Sunset Boulevard

Nov 3, 2017

Comedian and actor Jeff Garlin managed to cash in on the perks of being rich and famous before he was either rich or famous. As a young stand-up comic in Chicago, Garlin was approached after a set by some frantic producers of The Oprah Winfrey Show, looking for someone to tape an appearance the next day. Sensing their desperation, Garlin decided to make some demands. "I go, 'Okay. As long as I get my own dressing room and I want it filled with bagels and donuts,'" he told host Ophira Eisenberg. The bagels and donuts were very memorable, even if his jokes were not. "So the next day I was like bombarded by people, 'Ah, we saw you on the show!' But no one said, 'You were so funny,' or 'You were great,' 'cause I didn't know what I was doing." Three decades later, Garlin seems to very much know what he's doing, with starring roles in The Goldbergs, Handsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie, and the newly-revived Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Linda Cardellini's early on-screen appearance also came with a material perk. A lifelong game show fan, she appeared as a contestant on The Price Is Right and won a gas fireplace. As an actor, Cardellini made a name for herself as teenager Lindsay Weir on the cult TV series Freaks and Geeks. Since then, she's played Sylvia Rosen on Mad Men, and Meg Rayburn on Bloodline. Cardellini has noticed that most of her characters— including these three — eventually run away, go missing, or disappear. "I think everybody else is trying to get rid of me," she said. "Everyone's just writing me out."

Garlin and Cardellini put their dramatic acting chops to the test with a quiz based on the iconic Sunset Boulevard line, "All right, Mr. DeMille. I'm ready for my close-up." For each clue, our celebri-testants had to replace "close-up" with something else that ends with "up."

Heard On Los Angeles: Famepocalypse Part Two

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(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

JONATHAN COULTON: From NPR and WNYC, coming to you from the theater at Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, it's NPR's hour of puzzles, word games and trivia, ASK ME ANOTHER. I'm Jonathan Coulton. Now here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.

(APPLAUSE)

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Thank you, Jonathan. It's our second week here in Los Angeles, and we've got another celebrity edition of ASK ME ANOTHER. Four famous contestants are here to play our nerdy games - Linda Cardellini, Jeff Garlin, Lance Reddick and Paul Rust. But only one will be our big winner. And their grand prize - personal validation and parking validation.

(LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: As for us, I think we've really settled into our LA lifestyles. Earlier, instead of a dress rehearsal, we did a yoga pole class covered in activated charcoal, of course.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Backstage, we replaced our usual bagels with Ube ice cream. And for our live audience, we are going to let you know when we're about 80 percent of the way through the show, so you can leave and beat the traffic.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Let's meet our first two celebritestants (ph). First up, you know him from "The Goldbergs," "Handsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie" and the upcoming return of "Curb Your Enthusiasm." It's Jeff Garlin.

(APPLAUSE)

JEFF GARLIN: That's just absurd.

EISENBERG: Let's meet your opponent. You know her as Lindsay in "Freaks And Geeks," Don Draper's neighbor in "Mad Men" and from the upcoming movie "Daddy's Home 2." Please welcome Linda Cardellini.

(APPLAUSE)

LINDA CARDELLINI: Thank you. Hi.

EISENBERG: Jeff, I scoured the internet, trying to find this footage of your very first appearance on "Oprah," where you were kind of discovered.

CARDELLINI: What?

GARLIN: Oh, right. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

EISENBERG: So can you tell me the story behind being discovered and ending up on "Oprah?"

GARLIN: Yes. I was a young comedian in Chicago. I was in my mid-20s, and Oprah had just gone national from being on - she was the host of a show called "AM Chicago," and then it became "The Oprah Show." So I guess they were having this show called - it was, like, an April Fools' Day show. And they had people send in their jokes and stuff, of which I did not.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) OK.

GARLIN: But the producers from the show would hang out at the local comedy club, Zanies. And they came in the night before, scared that their show was going to stink. And they said, would you come on and tell a joke? I said, I don't know any jokes. They said, please come. I go, OK. As long as I get my own dressing room - and I want it filled with bagels and donuts.

(LAUGHTER)

GARLIN: Like, all the other people send in their tapes. They're like, in the hallway - nervous chitty-chatting. And I'm alone in my dressing room with all the bagels and donuts I could eat, and I ate a lot of them.

(LAUGHTER)

GARLIN: So the next day I was, like, bombarded by people at, like, wow we saw you on the show. But no one said, and you were funny, or you were...

EISENBERG: Right. Right, but they still (laughter)...

GARLIN: Because I didn't know what I was doing, you know. But holy crap. Did you find the footage?

EISENBERG: We cannot find it.

GARLIN: That's a good thing.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: OK. So, Linda...

CARDELLINI: Yes.

EISENBERG: ...Big fan, of course, of all the things that you've done. In the last episode...

