Jeff Garlin is a Chicago-born comedian who became well-known playing Larry David's manager on Curb Your Enthusiasm. He's got a new sitcom on ABC called The Goldbergs and a new film, Dealin' with Idiots, which he wrote, directed and stars in.
Every year, the Journal of Improbable Research gives out its IgNobel Prizes, for groundbreaking scientific research into important but neglected (and sometimes ridiculous) areas of knowledge. It just held its 2013 ceremony in Cambridge, Mass., so today we'll ask Garlin three questions about IgNobel prize winners.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now the game where we ask somebody talented to do something that requires none of those talents. Jeff Garlin is a Chicago-born comedian who first became well-known playing Larry David's manager on "Curb Your Enthusiasm." These days he's got a new sitcom on ABC and a new film, "Dealin' with Idiots," which he wrote, directed and stars in. Jeff Garlin, welcome back to WAIT WAIT, great to talk to you again.
JEFF GARLIN: Thank you.
SAGAL: So you've been...
GARLIN: It is truly, truly no exaggeration, an honor to be on your fine program.
SAGAL: Oh, you are so nice, Jeff. So you've been really busy. "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is in hiatus now after how many seasons?
GARLIN: Ten, I believe. I don't remember.
SAGAL: Oh my gosh. And so now - but now you've got a sitcom, a network sitcom.
GARLIN: Yes, called "The Goldbergs."
SAGAL: That's awesome. And it is basically my childhood stolen from me.
GARLIN: Yeah, it is an '80s childhood, a family in Philadelphia in the mid-'80s. It's based on the guy who wrote the show, Adam Goldberg. It's based on his life, and it's really fun and funny. And my character is kind of like a Ralph Kramden, Archie Bunker guy.
SAGAL: Now wait a minute, so this guy, his name is Goldberg, wrote a TV show about his own childhood called "The Goldbergs."
SAGAL: Aren't you supposed to at least change the name in this sort of thing?
GARLIN: Well, actually the network insisted that we call it "The Goldbergs." And I've got to tell you, they were a little bit hesitant, you know, because a Jewish family. And I said, let's just dive into the Jewish pool.
SAGAL: Right, just go there.
GARLIN: Don't dip the toe, dive in, we're Jews.
SAGAL: Well, was it - because you were alive during the '80s, as was I. Is it weird to go back to the '80s?
GARLIN: Well, no, because the show is pretend.
SAGAL: So you're not actually using some kind of time travel to go back to the '80s.
GARLIN: I graduated in 1980, high school. I became a comedian in 1982. So - and I lost my virginity in the '80s. So the '80s was an interesting time for me.
SAGAL: Right. And going back to the '80s, were you able to find your virginity again, or is it gone?
GARLIN: No, it's on a set over at Sony Studios.
SAGAL: Now you have kids yourself, obviously. How old are your kids?
GARLIN: Thirteen and 17.
SAGAL: Right. And so do you have any experience from being a real-life dad that you can apply to playing a TV dad?
GARLIN: No, man, I just read my lines, and I do it.
SAGAL: Really, you're not one of those...
GARLIN: Not only that, not only that, but the character I play is not a dad that would kiss his kids. I'm playing a character very different from myself.
SAGAL: I understand that's called acting.
GARLIN: Yes, yes, yes.
SAGAL: Now, you also have a movie called "Dealin' With Idiots."
GARLIN: "Dealin With Idiots," which you can see on, like iTunes and Amazon and all that stuff. It's about, you know, youth baseball parents, just the parents, not the kids.
SAGAL: Is this an autobiographical story?
GARLIN: Semi-autobiographical, yes. It's all - everyone, every adult in the movie is or becomes an idiot.
SAGAL: Does that include yourself?
GARLIN: That includes myself.
SAGAL: I see. And I understand it's got a lot of your friends, like Bob Odenkirk and all those guys. And you said to them hey, I'm doing a movie called "Dealin' With Idiots," and I want you in it.
GARLIN: Yes, that's exactly what I said.
SAGAL: And they all said sure.
GARLIN: They all said sure, and they said I hope I get to be an idiot.
SAGAL: Jeff, I wanted to ask you this because I said earlier that most people heard of you when you started doing "Curb Your Enthusiasm" some time ago, but you were a working actor for a long time before that, and we were looking through some of your credits, and we found one that surprised me. You were on "Baywatch"?
GARLIN: I was a villain on "Baywatch." I was an evil disc jockey who took over the beach.
SAGAL: You were - how does a disc jockey take over a beach?
GARLIN: He offers up a gold doubloon, and he makes people do crazy things for the gold doubloon. Here's the thing. It's the best acting I've ever done and the worst acting I've ever done. What I mean by that is I'm not good enough to rise above bad material as an actor. I'm just not. However, as bad as you think I am when you see me on "Baywatch," every scene with David Hasselhoff, I did not laugh.
SAGAL: So David Hasselhoff would come up to you and say in his Hasselhoffian way, hey, take your gold doubloon and get off our beach, and you'd be total...
GARLIN: No, he was actually like in my face screaming, get out of here, get out of the beach. And every time his finger's in my face, all I'm thinking in my head is you're David Hasselhoff.
SAGAL: We don't care about David Hasselhoff. Did you get to work with Pamela Anderson?
GARLIN: I did. I had a fantasy scene with Pamela Anderson.
