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'Curb Your Enthusiasm' Gears Up for New Season

Executive producer and actor Jeff Garlin and actress Susie Essman discuss the upcoming season of the HBO comedy series Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Garlin plays Larry David's affable best friend and agent. Essman plays Garlin's wife and as such is known for her vitriol, no-nonsense attitude and foul mouth.


Other segments from the episode on September 6, 2007

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, September 6, 2007: Interview with Jeff Garlin and Susie Essman; Obituary for D. James Kennedy.


DATE September 6, 2007 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Susie Essman and Jeff Garlin discuss their roles on
"Curb Your Enthusiasm"; Garlin discusses new movie "I Want
Someone to Eat Cheese With"

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Larry David will be alienating and insulting friends, family and strangers
again starting this Sunday, when his show "Curb Your Enthusiasm" begins its
sixth season on HBO. My guests are two stars of the show. Jeff Garlin plays
Larry's manager and good friend Jeff Greene. Garlin is also an executive
producer of "Curb." Susie Essman plays Greene's wife Susie. The show relies
on comic improvisation, and both Garlin and Essman have done a lot of improv
and stand-up comedy. Garlin has also directed comedy specials by Jon Stewart
and Denis Leary. He has a new film that he wrote, directed and stars in
called "I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With." We'll talk about that a little
later in the show.

Let's start with a scene from this week's season opener of "Curb Your
Enthusiasm." Larry David, Jeff Garlin and Richard Lewis are in the locker room
of the golf club discussing a friend's party.

(Soundbite of "Curb Your Enthusiasm")

Mr. LARRY DAVID: (As Himself) Did you go to Funkhouser's party last night?

Mr. JEFF GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) No. Did you?

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) No. Unh-unh.

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) Why?

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) Because I'm going to Danson's party tonight. Two
back to back, you know, I don't want to go to two parties back to back. It
was a stupid night for him to have a party.

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) Yeah.

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) Did you call him?

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) No.

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) Well, what are you going to say?

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) I'll tell him Sammy was sick.

Mr. RICHARD LEWIS: (As Himself) You're going to use your child to get out of
a party?

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) So...

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) Why not? It's the best thing in the world.

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) Perfect. Perfect excuse.

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) Perfect excuse.

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) No one can argue with that.

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) Who argues with that? You can't.

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) I wish I had that. It's a great reason to have

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) It's a great reason to have kids.

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) Yeah.

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) It's one of the bonuses. Yep.

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) Yeah. What am I going to do? What am I going to

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) You got nothing.

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) I know.

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) Nothing.

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) I should show up tonight and pretend I had the wrong

Mr. LEWIS: (As Himself) No. That's stupid.

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) That's great.

Mr. LEWIS: (As Himself) Oh, please.

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) It's good, huh?

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) No, that's--that's fantastic. I love that.

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) (Unintelligible). Yeah. Ding-dong.
`Where--where's the party?' Isn't that a good idea?

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) That's a great idea.

Mr. LEWIS: (As Himself) They're not going to buy that.

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) Wow.

Mr. LEWIS: (As Himself) It's obvious bull...(censored by network).

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) No, it isn't.

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) No, it's not.

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) Most people wouldn't go out of their way that much
to show up at somebody's house, pretend they had the wrong night.

Mr. LEWIS: (As Himself) He's got to be a mental case to believe it.

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) No, I love that. That's fantastic.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Jeff Garlin, Susie Essman, welcome to FRESH AIR. Let me start by
asking you to each describe your character on "Curb."

Mr. GARLIN: My character is best friends with Larry David's character, which
is not really Larry David. And my...

Ms. SUSIE ESSMAN: You're also his manager.

Mr. GARLIN: And his manager. And basically my job is to--you know, really,
when it comes down to what does my character do? A lot of exposition. I have
no values. I'm not a good person. What else? Yeah. And, you know, anything
that's kind that I bring to the character is because of myself, bringing
whatever I bring of myself to it, but played in someone who doesn't have any
kindness or likability.

Ms. ESSMAN: And you're a schemer, also.

Mr. GARLIN: Oh, always a scheming...

Ms. ESSMAN: Big time schemer.

Mr. GARLIN: Huge schemer. Yeah. And I'm--but I think actually here's one
of the truism for me personally of my character: I just don't want to be in
trouble with my wife.

Ms. ESSMAN: Which he is all the time.

Mr. GARLIN: Yes, on and off camera. So, yeah, I try and avoid that the best
I can. And Susie, you do yours.

Ms. ESSMAN: My character is Jeff's wife. I play Jeff's wife. And I think
my role on the show is to catch Jeff and Larry in every one of their schemes
and machinations and call them out on it. I'm their nemesis.

Mr. GARLIN: You're our nemesis. You're an awesome nemesis.

GROSS: Well, you have the mouth. I mean, you really have the mouth on the

Ms. ESSMAN: Yeah.

GROSS: What's your favorite rant after, you know, Larry or your husband has
screwed up?

Ms. ESSMAN: You know, I think my favorite thing at this point is kicking
Larry out of my house. I've done that several times.

Mr. GARLIN: Do it again this season.

Ms. ESSMAN: I do it again this season. And just the phrase, `Get
the...(word censored by network)...out of my house,' is one of my favorite
things to say.