CARDELLINI: Thank you.

EISENBERG: ...Of "Freaks And Geeks"....

CARDELLINI: OK.

EISENBERG: ...Your character takes off to follow the Grateful Dead.

CARDELLINI: Right.

EISENBERG: In the final season of Netflix series "Bloodline," your character takes off and leaves her family behind, as well.

CARDELLINI: Right.

EISENBERG: OK. Where are you trying to go?

(LAUGHTER)

CARDELLINI: I think everybody else is trying to get rid of me.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

CARDELLINI: Pretty much just writing me out. Go on. Sail away.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: But if you were to take off...

CARDELLINI: Yes.

EISENBERG: ...And, like, leave it all behind, where would you escape to?

CARDELLINI: Oh, my God. Well, do I go by myself. Or do I, like, take my family?

EISENBERG: OK. Let's say...

GARLIN: Why do you think so much?

CARDELLINI: I know. It's a huge problem.

GARLIN: Just answer it. Just answer. Answer.

CARDELLINI: Somewhere I won't think.

GARLIN: Where do you want to go? Hawaii?

CARDELLINI: I'll go to Italy. I'd go we go to Italy.

GARLIN: Oh, Italy. Look at her. OK.

EISENBERG: With the family?

CARDELLINI: Sure.

EISENBERG: OK. With the family.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Linda and Jeff, this is a star-studded show, so we're doing things a little different. You're going to play three games against each other, and whoever gets the most points overall will move on to our final round. So we're going to get your first challenge. It's a word game based on the famous last line from "Sunset Boulevard." All right, Mr. DeMille. I'm ready for my close-up.

So in this game, Jonathan and I will be movie directors. We're going to give you your motivation. You'll respond with that famous quote from "Sunset Boulevard," but you're going to replace close-up with something else that ends with up.

COULTON: So if I said, here's your motivation. You love pancakes, but they're too dry. So you grab a bottle of maple tree sap. You would say, I'm ready for my syrup.

EISENBERG: Buzz in to answer. Here we go. Here's your motivation. You're on Muscle Beach, and you want to show off your bod. You're doing an exercise where you grip a bar above your head and lift up your entire body.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Jeff.

GARLIN: Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my pullup.

EISENBERG: That is correct.

(APPLAUSE)

GARLIN: I'm really good at this.

(LAUGHTER)

GARLIN: Wow.

COULTON: Here's your motivation. You're sick of all the bland hamburgers in this world. Who isn't? You're going to fix it with a condiment made out of tomatoes.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Linda.

CARDELLINI: Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my ketchup.

COULTON: Yes, you are.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Yeah. You're all right? Felt good?

CARDELLINI: This is very competitive.

EISENBERG: Yeah. Just so you know, right now it's a tie.

COULTON: It's all tied up.

CARDELLINI: I'm feeling the heat.

EISENBERG: Here's your motivation. You're an Anglophile who loves British afternoon meal rituals. You're holding a tiny drinking vessel filled with Earl Grey or oolong (laughter). A tiny drinking vessel.

GARLIN: Oh.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Jeff Garlin.

GARLIN: Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my tea cup.

CARDELLINI: Oh.

EISENBERG: That is correct.

(APPLAUSE)

CARDELLINI: All right. All right. All right.

GARLIN: It's, like, almost, like, too easy. And you wouldn't...

CARDELLINI: Right.

GARLIN: ...Think it'd be that easy.

CARDELLINI: Right.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

GARLIN: Yeah, just, you know, for next time.

CARDELLINI: OK.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

GARLIN: All right.

COULTON: Here's your motivation. You drank a lot of soda.

CARDELLINI: Oh, God.

COULTON: And you're suffering from involuntary contractions of the diaphragm, followed by a sudden closure of the vocal cords producing a sound.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Linda.

CARDELLINI: Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my hiccup.

COULTON: That's correct.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

(APPLAUSE)

GARLIN: I couldn't figure how to use the word fart.

(LAUGHTER)

GARLIN: In a fart-up - I swear that's where I went. And it wasn't going to happen.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: All right. This is your last clue.

GARLIN: OK.

COULTON: Here's your motivation.

GARLIN: Yes.

COULTON: You're confronting your own mortality.

GARLIN: Uh-huh.

COULTON: So you go to the doctor for your annual physical.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Linda.

GARLIN: Well, yeah, go. It's easy.

(LAUGHTER)

GARLIN: Tell Mr. DeMille what you're ready for at the doctor's office.

(LAUGHTER)

GARLIN: Come on. Tell him.

CARDELLINI: I'm ready for my checkup?

GARLIN: Yes.

COULTON: Yes, that's right.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

COULTON: Puzzle guru Art Chung, how did our contestants do?

ART CHUNG: What a great first game. Right now Linda is in the lead.

(APPLAUSE) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.