but mainly those that reflect the work environment, not how many double lattes she might chug before a scene.
"It's the politics and conflicts that are in any office," she says.
Enron, or any other scandal perculating at the time she adjusts the microphone stand to her 5-foot-1 frame, might also make its way into her monologues.
"It's all prepared in a loose way," she says of her show. "There's an outline of what I want to get to."
She says that about 15 minutes typically deal with body-image issues but that those moments attract the most attention.
She still has plenty to say on the topic: Women are "losing their minds" over body-image perceptions, both in Hollywood and across the nation.
Although attractive and height-weight proportional, Miss Garofalo is seen by movie executives as decidedly dumpy.
"That's how brainwashed our culture is. I don't wear a size 2 and don't wear makeup in public," she says. Most producers, she explains, never would consider her for leads in their films for that reason.
Her steady movie work hasn't lessened her desire to perform live. She did take an unplanned break from the road after the terrorist attacks of September 11.
"Cynicism didn't feel appropriate for me," she says. By the end of October, she slowly resumed her stand-up gigs.
As any comic will tell you, it's all about timing.
Miss Garofalo's career came of age during the stand-up comedy boom of the mid-1980s. Humor isn't such big business anymore, but she says that doesn't stop anyone with a fresh perspective from being noticed.
"It's always a good time for stand-up comedy for people who want to hear something different," she says.

WHAT: Janeane Garofalo
WHERE: Warner Theatre, 13th and E streets NW
WHEN: 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. Feb. 23
TICKETS: $28.50 to $38.50
PHONE: 202/432-SEAT

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