Mr. GARLIN: Yeah. Yeah. And it's great when you see--this year it's really
great because, yeah, because I got kicked out so you kicked him out. That's

Ms. ESSMAN: But, you know, the thing that people have to realize is that,
you know, Jeff and I are like really, really close friends. We're all really
close, all four of us, Jeff and Cheryl and Larry and I. And that's how we can
be so mean to each other.

Mr. GARLIN: Oh, yeah. People ask me all the time, `How do you feel after
she yells at you?' I go, `I feel like going to craft service?' I don't even
think twice about it. It means nothing to me. It's like, I said--they said,
`Aren't you insulted?' I said, `The hum of the air conditioner insults me
about as much.'

Ms. ESSMAN: Yeah. We're playing. We're just playing.

Mr. GARLIN: Yeah. Not--yeah.

GROSS: Susie, you did characters in your stand-up act that I think are
slightly similar to the character you play on "Curb," would you say?

Ms. ESSMAN: Yeah. You know, the character I play on "Curb" was kind of a
composite character that I've just--I don't know how I came up with her. I
mean, Larry had written that scene in the first season where the Fresh Air
Fund kid...

Mr. GARLIN: Well, yeah. But...

Ms. ESSMAN: ...robs us.

Mr. GARLIN: The Fresh Air Fund scene is where your character exploded on the

Ms. ESSMAN: Right. Right.

Mr. GARLIN: Because I remember everyone was checking with me to see if I was
OK, because you were just relentless. Yeah.

Ms. ESSMAN: Well, actually--and what happened in that scene, what was
interesting is Larry basically said to me--his direction for that scene
was--this was an episode called "The Wire." Where Jeff allows a Fresh Air Fund
kid into our house who robs us blind. And I go crazy.

GROSS: Can I just stop by saying the Fresh Air Fund is run by the New York
Times to send poor children to the country for a couple of weeks in the

Ms. ESSMAN: Exactly.

GROSS: OK. So go ahead.

Ms. ESSMAN: And Larry's direction to me was basically, `Just don't hold
back. Rip him a new one.' And so I'm yelling and screaming. And Larry pulls
me over a couple of times and it's like, `It's not enough. Go further. Go
further.' And finally he says to me, `Make fun of his fat. Make fun of how
fat he is.' I'm like, `Larry, I can't do that. He's my friend. That's mean.
I'm going to insult him. I'm going to hurt his feelings.' It's like, `Nah,
nah, he doesn't' care. Just do it. Just do it.' And that's when I coined the
phrase, `You fat...(word censored by network).'

Mr. GARLIN: You fat--yeah.

Ms. ESSMAN: And that, you know, became like my catch phrase for Jeff.

Mr. GARLIN: Oh my God.

Ms. ESSMAN: Six seasons later.

Mr. GARLIN: Yeah.

GROSS: Well, Jeff, does it bother you to be called fat on the series?

Mr. GARLIN: No! I am. If I was thin I'd go, `Why are you calling me fat?'
But, unfortunately, I am fat.

Ms. ESSMAN: And handsome.

Mr. GARLIN: Yeah, I am fat, young and handsome. But, no, I'm totally cool
with it. I mean, that day, I mean, really everybody was so concerned that day
with me. It's very nice that they weren't Larry. `You OK with that? It's
not bothering you?' I go, `No, I'm good.' But once I said I was good, every
episode after that we were off to the races and nobody gave a damn.

Ms. ESSMAN: You know, the other thing is we're all comics.

GROSS: So--mm-hmm.

Ms. ESSMAN: So like all we really care about is the funny of it.

Mr. GARLIN: Yeah, that's all we care about. That's it. Is this funny? Is
this real? Is it funny? Good, let's do it.

GROSS: Jeff, were you one of the creators of the series? You're an executive
producer, you're one of the stars. Did you co-create it, too?

Mr. GARLIN: I wouldn't say co-create. I would say the idea was mine and I
approached a brilliant genius, you know. And I told him my idea and he ran
with it.

Ms. ESSMAN: That was for the pilot.

Mr. GARLIN: That would be the...

Ms. ESSMAN: What became a series.

Mr. GARLIN: Yeah, the special.

Ms. ESSMAN: Yeah. It was originally a special.

Mr. GARLIN: Yeah. And I approached Larry about it. Actually, I didn't even
approach him. I was writing in a suite of offices at Castle Rock where Larry
had his office, and I was in an office with Alan Zweibel. And one day Larry
said, `Who wants to go to lunch?' And Zweibel couldn't go to lunch. I went to
lunch with Larry. We were acquaintances. I wouldn't say we were friends at
that point, but we were definitely acquaintances.

And at lunch he was talking about stand-up comedy. And I said, `You know, if
you ever want to do an HBO special, I have this great idea.' And I told him
the idea, which became "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Because I had been on the road
developing Denis Leary's "Lock 'N Load" HBO special and Jon Stewart's. And
while I was doing that, I thought, `What a great idea for a special to see
behind the scenes of what goes into making a special.' And I was just going to
direct it. And Larry said, `No, no, no. You're going to produce it with me.
And you're going to play my manager.' `I'm going to play your manager?' `Yeah,
yeah, yeah. You're my manager. You'll see. It'll be great.' So he already
was thinking about it, you know, just from me giving him my thoughts on it.

Ms. ESSMAN: Whose idea was it to improvise the whole thing?

Mr. GARLIN: Oh, mine. Completely.

