Janeane Garofalo Talks ‘American Idol’ And VMAs

Comedian Janeane Garofalo chatted with Conan O’Brien on Wednesday’s episode of Late Night. Janeane talked about ‘American Idol’ and the MTV Video Music Awards, where she took shots at star Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Eminem the state of music on MTV, and more. Read on for a transcript.

Janeane Garofalo: But also, I was watching for the “American Idol” thing today on the news. They keep talking about how it’s such a groundswell of support, and they’re saying, “20 million viewers have tuned into this,” but what they don’t tell you is like 19.5 million of those tune in to mock it.

[ Light laughter ] I mean, you watch it to mock it. You don’t watch it like, “oh, i really love this kind of music, and this is so great.”

Conan: I have a hard time ridiculing that kind of viewer ’cause I rely on them, too. [ Laughter ] I mean, in all fairness, a viewer’s a viewer, right?

Janeane Garofalo: Well, here’s the thing. I want to mention something about how Eminem did sully the atmosphere. I felt that at the VMAs he was a little bit hostile, but then you’ve got Justin from “American Idol,” and his positivity, and then we have the healing, because Justin comes in and he —

Conan: Do you think Justin — ?

Janeane Garofalo: He is like a sorbet that cleanses the palate.

[ Laughter ] You got a real can-do guy like Justin. He’s positive.

Conan: Right.

Janeane Garofalo: He’s a positive guy that Justin.

Conan: Do you think he and the universe balances out Eminem?

Janeane Garofalo: Yeah. Like I said, he seizes the day. He’s like an inspirational potholder.

[ Laughter ] You know what I mean? Like you would hang on your refrigerator. But anyway, we’re getting off the point here. So first of all, let me just say before I weigh in on the VMAs, let me just say that I realize that I’m too old to be watching the VMAs. I do realize this.

Conan: Can I say nothing makes you feel old faster than tuning into that show —

Janeane Garofalo: Right, mm-hmm.

Conan: — Because some of these people literally were born about six years ago.

Janeane Garofalo: I know. I know.

[ Laughter ]

Conan: They were born, and the doctor delivered them and throws them at MTV.

[ Laughter ]

Janeane Garofalo: “They’re born?” And then they get a half shirt and really low pants, and they’re on their way.

Conan: That’s right.

Janeane Garofalo: So the thing is, though, I realize I am too old to not only be watching it, but to also be irritated by it. So I realize that before I say it, and the night of the VMAs, I was like, “I’m not watching. I am not going to do this. I’m going to sit in my room and read my Peggy Guggenheim biography.”

[ Light laughter ]

Conan: You, too? Wow.

[ Laughter ]

Janeane Garofalo: Yes.

Conan: That’s incredible.

Janeane Garofalo: I am not going to be complicit in this. You know what I mean? Like I’m just not going to do it. And then, it just calls to you. It’s like picking at a scab, or if you have a loose tooth, you just must — you must — they’re so — award shows are so compellingly awful, that you must watch them.

Conan: Right.

Janeane Garofalo: And I think like the Grammys and the VMAs, they should just change the title to “hooray for mediocrity.”

[ Laughter ] Do you know what I mean? Like a celebration of mediocrity.

Conan: Don’t knock mediocrity.

Janeane Garofalo: And Justin Timberlake, they’re like, “here’s his solo debut.” Did he really need to break away from those guys for that? Do you know what I mean?

Conan: Well, the thing is he broke away from and then was up there dancing with five other guys —

Janeane Garofalo:[ Laughter ] — Who were just other guys that he found at like a Sears & Roebuck, you know?

[ Laughter ]

Janeane Garofalo: Well, what has done is he has taken the torch from Corey Feldman has just started the idolatry of Michael Jackson, and he just scratched the surface, and then Justin has picked up where Feldman has left off.

Conan: I like when they know refer to Corey Feldman as just Feldman.

Janeane Garofalo: Feldman, Feldman.

[ Laughter ]

Conan: We’ve reached that point.

Janeane Garofalo: But the thing is like at least — is he in Backstreet or *NSYNC?

Conan: Who, Corey Feldman?

Janeane Garofalo: No, Justin.

[ Light laughter ]

Conan: Justin is still in *NSYNC, yeah.

Janeane Garofalo: He’s in *NSYNC.

Conan: Yeah.

