September 1999
By Dennis Hensley

Straight talk: “Personal style is not having some Versace sent to your room.”

Janeane Garofalo likens Hollywood to politics: "it's all built on lies and images -conning the American public." Which may be one of the reasons why Garofalo, 34, is so hellbent on telling the truth regardless of which studio bigwig or megawatt star she ticks off. Garofalo is the anti‑celebrity celebrity. She once wore a pair of slept‑in pajama bottoms on the Conan O'Brien show because, as she told the host, "I can't wear my own pants, I'm so fat." Whatever size she is, more than a few people find her uncommonly lovely.

This odd combination of beauty, brains and dirty laundry grew up in small‑town Madison, N.J., the daughter of an Exxon executive and a secretary. Garofalo graduated from Providence College in 1986 with an eye toward a career in stand‑up. But it was her appearance on Fox's short-lived The Ben Stiller Show in 1992 that put her on the Hollywood track (most notably as a leading lady in 1996's The Truth About Cats and Dogs). It also marked the beginning of what has become a beautiful, barb‑swapping friendship with Stiller, which can be seen in 1994's Reality Bites and last year's Permanent Midnight, as well as in their recent self‑help spoof, Feel This Book. This month, they co‑star in Mystery Men, in which they play lovable but lame wannabe superheroes.

In 'Mystery Men,' your character is a superhero whose specialty is bowling. Are you a good bowler?

Not at all, but my parents met in a bowling alley in 1958. I actually took one lesson before we started [the film], but all my bowling stuff is computer generated, so it doesn't matter how skilled I am.

Did you save any souvenirs from the shoot?

My bowling ball. It's clear Lucite, with a fake human skull in the middle. It's on display in my apartment.

What's the most you laughed while making the movie?

I laughed at everything Hank Azaria said. He and Ben Stiller never stop doing William Shatner impressions and talking about Star Trek.

'Feel This Book,' the recent self‑helper that you and Stiller collaborated on, reveals that you two once dated. What was that like?

We never really dated. We just fooled around a couple of times, though we didn't actually have intercourse. At the time, he was nursing a broken heart over an ex‑girlfriend, and it was very clear that the chemistry [between us] was not going to happen.

What is the secret of remaining friends after you've been intimate?

We don't spend that much time together. That's part of the secret. We come in and out of each other's life for the perfect amount of time.

Who is the most unfunny guy you've ever dated?

This bass player from Connecticut, who was absolutely gorgeous. I'm not usually blinded by that kind of thing, but this guy was so talented and attractive that I let the fact that he was the least funny guy in the world slide for, like, four weeks.

Seeing anyone now?

I am going out with a wonderful, very funny gentleman, Craig Bierko [an actor, currently in The Thirteenth Floor]. I met him at a Thanksgiving party at [ABC Entertainment president] Jamie Tarses' house.

Because of 'Reality Bites,' you've had a bit of a twentysomething‑slacker image. How have you changed since coming into your 30s?

I'm probably more insecure, because the business will do that incrementally. I also am not, like, the dyed‑black‑hair, Doc Martens‑ and‑red‑lipstick‑wearing, lunch‑box‑carrying girl anymore, which I was for many years. I had a total look going, and now I don't wear makeup or put any effort into any type of look at all.

Does it bother you that you'll probably never win an E! fashion award for best personal style?

No. [Laughs] I always disagree with their whole thing. Like it always blew my mind when Drew Barrymore was on a worst-dressed list, because she puts everything together herself. That's personal style to me. It's not having some Versace sent over to your room.

Does it hurt your feelings when people put down your appearance?

Oh, God, yes.

Do you ever think, I should pull it together a little more, just to placate Joan Rivers and her panel of alleged fashion experts?

No, that would be worse. I think that what she and her daughter and her panel do is indefensible.

And let's face it, none of them is particularly easy on the eyes.

They're remarkably uneasy on the eyes, and no one points that out. She's just lucky that people don't play her game and that they don't go to her level, because she'd really take it on the chin.