Jeff Garlin — who walked away from his starring role on “The Goldbergs,” after an HR investigation into his on-set behavior — joked about being in trouble at the ABC sitcom at a recent standup show in Los Angeles, Variety can reveal.
Performing to a jam-packed crowd at Hollywood Improv on Nov. 24, the day before Thanksgiving, Garlin’s standup act revolved largely around how much he hated “The Goldbergs.” He told the audience repeatedly that he despised the show, did not want to talk about the show (though he kept talking about the show) and was only doing the show for the paycheck. He said things have gotten too politically correct for comics, and he was fed up that he was currently in hot water at ABC for commentary he was making on-set, including using the word “vagina,” which he told the audience in a tongue-in-cheek, yet serious, manner.
On Dec. 16, two sources close to production on “The Goldbergs” told Variety that Garlin would not return to the ABC show, following a string of misconduct allegations against him and an HR investigation. Sources say that his departure was a true mutual decision, but he might have seen the writing on the wall. “The Goldbergs,” which premiered in 2013, is currently in its ninth season, and insiders say Garlin, who played the patriarch of the Goldberg family, only had one more week of work on the season. (No decision has been made on whether the sitcom will be renewed for a 10th season without Garlin.)
ABC and Sony Pictures Television declined to comment on this story. A representative for Garlin was unavailable for comment.
Phones were not allowed at the comedy show in November, where a Variety reporter happened to be in attendance. So, this account of Garlin’s commentary is largely paraphrased, as photography and filming were not allowed.
From the moment Garlin stepped onto the stage, he told the audience he was “depressed” because his girlfriend had just broken up with him. While that may have been true, it appears Garlin’s stand-up act was the very same day he spoke to Vanity Fair in a piece where he responded to rumors of his misconduct on the set of the long-running ABC series, but insisted he had not been fired.
The common theme of Garlin’s comedy show was how much he did not like the sitcom. He vented about how things have become too politically correct in comedy, and in a serious moment, expressed his concerns over censorship — like many other comedians have in recent years. Garlin said it’s not enjoyable for him to be in a workplace where he has to watch his every move and every word, and he felt like he’s on pins and needles. He said that he had been spoken to by higher-ups at the network about some things he had said, and specifically noted his shock that he can’t use the word “vagina” when speaking in jest.
This is not the first time Garlin has addressed his troubles on “The Goldbergs” in his standup schtick. In his 2019 Netflix standup special, “Jeff Garlin: Our Man In Chicago,” the comedian said he was almost fired from the show the year prior. Referring to his character on the sitcom, he said, “A lot of days on ‘The Goldbergs,’ I sit in a Barcalounger in tighty whities for the whole day, and I think to myself, ‘Who did I blow to get this job?’” With a loud laugh, he added that every time he stands up from the Barcalounger, he always says the same joke on-set: “‘Ah, my vagina. Ah, achy vagina. Ah, my vagina’s killing me.’”
In the Netflix special, Garlin said that joke led to a HR complaint from an offended crew member. “I get called in, and they go, ‘Look, you can’t do this.’ And I go, ‘Oh yes, I can.’ They go, ‘You might get fired.’ I go, ‘I’d love to be fired and have it hit the papers: Cover of TMZ: ‘Jeff Garlin Fired Because His Vagina Hurts.’”
“I’m on a comedy. I’m a comedian. Let’s get over. I don’t have a vagina. I think everyone knows that,” Garlin said on Netflix, which echoed the same sentiment in his recent standup.
At the L.A. show, Garlin said he is proud that “The Goldbergs” is a top-rated sitcom for family co-viewing, and that makes him feel good, but “it’s not for me,” he told the audience of the show’s style. He’s said he’s more of a fan of the comedy stylings of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” (which, this season, has poked fun at “cancel culture” and political correctness), and told the crowd of his fans that he loves his work on Larry David’s HBO show, on which he is an executive producer and long-running star, playing David’s best friend and manager, Jeff Greene. HBO has not commented yet on Garlin’s situation at “The Goldbergs” — but its worth noting that David has not even said whether he will continue the critically-acclaimed series for any more seasons.
Performing to a supportive house that night, Garlin expressed his gratitude to be working on so many projects that he does enjoy in film and television, as he noted his love for standup. He said he wasn’t collecting a check from the venue that night, and that he’d be donating all of the proceeds to the comedy club, as part of his give-back initiative on his “Use Me” tour, since live comedy took such a hit during the pandemic.
Garlin said he doesn’t prepare his acts. In fact, most of his Nov. 24 show was based around an audience Q&A. After so much mouthing off about “The Goldbergs,” one person asked him, if he hates the show so much, why does he continue to do the show?
“Money!” Garlin exclaimed.