Ms. ESSMAN: That was yours.

Mr. GARLIN: Yeah. Remember Second City...

GROSS: It as your idea?

Mr. GARLIN: To improvise? Oh, 100 percent. Yes. Always going to
improvise. It had to be improvised.

GROSS: Why did you want it improvised?

Mr. GARLIN: Well, my background's in Second City and I felt like if we had a
little outline, nothing like what Larry writes today. I couldn't in my
imagination think of these brilliant outlines that he writes. But I have
always thought that it'd be much more naturalistic and so much more fun to do
if you just had a scenario and you did it. And if you have the right
performers, you can pull it off. Where we are today with the show was not in
my imagination.

Ms. ESSMAN: I think it's important for people to realize, though, that
there's a lot of shows that try to copy "Curb."

Mr. GARLIN: Right.

Ms. ESSMAN: But they don't have Larry's story frame. Those outlines are so
dense and so story...

Mr. GARLIN: You got seven pages of a story, a great story.

Ms. ESSMAN: Of a story. And everything we do is to service the story.

Mr. GARLIN: And so it's easy to improvise.

Ms. ESSMAN: Yeah, it is.

GROSS: So the story...

Ms. ESSMAN: For some people, for us.

GROSS: So the story's all there but your lines aren't.

Ms. ESSMAN: Correct.

Mr. GARLIN: Exactly. We write our own lines, if you will. But the stories
are so great that it's easy to write your own lines.

Ms. ESSMAN: Yeah. Because we know who our characters are and we know
exactly what we're suppose to do in each scene.

Mr. GARLIN: Right.

Ms. ESSMAN: So the dialogue writes itself.

GROSS: I'm going to ask you to take a scene that you both really like from
"Curb" and describe how you worked it out in an improvisatory process.

Ms. ESSMAN: Let's do eenie, meanie, minie, moe. Or what do you want to do?

Mr. GARLIN: No. I'll go with eenie, meanie, minie, moe. That's...

Ms. ESSMAN: It just came into my head.

OK. Eenie, meanie, minie, moe was an episode where Jeff and Larry decide to
do eenie, meanie, minie, moe to decide who gives Richard Lewis their kidney.
Already the premise is hilarious. And Marty...

GROSS: Right. Because Richard Lewis is very sick and needs one on the show.

Ms. ESSMAN: And needs a kidney. And Marty Funkhouser is...

Mr. GARLIN: Bob Einstein.

Ms. ESSMAN: Bobby Einstein is doing the eenie, meanie, minie, moe. And
here's the three of them--it's one of my favorite scenes. Here's the three of
these grown men doing eenie, meanie, minie, moe. And Larry had prefigured in
his head the eenie, meanie of who was going to end up out so that he wouldn't
have to give the kidney. So my mother says to pick this one and out goes
Y-O-U. And Y-O-U was Larry, and both and Jeff and Larry jump up simultaneous,
screaming and they're so happy. And then this entire thing happens about,
`Out goes Y-O-U.' What does that mean? Does that mean Larry's it? Or he's
out? Or he gives the kidney? Or he doesn't give the kidney? I then walk in
and determine that Larry's giving the kidney because Jeff can't survive the
surgery, he's too fat. And that's the scene basically. And it was--it's one
of my favorite scenes.

Mr. GARLIN: That was a great scene. That was great fun.

GROSS: And what was improvised in that scene?

Mr. GARLIN: Everything.

Ms. ESSMAN: Everything is improvised.

Mr. GARLIN: Nothing. Nothing. You know...

Ms. ESSMAN: Nothing's planned.

You guys didn't plan jumping up at the same time.

Mr. GARLIN: No. No.

Ms. ESSMAN: That just happened.

Mr. GARLIN: We just did. We just did it. That was like a second take. We
just did it.

Ms. ESSMAN: We just make it all up. It's hard to explain.

Mr. GARLIN: Yeah.

Ms. ESSMAN: But when we're in it, people always say, `Are you ever at a loss
for what to say?' Never. We've never been at a loss.

Mr. GARLIN: Yeah. I've never at a loss for words in there. No.

GROSS: Well, why don't we hear that eenie, meanie, minie, moe scene?


(Soundbite of "Curb Your Enthusiasm")

Mr. BOBBY EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) Who wants to be eenie?

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) I'll be eenie.

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) You want to be eenie? Yeah, you can be eenie.

Mr. EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) OK.

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) He'll be eenie.

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) How come you want me to be eenie?

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) No, it's good. You should be eenie. That's
what you want, right? Don't you want to be eenie? Want me to be eenie? Do
you want me to be eenie?

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) I'll be eenie.

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) I'll be eenie.

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) I'll be eenie.

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) OK.

Mr. EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) OK. Here we go.

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) Yeah.

Mr. EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) Eenie, meanie, minie, moe. Catch a
tiger by the toe. If he hollers let him go. My mother says to pick this one
and out goes Y-O-U.

Mr. GARLIN and Mr. DAVID: (As Jeff Greene and Larry David, in unison) Yeah!
Yeah! Yeah!

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) What are you excited about?

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) What do you mean?

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) What are you so happy about?

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) I won!

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) No, you lost.

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) I just won O-U.

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) No, you lost! You're out! You're it!

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) Oh, no, no, no.

Mr. EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) Hold on. Hold on.

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) Out goes Y-O-U.

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) You.

