Janeane Garofalo

Active - 1989 - 2022  |   Born - Sep 28, 1964 in Newton, New Jersey, United States  |   Genres - Comedy

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Biography by Jason Ankeny

Actress, comedian, and paragon of cynicism Janeane Garofalo was born on September 28, 1964, in Newton, NJ. During high school, her family relocated to Houston, TX, where the trauma of the move prompted her famously insecure, self-loathing persona to begin blossoming in full. While studying history at Providence College, Garofalo entered a comedy talent search sponsored by the Showtime cable network, winning the title of "Funniest Person in Rhode Island." Dreaming of earning a slot on the writing staff of the Late Night With David Letterman program, she became a professional standup upon graduating college but struggled for a number of years, working briefly as a bike messenger in Boston.

Upon moving to the Los Angeles area, Garofalo met actor/comedian Ben Stiller, who in 1992 invited her to join the cast of his short-lived but acclaimed Fox television sketch comedy program The Ben Stiller Show. A stint on Garry Shandling's breakthrough HBO series The Larry Sanders Show (for which she was nominated for an Emmy award in 1996) soon followed, and in 1994 Garofalo reunited with Stiller in the film comedy Reality Bites, a role which earned her the much-despised tag of "Generation X comedian." That fall, she joined the cast of Saturday Night Live but exited before the conclusion of the season, publicly disheartened by the show's increasing drop-off in quality.

After signing on as a correspondent on Michael Moore's news magazine TV Nation and hosting Comedy Product, a standup showcase on the Comedy Central cable network, Garofalo began work on her breakthrough role, co-starring with Uma Thurman in the 1996 romantic comedy hit The Truth About Cats and Dogs. That same year, she also co-starred with Bill Murray in Larger Than Life, and appeared briefly in The Cable Guy and Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy. Garofalo's prolific output continued in 1997; in addition to starring roles in two comedies, Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion and The Matchmaker, she was featured prominently in James Mangold's Cop Land and Paul Schrader's Touch, she hosted the MTV series Indie Outing, and she remained a fixture of the emerging alternative comedy circuit.

In 1998, Garofalo's career continued to thrive, with starring and supporting roles in a number of films. Some of her more notable work included Clay Pigeons, a black comedy with Vince Vaughn and Joaquin Phoenix; Permanent Midnight, which marked another collaboration with Stiller; and the animated Kiki's Delivery Service, which featured Garofalo as the voice of a new age artist and mystic. She also acted against type as one half of a revoltingly cheerful couple in Bruce McCulloch's comedy Dog Park. The following year, Garofalo appeared in no less than five films, with a supporting part in the ensemble piece 200 Cigarettes, a starring role as an unconventional action heroine called the Bowler in Mystery Men (which also featured Stiller), and prominent turns in Kevin Smith's eagerly awaited Dogma, Hampton Fancher's psychological thriller The Minus Man, and the satirical comedy Can't Stop Dancing, in which she acted alongside fellow comedienne Margaret Cho.

In 2001, Garofolo took on the role of Catherine Connolly in The Laramie Project, HBO’s docudrama chronicling the aftermath of the death of Matthew Shepard, and filmmaker David Wain’s comedy Wet Hot American Summer. The actress joined the cast of Pixar’s Ratatouille in 2007 to voice the role of Colette, a talented French chef, and appeared on television shows including Two and a Half Men, 24, and Criminal Minds.

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  • Named the Funniest Person in Rhode Island in a Showtime-sponsored comedian search while she was still in college.
  • Worked as a Boston bike messenger during the early days of her stand-up career.
  • Married her then-boyfriend, writer Robert Cohen, in 1991 in Las Vegas as a joke; the relationship ended soon after, but they didn't bother to get divorced until 2012.
  • Early TV work was on the sketch comedies the Ben Stiller Show and Saturday Night Live.
  • Played Mabel, the grown-up daughter of Helen Hunt's and Paul Reiser's characters, in the 1999 finale of NBC sitcom Mad About You.
  • Hosted a talk show on the now-defunct progressive radio network Air America Radio.
  • Moved into more dramatic TV roles with one-season stints on West Wing, 24 and Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior.
  • Named her entertainment company I Hate Myself Productions.
  • Has several tattoos, including the word "Think" inked on her forearm.