Gen X icon Janeane Garofalo is in Chicago for a four-show, two-night stand at the Den Theatre. Perhaps by the final show, Garofalo will work through more than the first page of notes she brings to the stage (similar to the “comedy Torah” Richard Lewis has been known to tote around) and then barely references. But judging by her late show Friday night, when she took a supportive audience through a genuine, engaging set featuring plenty of stream-of-consciousness comedic discursions, it might take her a week’s worth of shows to use all that she’s written down. And that’s just fine,
In fact, Garofalo noted that if she ever started a podcast, she would call it Pardon My Tangent. She’s not good at writing jokes, she said apologetically, and then went on to pepper her anecdotal material with several sharp lines, such as “Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Where there’s a wrap, there’s a smoothie.”
Much of her material focuses on the concerns of middle age, underscored by her gradual evolution from hot Hollywood property (Drew Barrymore let her merge in front of her once in 1994) to a comedic actor who books projects where the producers ask if she can bring a pair of jeans from home. “Yes, I can,” comes the sprightly reply.
Listening to Garofalo share her very relatable stories (the one about how she has to break down boxes for the people in the neighboring apartment hit close to home for me as the guy who grudgingly performed that same service for neighbors at the condo I used to live in) is a healing comedy balm filled with many solid laughs. That’s in contrast to the angry recitation of rich-guy complaints fellow Brooklynite Chris Rock delivered live on Netflix recently.
Keeping it real is likely easier for comedians who live what most of us would recognize as normal daily lives. Helping Garofalo’s relatability is the fact that she seems to be a genuinely kind, thoughtful human being. No bile was evident in her 90-minute set, which may not get her a streaming special, but is definitely worth taking the time to enjoy in person.
Photo by Steven Dewall