March 28, 2005

'My alternative is what? To scream at my TV?'

The NY Times has a rather nice profile of actor and Air America Radio talkshow host Janeane Garofalo. Its generally favorable tone is a big change from the poor review that Garofalo got from the Times when Air America went on the air a year ago.

Frequently cast as "the sarcastic friend of the lead, someone world-weary and unlucky in love," she noted dryly, Ms. Garofalo appeared in several dozen movies including "The Truth About Cats and Dogs" and "Reality Bites." She was a regular on the Emmy-winning "Ben Stiller Show," did six months on "Saturday Night Live" and several seasons as a sardonic booker on "The Larry Sanders Show."

A decade or so later, "that started ebbing," Ms. Garofalo said, sounding unsurprised. "As a female, how many roles are out there anyway? And for women over 40 who don't go to the gym, like myself? C'mon." Besides, she pointed out, "I was never a money-maker, as they say."

But she was enough of a name that the filmmaker Robert Greenwald, organizing a group called Artists United to Win Without War, sought her support in late 2002. "She was willing to be one of the earliest and most articulate voices" opposing the administration's policies, Mr. Greenwald said. "Every time I'd call and ask her to do something, whether it was a small radio station in Kansas or a rabid right-wing talk show, she didn't hesitate. She was totally fearless."

Ms. Garofalo begs to differ. Some of her critics' letters grew so specifically threatening, she said, that she "wound up losing 25 pounds in eight weeks from sheer fear." She added: "Depression, chain-smoking, no sleep. I really believed I was going to be killed." For a while, hired security people screened her hate mail....

But she kept at it, later also working with MoveOn.org and with the Howard Dean campaign. And when she saw the broadcaster Jon Sinton (now Air America's president ) on CNN, discussing a planned liberal radio network and musing that someone like Janeane Garofalo might be a good host, she tracked him down by phone to say, "Count me in."

Which isn't to say that Ms. Garofalo enjoys being a target. When"Team America: World Police," from the "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, hit movie theaters last year, it featured a Janeane Garofalo marionette whose head was blown off. The real Ms. Garofalo, hearing this from a friend, promptly burst into tears.

Yet animosity seems practically a prerequisite for talk-radio success, and Ms. Garofalo slings it with the best of them. Reaching out to find common ground with political opponents? Building bridges? "That's over," she declared. "I don't have any desire to build a bridge with an antigay evangelist who supports war and the death penalty and actually believes the tsunami was God's retribution. ... The bridge has been blown up."

We have to admit that we don't care much for Garofalo's Air America show — if we want ranting, we find Randi Rhodes far more entertaining. But we bet Garofalo is big fun in person. Does anyone know if she dates magpies?

Posted by Magpie at March 28, 2005 12:05 PM | Media | Technorati links |
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