Q&A: Funnyman Jeff Garlin Steps Behind the Lens to Shoot a Documentary

“At some point I will let people see my photos, but I have great respect for learning an art form. And I’m still learning.”

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As AOL dives more deeply into original programming, the site’s new series, In Short, snags high-profile entertainers to direct themselves in short documentaries. In around five minutes, stars such as Katie Holmes, Alia Shawkat, Judy Greer, and James Purefoy each intimately explore a subject that is near and dear to them. Topics have included Trancendental Meditation, female power in sexuality, and “canners”- people who go through trash bins to collect recyclables for money.

We caught up with comedian Jeff Garlin of ABC’s The Goldbergs and HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm to discuss his segment, which focuses on the art of photography. Filmed on a typical night at the Comedy Store, the episode finds Garlin turning the camera on strangers on the street to have a dialogue about photography. And no, you will not get to see any of his photos—yet.

You’ve acted, directed, and produced. How was it different shooting this documentary?
It is me shooting at the Comedy Store and what the Comedy Store is like for me. I didn’t have to prepare the way I looked or acted so it was pretty easy to be natural. I found it interesting because I normally don’t pay attention to what I’m doing when I do it. On this particular night I had to pay attention to everything that I did and I didn’t really notice any of it until I edited it. Then I thought, “Oh, that’s pretty cool!”

What’s your favorite place to shoot in L.A.?
I take my camera with me every time I perform, and I take lots of pictures of people. My favorite place to shoot in L.A. is the Farmer’s Market. You get all different types of people: old people, tourists, beautiful women.

What kind of images have you shot while filming at the Comedy Store?
Just lots of nudity. (Laughs)

What is it about Los Angeles that you find appealing as a photographer?
Truthfully, the morning and the evening light here is amazing. I love the feel. There’s not many places where you can get people always walking around. You know what’s really funny? Sometimes I’ll stand in front of the Comedy Store and I’ll shoot people in their cars and they get really upset about it. They’ll try to maneuver their cars so I don’t do it.

I think that the paparazzi culture has made people adverse to anyone with a camera. There’s also the confusion when I take people’s pictures because of who I am. I don’t refer to myself as a famous guy, but this is what people will say to me: “Why is a famous guy taking our picture?” I also take pictures of the paparazzi when they are taking pictures of me.

How do they react?
They laugh. They’re just happy that I’m not pushing them out of the way!

Do you have any good stories from your photo excursions?
The stuff that I deal with is mostly people reacting like they can’t believe it. I just explain to them that I love shooting people and that’s what I do. What I have that’s great is access to movie and television sets. I can go visit friends and take pictures. I take pictures whenever I’m working. My camera is an appendage.

Do you ever show the photographs?
That’s the big question. No! No one ever sees my pictures. At some point I will let people see them. I’ll have a show or I’ll do a book, but I have great respect for learning an art form. And I’m still learning.

I’ve been doing comedy and stand-up for 30 years and I’m still learning that. Stand-up is the only art form where people see your crap. When you’re a young comedian, you don’t know what the hell you’re doing and you’re on stage trying to do it. People are seeing you in a period when you shouldn’t be seen.

Photography I can keep under wraps until I’m ready for people to see it. I produced a movie called Finding Vivian Maier and it’s about a photographer who never, ever in her life let anyone see her photos, and she turned out to be one of the greatest street photographers of all time. I don’t think that’s going to happen the same way for me. I’ve already hit my success in what I do well, which is comedy.

Click here to watch Jeff Garlin’s episode of In Short.   

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