Comedian, actor, writer, and director Jeff Garlin enjoyed the best of both worlds - Emmy nominations and the universal respect of his peers, as well as a niche level of fame that left him largely unrecognized by passersby. Garlin stayed off the mainstream radar until his co-starring role in Larry David's landmark HBO hit "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (2000- ). A concurrent role on Fox's revered oddity "Arrested Development" (Fox, 2003-06; Netflix, 2013- ) further endeared him to fans of offbeat comedy, though Garlin had cultivated the admiration of his peers since his days at Second City in the 1980s. He was widely considered one of the best improvisers in Hollywood, a necessity for the notoriously scriptless "Curb" production, and hailed as a comic's comic for his story-telling act that was liberal with self-deprecation about his weight and often surprisingly personal with revelations about his inner life. Garlin wrote and directed a feature based on one of his one-man shows, "I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With" (2007), which received positive reviews on the festival circuit in 2007. The amiable comic also found popularity in family films, appearing opposite Eddie Murphy in "Daddy Daycare" (2003), voicing the ship's captain in the Disney/Pixar hit "Wall-E" (2008), and co-starring opposite Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler in the action comedy "The Bounty Hunter" (2010). Regardless of venue, Garlin was an excellent and often underappreciated supporting player more than capable of holding his own.
Jeff Garlin was born on June 5, 1962, and spent the first 11 years of his life in the Chicago, IL suburbs, where his father had a plumbing supply business and his mother was active in community theater. His parents took their funny eight-year-old son to see a live performance of Jimmy Durante at a Chicago theater, at which point Garlin decided "That's the job I want." The family moved to Southern Florida, where Garlin graduated from Nova High School in Davie before entering the film program at the University of Miami as a "backup plan" to appease the parents who insisted the wannabe comedian get an education. On the night of his 20th birthday, Garlin made his stand-up comedy debut at The Comic Strip in Ft. Lauderdale and returned to the stage many times before moving to Chicago in 1984 to study sketch and improv comedy with the famed Second City theater. Garlin had a great natural instinct for comedy and understanding of what works on stage, and his Attention Deficit Disorder only boosted the improvisation skills of someone less inclined to memorize lines.
After five years honing his skills in Chicago, Garlin moved between New York and Los Angeles several times, doing national stand-up comedy tours, debuting on TV on VH1's "Stand-up Spotlight" (1988-2004) and landing small character roles - often as working class lunkheads - in films like "Robocop 3" (1993) and "Little Big League" (1994). In 1997, the seasoned performer who was earning a reputation as "the comedian's comedian," helped direct friends Jon Stewart and Denis Leary in their own respective HBO comedy specials, "Lock 'n Load: Denis Leary" (1997) and "Jon Stewart: Unleavened" (1997). He gave TV audiences a taste of his own talent with regular appearances on HBO's "Comedy Half Hour" (1995-2002) and received a profile boost when a single guest spot on the Paul Reiser/Helen Hunt comedy "Mad About You" (NBC, 1992-99) so charmed producers that Garlin's character - a sporting goods store employee - was written into a dozen more episodes over the next two years.
At some point during that prolific time, Garlin had lunch with producer and writer Larry David and suggested he create a behind-the-scenes documentary about his return to stand-up comedy after his departure from producing "Seinfeld" (NBC, 1989-1998). Garlin's off-the-cuff suggestion morphed into the basis of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," a "mockumentary" of David's life in Hollywood that blended real and fictional. Garlin played the fictional role of David's accommodating manager and sidekick and Cheryl Hines his fictional wife while a steady stream of guest stars played both fictional roles and themselves. The smart but cynical comedy was a critical hit with a loyal following and earned plenty of attention for being largely improvised by actors, based on very brief plot outlines written by David. Garlin's outstanding performances season after season cemented his reputation as a top improvisational comic, and he also earned four Emmy nominations as part of the shows team of executive producers. Meanwhile, through the exposure from his weekly appearances on the HBO show, more film and TV opportunities opened up. He had guest roles on "King of the Hill" (Fox, 1997-2010) and two episodes of "Everybody Loves Raymond" (CBS, 1996-2005) and used his improv skills to confuse and outrage unwitting victims on Comedy Central's "Crank Yankers" (2002-07).
On the big screen, Garlin had supporting roles in Steven Soderbergh's Hollywood send-up "Full Frontal" (2002) and hit wide release as Eddie Murphy's sidekick in the formulaic family romp "Daddy Day Care" (2003). While helming a regular Sunday night stand-up showcase called "Jeff Garlin's Combo Platter" at comedy clubs around L.A., Garlin also maintained a high profile with a recurring role as a studio executive on the Fox "alternative" comedy "Arrested Development" (2003-06). Behind the scenes he worked with TBS to develop his own sitcom, "The Jeff Garlin Program," which followed the on- and off-camera exploits of the star in a show-within-a-show concept. The network decided to pass on the idea, but Garlin carried on undaunted and wrote and directed his first feature the same year, the unexpectedly sweet romantic comedy "I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With" (2007), which focused on a comedian's unnatural relationship with women and food. The screenplay was based on a one-man stage show Garlin had developed at Second City, and it enjoyed nearly unanimous rave reviews on the film festival circuit, though did not receive wide release despite an appealing comic cast including Sarah Silverman, Dan Castellaneta and Amy Sedaris.
Representing the full range of Garlin's audience spectrum, he directed a filmed version of John Water's one-man show "This Filthy World" (2007), had a supporting role in the delightfully adolescent comedy "The Rocker" (2008) and lent his voice to one of the year's top films, Disney/Pixar's animated wonder "Wall-E." His steady appeal with family audiences also led to a role in Disney's live action preteen comedy "Wizards of Waverly Place" (Disney, 2007-11).
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Made film debut in Dolly Parton's comedy "Straight Talk"
Had a half hour comedy special on HBO
Appeared in a reoccuring role on NBC's "Mad About You"
Had a small role in "Austin Powers: The Spy That Shagged Me"
Cast as Larry David's manager, Jeff Greene, on HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm"; also produced; show earned Emmy (2002, 2003, 2004, 2006) and Golden Globe nominations for Best Comedy series (2005)
Joined the cast of ABC's "What About Joan" for its final season
Hosted the short-lived variety show "Late Friday"
Appeared in Steven Soderbergh's "Full Frontal"
Hosted Comedy Central's roast of Denis Leary
Co-starred with Eddie Murphy in "Daddy Day Care"
Appeared in the teen comedy "Sleepover"
Cast in an update version of the 1977 comedy, "Fun with Dick and Jane"
Had a recurring role on "Arrested Development"
Made feature directing debut (also wrote and starred) with the comedy, "I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With"
Helmed "This Filthy World," a one-man show performed by director John Waters
Lent his voice to the Pixar animated feature, "WALL-E"
Co-starred in the action comedy, "The Bounty Hunter," starring Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler
Voiced the unicorn Buttercup in Pixar's "Toy Story 3"
Lent his voice to Pixar's underwhelming sequel "Cars 2"
Began starring as Murray Goldberg on the sitcom "The Goldbergs"
Starred as Gene Handsome in "Handsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie"
Lent his voice to "Toy Story 4"