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) You're the loser!

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) You're the loser.

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) You're the loser.

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) No, you're the loser.

Mr. EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) Hold on a minute.

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) Tell him. Tell him.

Mr. EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) Hold on a minute. Out goes Y-O--you
give the kidney.

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) You give the kidney!

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) No, no, no!

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) You give the kidney!

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) You stupid idiots! You don't even know how to play
eenie, meanie, minie, moe!

Mr. EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) I played...

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) I don't know how to play eenie, meanie? I
played eenie, meanie...

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) You don't know the first thing about Eenie, meanie!

Mr. EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) whole life.

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) Y-O-U, you're out!

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) No. I'm safe! Out is where you...

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) Out! No, you're it!

Ms. ESSMAN: (As Susie Greene) What the hell is all this screaming about?

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) Lose with dignity!

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) All right. Wait a second. We're playing eenie,
meanie, minie, moe. OK?

Ms. ESSMAN: (As Susie Greene) Yeah.

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) Out goes Y-O-U.

Ms. ESSMAN: (As Susie Greene) Right. You're it.

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) Who's it?

Mr. EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) You're it!

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) You're it.

Ms. ESSMAN: (As Susie Greene) Out goes Y-O--I don't know.

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) That person's safe.

Mr. EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) He's you.

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) He's you!

Ms. ESSMAN: (As Susie Greene) No. And out goes Y-O-U. You're it. It.

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) You're it. You're it.

Ms. ESSMAN: (As Susie Greene) You're it.

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) You're it.

Mr. EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) You lose.

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) Oh...(censored by network)...

Ms. ESSMAN: (As Susie Greene) (Unintelligible). What are you talking about

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) He loses.

Ms. ESSMAN: (As Susie Greene) What? Losing what?

Mr. EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) They're giving a kidney to Richard

Mr. GARLIN: (As Jeff Greene) Kidney to Richard Lewis. He's the one.

Mr. EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) He lost.

Ms. ESSMAN: (As Susie Greene) Excuse me. Excuse me. You're not giving one
of your...(word censored by network)...kidney. What if one of your kids needs
a kidney one day? You going to give a kidney to Richard Lewis? No, no, no,
no, no.

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) What do you mean? You give it to him.

Ms. ESSMAN: (As Susie Greene) I might not be the match, Larry. He needs his
kidney, number one. Number two, he's a fat...(word censored by network).. He
can't even survive the surgery.

Mr. DAVID: (As Himself) How do you know he can't survive the surgery?

Ms. ESSMAN: (As Susie Greene) You're a healthy and thin--you're a healthy
and thin--you're giving the kidney. End of discussion. Mute point.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's a scene from "Curb Your Enthusiasm." My guests are two of the
shows stars, Susie Essman and Jeff Garland.

Susie, how were you cast in "Curb"?

Mr. GARLIN: He walked up to me and said, `Hey, what about Susie for your

Ms. ESSMAN: Yeah. Well, what happened to...

Mr. GARLIN: And I said, `Yeah, for sure.' But you can tell what happened up
to that point.

Ms. ESSMAN: What happened was, I had known Larry for many years ago. We all
use to hang out at the comedy clubs in New York when Larry was a comic and
Jeff and I were both doing stand-up at the same time. But then I hadn't seen
him for years and years. He moved to LA and was doing "Seinfeld." And then he
saw me on Comedy Central do a Friar's Roast of Jerry Stiller. And I guess I
popped back into his head, and I think he had that scene in mind.

Mr. GARLIN: And you also, on the roast, were like hammering Jerry Stiller.

Ms. ESSMAN: Oh, yeah. I was really brutal.

Mr. GARLIN: And then he--that's when like a light bulb went off and

Ms. ESSMAN: Right. Larry says he said, `Oh, this girl can handle that kind
of language.'

GROSS: Do you remember what you said at the Jerry Stiller roast?

Ms. ESSMAN: Oh, yeah. I remember a lot of it. I remember my opening line
was to Alan King, where I said, `Alan, did you ever think you'd live so long
that your prostate would be as big as your ego?' That was my opening line.
And then it got more and more brutal from there.

Mr. GARLIN: If that's your starting point, holy moly.

GROSS: My guests are Susie Essman and Jeff Garlin, two stars of the HBO
comedy series "Curb Your Enthusiasm." We'll talk more after a break. This is


GROSS: My guests are Jeff Garlin and Susie Essman. They're comics and actors
who co-star in the HBO comedy series "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Garlin plays
Larry David's manager, Jeff Greene. Essman plays Jeff's wife, Susie. Garlin
also wrote, directed and stars in the new movie "I Want Someone to Eat Cheese

Jeff, I want to talk with you about your new movie and your career in a couple
of minutes.

But, Susie, I have a few questions about...


GROSS: ...your career as a stand-up. I spoke with you, Susie Essman, in
1992. And at that time...

Ms. ESSMAN: Oh, I'm so old.

GROSS: At that time you were doing a comedy special for, I think, it was HBO.

Ms. ESSMAN: Yeah. Yeah. Right. 1992 is when I did the "One Night Stand."

GROSS: It was "One Night Stand."

Ms. ESSMAN: Yeah.

GROSS: Exactly. And we played a clip of your show in that 1992 interview.
And I want to play that clip. And the question...

Ms. ESSMAN: Oh, don't do this to me, Terry.

