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Comedy Isn’t Funny

“There’s no word for when you castrate a female,” Rosie Shuster says. “But that’s the feeling I get watching what’s happening to Janeane.”

Ask Melanie Hutsell, who was fired from SNL last spring after three troubled years, what kind of advice she’d give Garofalo, and she whistles. “That’s a tough one. Any advice I would give, I already tried. Just don’t let them take your soul away.

The show doesn’t end when Saturday Night Live leaves the air at 1 A.M. There’s one more ritual to play out, one more twenty-year-old gesture. Cast and crew trundle off to a publicity-hungry, eager-to-be-cool restaurant—one week it’s Planet Hollywood, the next it’s Morton’s, then Chaz & Wilson’s—for a languid party. “They have the show,” Chris Elliott cracks, “so they can have the party.”

Tonight, after the David Hyde Pierce show, the low-intensity festivities are at Dolce. A fleet of limousines whisks everyone to the restaurant, only three blocks from Rockefeller Center.

The parties began, twenty years ago, with higher spirits and lower regimentation. “Most of us were living at the office in those days,” Michaels says. “We naturally just ended up going out somewhere together.” They quickly became the coolest, wildest, most important show-business parties in the city, especially when Belushi and Aykroyd bought a seedy joint near Canal Street that they named the Blues Bar—“no relation,” Michaels says archly, “to the House of Blues. We would go to the party for the host and cast, and then we would end up at the Blues Bar—sometimes, more often than not, till the sun came up. But that was then and this is now.”

Inside Dolce, the mood is strangely stiff for a late-night bash full of comedians. Cast, writers, crew—everyone sticks to his or her table; there’s almost no mingling. Kevin Nealon and his wife have brought a clutch of fellow PETA members and are chattering earnestly about “companion animals.” Because the Dolce bar is still open to civilians, and the bar crowd is staring at the famous TV faces, the Saturday Night group feels like Party Village at a showbiz theme park. Unaffiliated celebrities don’t drop in much anymore. Tonight’s visitor is Patti Davis, ex–presidential daughter and–Playboy centerfold.

Seated apart from everyone else is Lorne Michaels. At these events he’s always as remote as possible—invariably at the back of the room, preferably in a section of the restaurant raised above the rest of the place. A votive candle flickers light onto Michaels’s face as he leans forward from the shadows, making him look mysterious.

Mostly, though, he looks lonely. Young staff members Marci Klein and Erin Maroney sit on either side of Michaels, their blonde heads tilted up toward him reverentially.

Across the room, Elliott, Hiscock, Garofalo and a college friend, and Mark McKinney are crammed into a banquette. Jim Downey, jocular, the pressure off for a minute, stops by on his way to the men’s room. “Ah,” he says with a smile, “the malcontents’ table!”

“Jim, you want a drink?” Elliott says.

“I can’t keep up with you—you and your vodka-and-tonics,” Downey says, mocking Elliott in his renowned deadpan. “How many have you had?”

“It’s my first!” Elliott says, feigning indignation. “I swear! These are my witnesses.”

“One?” Downey says, comically overplaying his disbelief. “’Cause it seems like you’ve had a fucking million!”

Everyone laughs, then Downey says, “Come over and say hi to my friends from Illinois. They’ll say, ‘What are you doing slumming with this show?’ ”

Suuuure,” Elliott teases. “I’ll come over, so your friends can go back to Illinois and say, ‘Oh! I met Chris Elliott!’”

Elliott puts on a big act of giving in. “Awright, awright. Let me finish my drink, and I’ll give your friends a little…,” he says, making wildly insincere, goofily funny smiley faces.

Downey leaves. Garofalo is shaking with laughter. “That’s why you say yes to doing this show, ’cause you think this could be the funnest thing—it should be the funnest thing in the world.” She shrugs. “Doesn’t always work out that way.”

The next time Garofalo grins so broadly, she’s standing at the very front of the Saturday Night Live stage. It’s the end of the February 25 show, and it’s the last one she’ll do this season. In interviews, Garofalo says she’s open to rejoining the cast in the fall. But as the credits roll, it’s plain to see that Janeane Garofalo is waving good-bye as fast as she can.


  • Articles by Chris Smith
  • From the Mar 13, 1995 issue of New York