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Heated debate with Chicago native 'Dealin' with Idiots' star/director/co-writer Jeff Garlin

(Lenny Gilmore / RedEye )
July 11, 2013|Matt Pais, @mattpais | RedEye movie critic

In “Dealin’ with Idiots,” Chicago native Jeff Garlin stars as a comedian who gets so fed up with foolish parents he observes at his son’s youth baseball game that he decides to spend more time with them—not to increase his understanding but to research a movie.

Since Garlin (“Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With”) was inspired by real-life frustration with his son’s teammates’ parents, and he co-wrote, directed and stars in an improvised comedy that aims to generate laughs from his character’s condescending commentary, it’s fair to wonder if people who see the film will perceive him as an angry person. Particularly in light of Garlin’s recent arrest, during which he reportedly fought with someone over a parking space and smashed the person’s car windows. (An account Garlin disputes.)

At the James Hotel, the 51-year-old Second City vet, who appears at Friday and Saturday night’s screenings of the film at the Music Box, said he tries to be kind and peaceful. However, he also said that he has no idea how to handle the world’s stupidity and in real life makes the same type of comments his character makes without any effort to understand others. To a degree, he got angry about the possibility of people seeing him as angry.
You’re such a big Chicago sports fan. A friend of mine wanted to know why Jim Belushi is the representative for celebrity Chicago sports fans when a lot of people would rather see you out there.

Well, I gotta be honest with you: You’d see more of me, but I don’t want to be the guy in every sports documentary. I actually sometimes go to sporting events and don’t let the Bears or the Cubs know that I’m even there.


I don’t want a shot of me watching the game.

What’s wrong with that?

I don’t want to bother people! … Jim Belushi’s doing a fine job. Let him do it or the other people who they show.

Why do you see that as bothering people?

Because I think it can be annoying. I did this great Cubs documentary that was on HBO. I was happy they included me and all, but then I did another documentary and then I got asked for another doc … and at a certain point, I don’t want to be the talking head. Like, “What the [bleep] does he know?”

It shows we need more Chicago celebrities so they won’t keep going back to the same people.

There’s tons of Chicago celebrities. It just is that Jim Belushi happens to go to all the games and they know—I don’t know what Jim Belushi’s story is. The only thing I know is that his TV show had the worst name of any TV show in the history of mankind: “According to Jim.” You know how many times in “Curb Your Enthusiasm” we’d discuss a scene and I would just go, “You know, according to Jim …” Or we’d say, “Tomorrow’s ‘Mike and Molly’ day. Dress as your favorite ‘Mike and Molly’ character.” [Laughs] Just having fun. But “According to Jim” is a terrible title. Never watched the show, but a terrible, terrible title.

That’s been adopted so much recently, like “Hart of Dixie” or that Will Arnett/Keri Russell show whose title escapes me now, but it’s like, “Let’s think of the character name and then” –

I don’t like puns.

Me neither!

My new show on ABC is called “The Goldbergs.”

Right. That’s not a pun on anything.

Love it. Love it. You might as well have called the show “Jew.” Which I’m very pleased with. We shouldn’t be afraid anymore of being—and the show’s not necessarily, on any level, about the Jewish experience. It’s just a Jewish family, and all different types of people will be able to associate with it. But I love that it’s called “The Goldbergs.”

I’m Jewish myself as well. How difficult do you think it is to avoid--there’s a lot of stuff that winds up succumbing to stereotypes in one way or another.

Well, if you’re intelligent you’re not going to succumb to stereotypes. “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is a Jewish show. There’s no stereotypes.

You mentioned annoyances earlier. “Dealin’ with Idiots” is a movie that seems to come from annoyances that you have. How much is this based on people you know and have interacted with? Why did you want to do a project like this?

I came up with the idea while watching my son play baseball in an organized league. And I watched the behavior of the parents, and it was astonishing to me that these people—I actually thought to myself, and I do say it in the movie, “What are their private lives like that would make them behave this way?”

Why do you think the youth baseball setting brings this behavior out of people?

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