GROSS: No. And the question that came out of it--so hang on, it's a very
funny clip. So here we go back to 1992...

Ms. ESSMAN: Oh, God.

GROSS: ...with Susie Essman.

Ms. ESSMAN: It haunts you.

(Soundbite of "One Night Stand")

Ms. ESSMAN: Couples, no matter how--like, you guys--you're young and you're
holding hands and everything, and you're all cute and perky. You end up being
that couple 20 years from now that hates each other. Like, my aunt and uncle,
they hate each other and they don't even know it. They don't even know what
they sound like. My aunt will be having some serious conversation on the
phone. And my uncle will be in the next room screaming, `Where's my socks?'
You know? So she'll be like, `You know, Gloria, it's very, very sad to find
out that your son wants such a mutilating operation.'

(Screaming) (Unintelligible). `What the hell's the matter with you? You
can't find a lousy sock!'

`And I think I speak for Ben when I say we feel for you. Speak to him. He's
so gentle and understanding.'

(Screaming) `Pick up the phone, you moron! It's Gloria. She says her son is
a woman trapped in a man's body!'

`And you know, Gloria, you have to think of the positive things. There's the
shopping you could do together.'

You'll end up like that. Or my mother and father...

(End of soundbite)

(Soundbite of 1992 interview with Susie Essman)

GROSS: You're very funny at doing your mother and the woman who you grew up

Ms. ESSMAN: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: Was there a time when you lived in fear of becoming them?

Ms. ESSMAN: I still do. I catch myself making my mother's faces all the
time. I always live in fear of becoming them. I feel them in my body. I am
them, I think.

GROSS: Now, why is it...

Ms. ESSMAN: My boyfriend's afraid of that. He's always afraid that, you
know, 20 years from now I'm going to be one of those women. And I very well
may be.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: OK. That was Susie Essman in an interview we recorded 15 years ago in

Ms. ESSMAN: You know what's so funny?

GROSS: Yeah?

Ms. ESSMAN: But listening to that, I mean, that's the Greenes.

GROSS: Exactly.

Ms. ESSMAN: It's Susie Greene.

GROSS: Exactly. That's your character now on "Curb." It's perfect. So but
anyways, 15 years ago you said that you were afraid that, you know, your
boyfriend was afraid that in 20 years you would sound like that character, you
would become that character or become like your mother. So have you gotten
closer to becoming that, do you think?

Ms. ESSMAN: Well, yes, because--different boyfriend--I don't remember which
one was around in those days. But the one I currently have, who's staying for
the rest of my life, has four teenagers. So I am now a stepmother to four
teenagers. And that's really--now I really am channeling my mother.

And my mother's quite enjoying it, because I call her and I'll say, you know,
problems I'm having with the kids. And it's just payback, you know?
She'll--I'll hear her giggling on the other end of the phone. She's so
enjoying my dealing with teenagers now.

GROSS: So what were the sounds of the women's voices that you grew up

Ms. ESSMAN: (Sighs) That was a big one. The sigh was a big one.

GROSS: Oh, yeah.

Ms. ESSMAN: (Sighs) You know, it wasn't so much words as sounds. Like, I've
thought about doing this bit, which I never really developed, of just having a
conversation with my mother and there's no words. It's just...(makes
noises)...a lot of grunts and sighs.

GROSS: Conveying...

Ms. ESSMAN: My impression.

GROSS: Yes. And conveying like enormous disappointment, shame.

Ms. ESSMAN: Yeah. Yeah. `No, I'm fine.'


Ms. ESSMAN: `No, I'm fine.' You know, a lot of denial. A lot of like,
`Everything OK?" `Oh, everything's fine, fine, fine.'

GROSS: Now, you've said that some woman comics don't have the sense of
entitlement that you need to take the stage. Did you have that sense of
entitlement when you started?

Ms. ESSMAN: You know, the problem with a lot of female comics, I think, is
that they have difficulty--with the stand-up comics. Not funny women.
There's a lot of funny actresses out there. But stand-up is such an
aggressive art form. And I think a lot of women have difficulty with the
aggression and the hostility and the power of it. I never seem to have that.
It was something I kind of embraced. But I see that a lot of women want to be
nice on stage. And nice is not really funny.

GROSS: So did you have problems being not nice on stage and taking the stage
at first?

Ms. ESSMAN: I never had a problem being not nice on stage. You know, I
don't--I'm not mean on stage. I mean, Susie Greene can be really mean. My
stage persona is not mean at all. I think it's very accessible. But it's not
so much not nice and mean. It's more of a power aggressiveness thing, I
think. And that there is something about stand-up comedy that's slightly

But, you know, I remember Jerry Seinfeld saying to me when I first started
that he--he'd see me on stage and he would be like, `Wow, you're so bold up
there.' And I remember thinking, `He would never say that about a male comic.'
But, you know, I'm little and, you know, I'm this little girl. And I kind of
thought what he meant was that here's this little girl getting up there and
being so bold about her opinions, that somehow women were not suppose to be so
bold about their opinions. And I think that's really more what it is than

GROSS: Well, I really enjoy you both so much on "Curb." And I want to thank
you both for talking with us about "Curb."

And, Jeff, I want you to stay around. We're going to talk about your new


GROSS: And, Susie Essman, thank you so much for talking with us. It's really
been a pleasure.

Ms. ESSMAN: My pleasure.

