"Sometimes I feel like I'm hurting his feelings," Essman told The New York Times' David Itzkoff for a profile of Garlin. "And he'll say, ‘No you're not, that's ridiculous.' But it still bothers me. However, it works. So, anything for the joke."
Says Garlin, "It's pretend, and I receive a big check at the end. I'm all good with it. I have no problems."
Of course, he also says, "I've always been the kind of unhappy person who didn't bring others down with him...Even if you worked with me and spent time with me, you'd never know. I was the jolly fat man," so it's a little harder to take him at his word.
Garlin has put his weight concerns front and center by writing a book, My Footprint: Carrying The Weight Of The World, in part about his struggle with compulsive eating. Undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes triggered a stroke that affected his movement and speech during the taping of Curb Your Enthusiasm's first season. The book details Garlin trying "every pound-shedding strategy imaginable: exercise regimens, 12-step programs, diets, workouts with Richard Simmons."
And his efforts don't seem to have abated much. Since then, Garlin has given up "chicken, ham, red meat, processed foods, sugar, salt," according to the article, and his current regiment includes "a combination of Pilates, weight training, Transcendental Meditation, therapy, Alcoholics and Overeaters Anonymous sessions and regular visits to the Pritikin Longevity Center, a weight-loss resort in Miami."
Itzkoff looks at a few other comedians who famously struggled with weight and used it to varying degrees in their comedy, including Jackie Gleason, Lou Costello, John Candy, John Belushi, and Chris Farley, and tries to tease out a relationship between girth and comedy. Even with the obvious caveat that most well-known comedians are men, it's hard not to notice that it's an all male list. As painfully as at least some of these men appeared to suffer because of their bodies, they did so in a creative and remunerative way that so far few women have managed or been given the forum for.
One exception might be Margaret Cho, who has written and spoken about how network pressure for her to lose weight for her show, American Girl nearly killed her. (A key difference being, of course, that Garlin has chosen to lose weight in part because of health issues, whereas the apparently healthy Cho had it imposed on her.) Cho recently wrote on her blog,
All I wanted to be was thin enough to – well, play myself! I didn't eat for weeks and exercised day and night and wound up in the hospital. My TV show was eventually canceled – and replaced by Drew Carey's show – you know, because he is so thin.
Finding it hard to laugh at that one, actually.
Fat's No Longer a Punch Line [NYT]
On Being Invisible And Drop Dead Diva [Margaret Cho]
Earlier: Curb Your Enthusiasm: 7 Seasons Of Susie Screaming