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Comedy Fri Jul 15 2011

Review: Jeff Garlin @ Steppenwolf

Jeff Garlin by Robert Trachtenberg.jpg

Still life with Jeff Garlin, tree, and mysterious rodent. Photo credit: Robert Trachtenberg

Jeff Garlin's short-run show: "No Sugar Tonight", which runs at the Steppenwolf (1650 N. Halsted) is like spending an hour and a half hanging out with Garlin at his most relaxed. His routine -- which he claims has no arc, consists of relating various real-life stories, riffing off the audience, and a short Q&A with the audience at the end.

The title of the show comes from Garlin's struggle with diabetes and weight loss; two and a half years ago the comedian cut sugar out of his diet, and it shows -- he's significantly smaller now than he was in earlier episodes of "Curb Your Enthusiasm", the HBO series for which he is best known.

He drinks water from a ladle in a plastic jack-o-lantern rather than a bottle because, as he puts it: "it adds visual excitement;" the same reason he gave for the ukelele sitting on stage left that never got referred to in any way during his performance. Garlin's humor is self-deprecating and inclusive, but he doesn't hesitate to take the audience into potentially dangerous territory

Garlin's stories have a focus on diet and weight loss: he relates an incident in which he ate five Krispy Kreme donuts at once (because more than that and he'd be in the half-dozens; five donuts left him with some dignity), with a glass of skim milk, and judged the man sitting across from him for accompanying his pile of donuts with chocolate milkshake; the time he accidentally ate six slices of Hawaiian pizza on set; and the lengths that he went to in explaining to a cookie vendor why it was that he was not able to eat a free sample. He also, perhaps unintentionally, is a great mimic -- his impersonations of Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David are worth the price of admission.

The best part of Garlin's performance is his ease on the stage; as he put it himself: "I'm the most comfortable comic in the business; I'm not the funniest, but I am the most comfortable." Opening night he was recovering from an unpleasant spot of gastrointestinal distress, and he didn't hesitate from sharing this information, telling the audience that the last time he performed with a stomach this bad he'd eaten White Castle burgers beforehand and had to run offstage mid-performance to use the toilet.

Garlin's Chicago roots make him a hometown favorite, and his ease onstage and ability to riff on the audience makes every show in this short run different. But don't wait around if you want to catch his act -- before you know it, this show will close. Jeff Garlin performs at the upstairs theater at the Steppenwolf through Sunday, July 24th. For tickets and information call 312-335-1650 or visit Steppenwolf.

 
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