GROSS: Susie Essman and Jeff Garlin co-star in the HBO comedy series "Curb
Your Enthusiasm." Its sixth season starts Sunday. I'm Terry Gross, and this


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross back with comic and actor Jeff
Garlin. He wrote, directed and stars in the new film "I Want Someone to Eat
Cheese With." He plays a down-on-his-luck actor who still lives with his

(Soundbite of "I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With")

Ms. MINA KOLB: (As Mrs. Aaron) You're going without saying goodbye?

Mr. GARLIN: (As James) I'm sorry, Ma. Goodbye.

Ms. KOLB: (As Mrs. Aaron) You're not going to wear that shirt, are you?

Mr. GARLIN: (As James) Don't you see that's not even a question?

Ms. KOLB: (As Mrs. Aaron) That shirt makes you look fat.

Mr. GARLIN: (As James) That's because I am fat.

Ms. KOLB: (As Mrs. Aaron) You're not fat.

Mr. GARLIN: (As James) If anything, I make the shirt look fat.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Garlin's character is trying to change his life, lose weight, have a
lasting relationship, get a good role. But he's having a real hard time. The
movie co-stars Sarah Silverman and Bonnie Hunt. Jeff Garlin is also an
executive producer and star of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," which starts its new
season this weekend. He's directed comedy specials by Jon Stewart and Denis

You know, Jeff, in your new movie, there's a re-make of "Marty" that's being
made, and "Marty" was the 1955 Oscar-winning movie starring Ernest Borgnine as
an overweight and depressed lonely guy who lives with his mother and thinks of
himself as the kind of man who will never find love. And your character
thinks in the movie, `I'd be perfect for this,' because your character is an
out of work actor. He thinks, `I'd be perfect for this.' But, of course, in
the re-make everybody in the movie is like incredibly attractive.

Mr. GARLIN: Exactly.

GROSS: And young and fit.

Mr. GARLIN: Yes, yes. Yes, yes.

GROSS: And it's just ridiculous. Is this a position you've actually found
yourself in where people are being--where there are like these gorgeously
attractive Hollywood actors are being cast in characters who are suppose to
not be gorgeous?

Mr. GARLIN: Unequivocally yes! Wow! It is crazy. What use to pass for a
character role is now an ingenue or a young handsome stud. It blows my mind,
actually, that it's done that way.

GROSS: How is the character affected by his weight compared to how you're

Mr. GARLIN: Actually, in the movie I would say that it's the only thing in
the movie that I can say unequivocally--I love being unequivocal--is 100
percent exactly how I am. That is the one thing that from personal life to
screen there is no difference between our characters. We're comfortable. We
bounce around. We know that we're fat. We love to eat. We eat. The thing
that I had to cut out of the movie because all my friends that saw it didn't
really quite understand it, and that is in the movie, whenever he's sad he
eats. But I also have in the movie whenever I'm happy I eat. Because when
you are a food addict, like I am, you know, where you just cannot control
yourself, any feeling, good or bad, sends you to the Pop-Tarts.

GROSS: There's a scene I want to play from your new movie "Someone to Eat
Cheese With." And in this scene you're with a friend and he's making this
observation about you.

(Soundbite of "I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With")

Mr. GARLIN: (As James) I have lived a life of unhealthy choices.

Unidentified Actor: (In character) Elaborate.

Mr. GARLIN: (As James) I'm an actor, how healthy is that? Wait, hold on.
I'm not even an actor. OK? I got fired from Second City.

Actor: (In character) Being an actor isn't in itself unhealthy.

Mr. GARLIN: (As James) OK. I stand up on stage and I say, `Hey, everybody,
look at me. Look at me. I'm worthy and good. Cheer me and applaud. Hurray
for me, the actor.'

Actor: (In character) OK. I'll give you that one.

Mr. GARLIN: (As James) OK, secondly.

Actor: (In character) Mm-hmm.

Mr. GARLIN: (As James) I like them young and insane. I do. OK? And
someday I'd like to be married and have kids. And here I am some fat-ass. By
the way, that's the third thing, I'm fat-assed.

Actor: (In character) Look, I am married to an old insane woman who, by the
way, when we met was young and insane. It's not so much who you're attracted
to, but you do need to lead a healthier life.

Mr. GARLIN: (As James) You know what? I've decided from now on I want you
to refer to me as "Kitten."

Actor: (In character) You seem real comfortable with yourself, but you're

Mr. GARLIN: (As James) The magic of self-loathing.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: So, Jeff Garlin, do you see acting as a symptom of something, as a
kind of pathology?

Mr. GARLIN: I actually do, depending on the actor and depending on--well, it
depends on the situation. But, boy, oh, boy, I think a lot of times with
acting and sometimes with stand-up comedy the performers that I see are
working something out and they want approval from the audience to fill some
hole that they have as a person. And that may have been true of me in my
younger days. But it's certainly not true after the combination of therapy
and having a family I don't feel the need.

That's actually, you know what? That actually leads me to something, which
is, of all the things that I do, the one that I would drop quickest is acting.


Mr. GARLIN: Oh, I love...

GROSS: Oh. You mean to like compared to directing and writing. Mm-hmm.