Janeane Garofalo: But the thing is is like why break away to do that? At least when he was with them, they could all shoulder the blame. You know what I mean?

Conan: Right.

Janeane Garofalo: He could have at least claimed, “well, they make me do this. I don’t have to do this.”

Conan: Right.

Janeane Garofalo: And then of course he breaks away solo, and it’s even worse actually than it was.

Conan: Right.

Janeane Garofalo: [ Laughter ] Did you get this all in a letter? Is this a letter you’re writing to somebody?

[ Laughter ]

Janeane Garofalo: And believe me, I realize I’m too old, and it’s unseemly, and it seems like I’m being nasty. I just —

Conan: Are you bothered by the fashion at all, by the way the fashion — ?

Janeane Garofalo: Well, here’s the thing. Okay, may I quote Jay Christian Emerte? Have you ever heard of this eastern philosophy — philosopher called Jay Christian Emerte?

Conan: I think we all have.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Janeane Garofalo: He’s just a wonderful thinker, and one of the —

Conan: You lying dog.

[ Laughter ] “Yeah, Emerte!” One guy’s like —

[ In high-pitched voice ] “Emerte! Ah!”

[ Laughter ]

Janeane Garofalo: We’re not going to get to the mideast thing if you keep interrupting me.

Conan: I’m sorry, I’m sorry.

[ Laughter ]

Janeane Garofalo: Jay Christian Emerte once said in lieu of creativity, there is an undue emphasis on sexuality, which you could apply to MTV and television in general. Where there is no creativity, there is an emphasis on sexuality. So instead of contributing something creative or interesting in the singer/songwriter category, what you do is you wear less and less and less.

Conan: Right.

[ Laughter ]

Janeane Garofalo: Do you know what I mean? And hope that nobody notices, like a diversionary tactic like car keys to a baby. You know what I mean?

Conan: Right, right.

[ Laughter ]

Janeane Garofalo: And in fact, I think MTV — it’s so ridiculous the way they do that now that I think for all videos they should just hold up car keys, and when you tune in to mtv, they just go, “who’s the pretty girl?”

[ Laughter ] “Who’s that pretty baby? Who’s that baby?” So you don’t notice —

Conan: I would watch that video. I’d watch that video and be like, “I’m a pretty girl.”

[ Laughter and applause ]

Janeane Garofalo: There’s just no singer/songwriter. I mean, there’s
at least — the pendulum is swinging with the White Stripes and The Strokes and stuff, and that’s good news. That’s good news, but at the same time, there’s still this — whatever was going on in that pseudo/hip-hop world and like guys with their shirts open and the wind blowing it.

Conan: Right, right.

[ Laughter ]

Janeane Garofalo: I just sit there and go, “duh!”

[ Laughter ] Whenever I see like guys with the six-pack abs, I just want to go, “oh, dude, do you work out?”

[ Laughter ] That’s so awesome. It’s just —

Conan: I have a quick question. Can the ladies’ pants get lower at this point?

Janeane Garofalo: They are so — here’s the thing about the MTV awards also. So after you watch the show, you just go, “wow, I almost saw everyone’s vagina.”

[ Laughter ] Can I say everyone?

Conan: Yeah, you can say everyone as long as there’s an apostrophe.

[ Laughter ]

Janeane Garofalo: I hope that’s not too crack, but like everybody’s wearing their pants so low that if they were any lower, they would be folded up in the drawer still at home.

[ Laughter ] They’re just so —

Conan: Well, that’s what I keep thinking is like what’s the next step?

Janeane Garofalo: I don’t know.

Conan: Because the next step is nudity, and I’m down with it, but I want to know when it’s coming, and when —

[ Laughter ]

Janeane Garofalo: It’s just — I guess it’s when you want to be well-liked.

Conan: Yeah.

Janeane Garofalo: I can’t imagine. It’s like, “please like me, pants.”

[ Laughter ] “Please like me. Please like me.”

 Conan: Like you say, in lieu of creativity, sexuality.

[ Laughter ]

Janeane Garofalo: And there’s also, if I have time, there’s like the black scent. Triumph talked about co-opting the black —

Conan: Right, right.

Janeane Garofalo: Timberlake and Aguilera both do it like, “I’m here to announce the award for,” blah, blah, blah.

[ Laughter ] And then Justin Timberlake’s like, “let me catch my breath. Ooh.” I’m like, “did you guys come up the hard way through the new Mickey Mouse Club?”

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