You are either one of those people who when they hear the name Janeane Garofalo think “Janeane-who?” or “Oh! Like from the 90s?” Well comedian Garofalo is very aware of this, and shared her current situation with the audience at The Rio Theatre on the first of her two nights for the JFL Northwest festival. “I just don’t say yes to life,” said Garofalo, joking about her relative absence from the spotlight since her booming 90s career. Her return to the Wet Hot American Summer cast in its recent Netflix revival may have helped to remind audiences she is still around, but it is doubtful that the particular audience at the Rio that night was unfamiliar with her work.
Self-described as a weak joke writer, Garofalo’s stand-up method is conversational and her comedy shows have been described as “talks.” She has seemed to have lost the dry, sarcastic edge we originally knew her for, but regardless the comedian was endearing in her ranting and bantering with the audience. At times it seemed like she was just simply targeting millennials with gluten intolerance jabs and social media pokes, which of course is easy to do as a fifty-one year old with a keen eye for what she deems ‘ridiculous’—this sometimes united the performer with the audience and at other times alienated one from the other.
Seattle comedian Derek Sheen opened the show with a stand-up style that contrasted Garofalo’s conversational one, and was well received. As comedian Margaret Cho had done at The Vogue the previous Friday, Garofalo began her set by talking about Justin Trudeau—a person who appears to make Canada sexier in the eyes of Americans and seems to be the polar opposite of their current Donald Trump situation. The bulk of Tuesday’s show centered on Garofalo’s commentary of various television shows, even some Canadian crime ones as she stated, “They’re good, but the lighting is different. Something is just different!” She made her way through a few dozen programs throughout the drawn-out show, some hitting and some not.
Garofalo’s stand-up method is a sort of stream-of-consciousness—patched together with observations of a mature pessimist, or rather a surrendering comedian. “Live every day like it is your first,” said Garofalo. “Take it easy.” While her performance style is not for everyone, it was wonderful to see a comedian so into what she was talking about, which aided the ranting aspect of her performance. Garofalo’s self-ambivalence was charming, and her movement around the stage and into the audience made her appear entirely more accessible as a person. She has had a radio presence in the past, but it is entirely apparent that her particular style of persistent commentary on feminism, marriage and ambition would lend itself best to a podcast medium.
Amidst Pride and Prejudice quotes, commentary on her two interventions (the second one took), and admissions of her fear of New York’s teenaged population, Garofalo drew the most laughs of the evening when she reflected back to a run-in with a homeless man in Seattle who accepted a cigarette from the comedian and then said, “You look like that Janeane Garofalo. Whatever happened to her?”