Mr. GARLIN: Writing and even stand-up. Acting to me is the least
interesting because you're a conduit to whatever the writer and/or director,
what story they're telling. So really you're just a, you know, `Stand over
there and say this.' You know? In most instances, because the people you're
working with don't want to collaborate. You just sort of stand there and do
it. And I'm more than happy to do that if I'm being paid a lot. I'll do
anything if I'm paid a lot.

GROSS: Now, when you're on "Curb Your Enthusiasm," that relies on improv.

Mr. GARLIN: Yes.

GROSS:; You know, Larry David provides a story and the characters improv their
lines. But in your movie, my impression is that's pretty well scripted out?

Mr. GARLIN: Actually, you're the first person to say that because everybody
thinks my movie is improvised, and it's pretty well scripted out. All the
actors were encouraged to, if they so chose to, improvise. Most of them did
not. Bonnie Hunt improvised a lot. Other than her, for the most part, it's
exactly as I wrote it.

GROSS: You're are relatively low-key in that character in the movie?

Mr. GARLIN: Yes.

GROSS: And there are other characters who do more talking than you do. You
seem more introverted than I've seen you be.

Mr. GARLIN: Right.

GROSS: And more introverted than you seem to be now.

Mr. GARLIN: Well, one of the things that I was taught that really stuck with
me is my job as an actor--and I look at it this way, also, you know as a
director and a writer--is to make other people look good. I like making other
people look good. I like making Larry David look good. Not that he wouldn't
look good on his own, but to me, if everyone who is performing together is
trying to make the other person look good, it raises the whole thing. I'm a
great audience. I love that. So for me that was a choice that I made in that
way. It wasn't like necessarily I need to be introverted. It just sort of
naturally happened that way.

GROSS: Well, that leads me to the fact that you've directed comedy specials
for Jon Stewart, for Denis Leary. You directed the film version of John
Waters' one-man show.

Mr. GARLIN: Yes. "This Filthy World," yeah.

GROSS: "This Filthy World," yeah, which is a lot of fun. You have a
reputation for being very good at telling comics what works and what doesn't
in their act.

Mr. GARLIN: Yes.

GROSS: How do comics usually take it? Because a lot of comics seem to me to
have both a very strong and a very weak ego.

Mr. GARLIN: Right.

GROSS: To be like really sure of their material but incredibly insecure at
the same time.

Mr. GARLIN: Well, we were all that way. And I have to say that I've never
give--first off, I don't give notes unless I'm asked. You know, I'm talking
about even stuff that I'm not directing, you know, unless I have a--I'll say
to somebody, `You know why that bit doesn't work as well or you know what can
make that bit a bit better?' And then I'll give them one little note. And
then they're like, `I didn't even think of that!' And they're always happy
because I can see that they're frustrated that a piece is not working as well
as it should.

However, when, like, you know, I remember I was giving Larry David notes when
we were doing the hour special, because there was a lot of his stand-up in
there. And that was part of my job, but he was very resistant to it. And I
didn't want to have a--you know, because this is their point of view, their
art, you know? And one of the fun things about doing stand-up is the lack of
interference of other people.

So I think that Denis Leary and Jon Stewart--everyone's very hesitant, but it
gets to a trust point where they can see that I'm not trying to dominate their
act, I'm just making these suggestions so they get to where they want to be,
as opposed--and, by the way--boy, I jump around a lot. But that's my job on
"Curb Your Enthusiasm." My job as producer and an actor is to tell Larry
David's story. What is Larry David's vision? I want to get that up on the

GROSS: My guest is Jeff Garlin, a co-star and executive producer of "Curb
Your Enthusiasm." He wrote, directed and stars in the new film "I Want Someone
To Eat Cheese With." More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is Jeff Garlin. He's one of the stars and is an executive
producer of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," which starts its new season on Sunday. He
also wrote, directed and stars in a new movie which is called "I Want Someone
To Eat Cheese With," which also stars Sarah Silverman.

Now, I know as a child you had a heart problem. Did you grow up thinking of
yourself as frail and vulnerable?

Mr. GARLIN: Yes. Once I was diagnosed with my heart problem, I had the
heart problems. Up until then, I'd played a lot of sports. Baseball and
football, I was on the high school football team, all that sort of stuff. But
what it did was--and it helped me so much with what I do now--is it made me so
much more of a vulnerable person, so much more of sensitive person. And I
really see things through other people's eyes quite often, and I can be very
sensitive. And as someone who does what I do, that really is a strength, you
know, to be vulnerable.

I think that--like, my idol in terms of stand-up is Richard Pryor. There's
nobody ever who's been more vulnerable on stage than Richard Pryor. So it
really did help me. So I think it was a good thing in terms of who I am
today. I don't know that I would have made it as a comedian--at least the
kind of comedian that I am today--if I hadn't had these illnesses as a kid.

GROSS: Was being Jewish an important part of your childhood?

Mr. GARLIN: I'm observant Jew but I'm not "Baron von Religious" when it
comes to Judaism. The only thing that was negative for me about being Jewish
was when my family moved from Chicago to Florida. When I was in sixth grade,
we moved to south Florida. And south Florida, as I knew it prior to that, was
my grandparents' condominium, which was chock full of Jews. And so I went to
a school where I'd be the only Jew in a class and these kids--these Southern
kids wanted to fight me all the time. And I'd get into a lot of fights, but
my humor got me out of a lot of fights, too.

GROSS: What would you say?