SAGAL: What do you mean by fantasy scene?
GARLIN: Well, we're running on a beach, and I'm running towards her, she's running towards me, and we just reach each other, and I wake up from my fantasy. However, in the script, which I was very anxious about, it was written that she and I start kissing. And it was the first day of filming, she didn't know me, and she didn't want to kiss me. So all good because, like, the end of the week, the end of filming where I got to know her, and I made her laugh and what have you, she said I would have totally made out with you now. And then I thought to myself, years later, I'm so happy it worked out the way it did.
SAGAL: Why? That's a story you can late in life.
GARLIN: I don't want to tell that story.
GARLIN: She's a beautiful woman, but I don't want - I mean, she's had Kid Rock.
SAGAL: That's true.
GARLIN: You know, I actually was with Kid Rock when he sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" at Wrigley Field.
SAGAL: Really? That's awesome.
GARLIN: Yes, and I was up in the booth, and they asked me to, like, help him because he hadn't done it before, and I'd done it. So anyhow he's finished singing, and...
GARLIN: He's singing and then I whisper to him let's get some runs. What? Yell let's get some runs. All right: Hey, Chicago, let's get some lunch.
PAULA POUNDSTONE: That explains a lot of the Cubs' problems, doesn't it?
SAGAL: I know. I mean, the Cubs were going to mount a comeback, but Kid Rock just told us to get lunch. Well, let's go. Well, Jeff Garlin, it's always a pleasure to talk to you, but we've asked you here this time to play a game we're calling...
CARL KASELL: You have served the cause of science and also of providing this show with material.
SAGAL: Every year...
GARLIN: Do you know how much I love when he does that every week?
SAGAL: I do, too. I get to listen every week. Every year, the Journal of Improbable Research gives out its IgNobel Prizes for groundbreaking and very real scientific research into neglected areas of knowledge. They held their ceremony last week in Cambridge. And so this week, we're going to ask you about three IgNobel prize winners. Get two right, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, Carl's voice. Are you ready to play, Jeff?
GARLIN: I am so ready. I've never been more ready for anything in my life.
SAGAL: All right, good, then. Carl, who is Jeff Garlin playing for?
KASELL: Jeff is playing for Sarah Burkhart of Elgin, Illinois.
SAGAL: All right.
GARLIN: You're kidding me, Sarah Burkhart of Elgin, Illinois?
GARLIN: Oh my God, let's get this party started.
SAGAL: First question, the IgNobel Prize in Probability Research went to a study that determined, quote: A, "that if a woodchuck could chuck wood, it wouldn't chuck very much wood at all"; B, "that if I told you you had a beautiful body, you would not in fact hold is against me"; or C, that a longer a cow has been lying down, the more likely a cow will soon stand up, and once a cow stands up, you cannot easily predict how soon the cow will lie down again"?
GARLIN: I would go with C.
SAGAL: You're going to choose C, the cow study?
SAGAL: It's true.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: These guys studied cows. They observed them for days.
SAGAL: And they found out that how long a cow has been standing has no effect on when it will lie down, but not vice versa. All right, very good.
POUNDSTONE: Thank goodness someone got to the bottom of that.
SAGAL: Next question, this year the IgNobel Prize in Psychology went to a team that proved that what actually exists: A, reverse beer goggles; B, multiple chin syndrome; or C, implanted false memories of having false memories of false memories.
GARLIN: I'll once again go with C.
SAGAL: You're going to go with implanted false memories of having false memories of false memories?
SAGAL: No, it was the beer goggles. They proved that not only do drunk people think that they themselves are more attractive than they really are, but it works even if they're not really drunk. The title of the paper was called "Beauty is in the Eye of the Beerholder."
SAGAL: And we heard of beer goggles. You have a lot of beer, people start looking more attractive. Reverse beer goggles is that when you've had a lot to drink, you think yourself is more attractive than you actually are. And further, this is really interesting. They found out this is true even if you're not drunk, but you think you are.
SAGAL: All right, this is exciting, Jeff, because if you get this last one, you win. The 2013 Safety Engineering Prize went to the late Gustano Pizzo, for something he invented back in 1972. He's finally getting credit for it. What did he invent back in '72, a safety engineering device. Was it: A, an anti-hijacking system which would seal a hijacker in a package and then drop the package through trap doors on the airplane; B, a secondary helmet cyclists could wear to protect their original helmet; or C, a seatbelt to protect people who sit in La-Z-Boys from being ejected when they return the La-Z-Boy to the upright position.
GARLIN: I am going to go with A.
SAGAL: You're going to go with A, the anti-hijacking system.
SAGAL: And you'd be right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: You may remember hijacking was a big problem in the early '70s. The idea was you just make the hijacker stand on the X, stand right there, pull the lever, gets encapsulated, gets dropped with a parachute for easy collection later. Carl, how did Jeff Garlin do on our quiz?
KASELL: Jeff, you had two correct answers, so you win for Susan(sic) Burkhart.
SAGAL: Jeff Garlin stars in ABC's new comedy "The Goldbergs," it'll be premiering on Tuesday nights. You should also check out his latest movie "Dealin' With Idiots." You can download it or stream it. Jeff Garlin, thank you so much for joining with us, always so much fun to talk to you.
POUNDSTONE: Thanks, Jeff.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.