Jeff Garlin Films His Netflix Special and Celebrates 37 Years of Comedy in his Sweet Home, Chicago

It’s another very special edition of Notes From a Comedy Junkie as our own Sara Dahms got to attend a very special comedy special taping in her home town of Chicago. Sara is a comedy superfan who even goes so far as to call herself a comedy nerd. Raised on National Lampoon, John Hughes, Gene Wilder, and Fairy Tale Theatre, her life changed after her older sister showed her Eddie Murphy’s Raw in 1988. Soon after, she found Andrew Dice Clay and became a stand-up junkie for life. Eighteen months ago, she took her first comedycation to see Jeff Ross play in Miami on her birthday. Since then, she’s been traveling all over the country checking out the best comedy everywhere, a confirmed comedy addict, and now she’s agreed to share her travels with us. Read all Sara’s write-ups here, and check out her red carpet coverage of the Comedy Central Roast of Bruce Willis with interviews with Nikki Glaser, Dom Irrera, Samm Levine and more!

I was very excited to learn that Jeff Garlin would be filming his Netflix comedy special here in his hometown of Chicago because besides being a fan of his on-screen personas, I’ve also been out to see Jeff on stage as a stand-up comedian. He was almost 100% improvisation the times I’ve seen him in the past so I was super curious to see what format he’d be using for the evening and if he was going to be harnessing his comedic sensibilities and sticking to a script or not. Jeff’s comedy is akin to jazz or blues music in that it really works best when he’s organically creating it in the moment. I was very interested to see what he was going to do for his Netflix special and I was not disappointed with the outcome to say the least.

I became a fan of Jeff Garlin when I was in high school and I saw him talking about making hilarious prank phone calls to his adorable mother on “Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist,” I fell a little bit in love with him as James Aaron in “I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With” and I have continued enjoying his hilarious, improvisational style of comedy in everything he does, especially in his role as “Jeff Greene” on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

I arrived to the iconic Park West Theater in Chicago and his Netflix production was in full effect. There seemed to be one woman who was running the show and she was a Boss, keeping everything and everyone in motion and on schedule. I absolutely love seeing strong women working in comedy. The show began and the very funny Comedy Store regular, Mat Edgar came out and got the party started. He was hilarious and had the unique ability of being extremely likable while at the same time delivering comedy that was edgy and often blue. I was very, very into it. Mat is one of my favorite podcast guests of all time. I love him every time he’s on “Skeptic Tank” or “Kill Tony” and would absolutely love to see him on “Legion of Skanks” one day. At the end of his set Mat Edgar introduced the man of the hour and the musical styling of Buddy Guy played throughout the theater. Jeff Garlin took the stage sporting a beard and a grey suit, looking better than ever. I knew we were all about to see Chicago style comedy at its finest and I was excited.

It turned out that Jeff had the absolute perfect blend of storytelling and improv. He got his start in comedy at The Second City here in Chicago so I always knew he was one of the best improvisers in the game, but what I didn’t know was that he is also a very talented and engaging storyteller. One of the things he told us was that this night actually marked his 37th anniversary in comedy. He said that he didn’t book it this way on purpose, he just realized the anniversary was tonight and thought it was interesting. I love that he shared this special fact with us. I happen to believe that these types of coincidences are the universe’s way of letting us know that we are exactly where we are meant to be. He then went on to segue into stories of the hell-gigs and highlights he has weathered during the 37 illustrious years he has spent in comedy. Garlin told hilarious stories about getting bumped by T.C. Tahoe, his run in with donuts on the set of RoboCop 3, and getting arrested in the parking lot of a Walgreens and then trolled by TMZ afterwards. Out of these and so many more hilarious tales, my favorite was the story he told about a hell-gig he once had during his early years in comedy at a bar on Mannheim Avenue. Anyone who grew up around Mannheim knows the sketchiness of that situation and will appreciate that his comedy gig was not only in a bar on Mannheim, but it was also at 3:00 amon a Sunday. I don’t want to give away too many of the details (and who knows if this story will even make the final cut) but let’s just say that this story involved a professional wrestler and a giant rubber penis! It was hysterical! In between telling stories Jeff would walk off the stage and stroll among the tables, improvising with his fans. He was present and in the moment and getting big laughs as he did his thing.

Jeff Garlin truly is the Buddy Guy of comedy. He ended his hour with a Q and A with the audience. One of the things he said that was a take away for me was the importance of being humble and confident but also trying to eliminate your ego because ego will get you nowhere in comedy and in life. Garlin thanked us for being a lovely audience and then thanked all of his future Netflix viewers who watched his special all the way to the end. Fleetwood Mac’s “Albatross” played as he took his exit and the proverbial credits rolled. It was the perfect ending to an awesome comedy special.

After the show I headed to the after party. I arrived to the sophisticated Gold Coast spot and made myself comfortable at the bar with a glass of Cava. I love a place with a Spanish flair so I felt right at home. Jeff Garlin and Mat Edgar arrived and in a few beats I made my way over to say hello and congratulate them both on a job well done. They could not have been any nicer or more gracious. I told Jeff how much I enjoyed his stories and confessed to being the person who “Wooed” for Mannheim. We compared notes on a few local neighborhood spots like Jean and Jude’s and The Thirsty Whale and had a few laughs. I told him how much I loved his hour and asked him how he felt about it. He said he felt great about it after the early show and then even better after the late show wrapped.

Mat told me  will be spending a lot more time in NYC come this fall… I wished Jeff a Happy 37thAnniversary and told him how cool I thought it was that he was filming his Netflix special on this night. Jeff Garlin and Mat Edgar were two super nice fellows and Jeff was so kind that he even took a picture with me! Only in my wildest dreams did I think that I’d end up having the chance to shake the man’s hand and tell Jeff Garlin what an awesome job he did on this very special evening… but it turns out that dreams do come true!

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Sara Dahms
Sara Dahms
Sarah Dahms is a comedy superfan hails from Chicago and travels all over the country checking out the best comedy everywhere.