Mr. GARLIN: Oh, I don't remember. But if you make somebody laugh, you
disarm them. And so if I made everybody laugh, they were disarmed. But
sometimes, you know, you're dealing with people that don't have the greatest
sense of humor. They want to beat up a Jew so they're not really like, `I
love comedy.' And so I'd have to get into a fight. But I did OK because, you
know, I was always a big kid. You know? Big, strong kid. So it wasn't a
problem for me.

GROSS: Well, do you remember your first time on stage doing stand-up?

Mr. GARLIN: Yes. It was horrifying. Now, mind you, my first time on stage
I had my heart problem and I was scared silly. And, you know, fear would
cause tachycardia in me. I had this thing called WPW, which is where your
heart beats--it goes into ranges that you can't believe so fast, and you think
you're going to die. And it hurts and whatever. So I was scared on that

I also was, as I--I was the funniest kid in school and I was really funny at
home. I sat my parents down before I was going out to do my five minutes.
You got five minutes. And I'm not making it up. These are people that
laughed at me all the time. They gave me my first laugh. So I did my act for
them, and they stared at me. But now, looking back on it, I don't blame them
for staring at me because when I think about what I did, it was a bunch of
stupid jokes. Like jokes like--I would say to them--I remember at school I'd
say to the teacher, `Can I go to the bathroom.' She'd say, `I don't know. Can
you?' And then I'd pee all over her desk. You know, like horrible, horrible
jokes. And then I did a monologue from "Stripes."

GROSS: The Bill Murray movie?

Mr. GARLIN: The Bill Murray movie. I did a--Bill Murray, as an actor, is my
hero, my idol. He's the best ever. I love so much of what he did in
"Stripes." But at the time, there's a monologue where he's going around the
room. Everyone is introducing themselves and then he introduces himself. And
he says, you know to Lee Harvey, `You are a madman. When you stole that cow
and your friends tried to make it with the cow, man, I want to party with you,
cowboy.' And this whole monologue that he does, and I did it for my act! Oh
my God. What an idiot I was.

GROSS: So...

Mr. GARLIN: But I passed auditions. I passed auditions my first night.

GROSS: What about your heart? How did your heart do that first night?

Mr. GARLIN: The heart, I actually did OK the first night. But it was quite,
you know, they said, you know, I remember the doctor saying, `Stay away from
stressful situations if you can avoid them.' Which is such a weird thing for
the doctor say, because at the time I didn't know, but how do you avoid
stressful situations in life? And so I was on a medication called Enderol,
which was very helpful.

But I remember one night at Second City I was doing a scene and then all of a
sudden my heart went berserk, like faster than it's ever gone before and more
painful than it's ever been before. And I remember--I don't remember how I
did it. I finished the scene, and backstage I told the actors. I go, `I
can't do any more. You've got to cover for me. I can't do any more.' And I
went into this little hallway behind the stage and I laid on the ground there
and I was sure I was going to die. Positive I was going to die. And when it
all calmed down, I developed horrible stage fright for quite a while.

GROSS: How'd you get over that? And also it must have hurt your reputation
initially to have backed out of a role in the middle of a performance like

Mr. GARLIN: Well, here, let's even go here for a second. When I was
developing in Chicago, I was a stand-up comedian and I was also an
improvisational actor at Second City. I had this thing where--at Second City,
for example, the audiences love me but my peers did not respect me. And then
if I went to a stand-up club, the audiences would stare at me, but the
comedians would be in the back laughing. They thought I was great. So it
never--it all evened out over a period of time. But so at Second City, I
didn't have the greatest reputation as an improviser and I wasn't respected by
my peers. So that was, you know, not a happy time, thinking back on it. I
learned so much at Second City. But on a professional level, it really got to
me. It knocked me down, the way I was treated by my peers.

And then in terms of getting over the stage fright, I learned through my own
experience that the only way to get over stage fright is to keep going up on

GROSS: You know, it's...

Mr. GARLIN: And by the way...

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. GARLIN: Oh, I'm sorry. I wanted to say, I had stage fright so bad where
if I had a stand-up set and there were six people in the audience, I'd still
be throwing up before I went up because I was horrified to go up.

GROSS: Now, your wife is a casting director.

Mr. GARLIN: Yeah.

GROSS: And among the movies she cast is "40-Year-Old Virgin" and your new

Mr. GARLIN: Yes.

GROSS: Do people assume that, when they meet you, that your wife should
really be the character of your wife on Larry David because they're so used to
seeing you with her?

Mr. GARLIN: Not in that way. But I have to remember when I'm doing
stand-up, when I refer to my wife, to say that Susie is not my wife and sort
of kind of describe my wife, so they get a different image in their head when
I tell these stories. Because I was realizing that, my God, they're thinking
of Susie when I say "my wife." And they were, almost every time. So it's only
affected me in stand-up. But on a personal level, people like my wife so much
more than me. They really do. Yeah, so.

GROSS: Can you give an example of a story you've told in your stand-up act
where you've had to explain that your real wife isn't your wife on "Curb"?

Mr. GARLIN: Yeah. Well, I basically point out that my wife would never call
me a fat...(word censored by network)...although she thinks it. I know that
she thinks it, because I'll be getting into the shower and she'll have this
look of disdain on her face. And I'll say, `What? What?' I know what she's

GROSS: Well, Jeff Garlin, it's been great to talk with you. Thank you so

Mr. GARLIN: It's been an honor.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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