Five minutes with Jeff Garlin

GARLIN J 071108 184.jpgOn July 11, comedian and actor Jeff Garlin visited the WGN-TV booth fresh off the heels of his new, critically acclaimed animated film, Wall-E, to lead a subdued Friday afternoon crowd in “Take Me Out To the Ball Game.” In his subsequent interview with broadcasters Len Kasper and Bob Brenly, Garlin boldly guaranteed a Cubs win that day, though the team was not winning at the time. Luckily for him, Aramis Ramirez came through with a walk-off home run that sent the Wrigley crowd into a frenzied celebration. Jeff also took the time to sit down with us to talk about his deep passion for the Cubs and how he keeps tabs on the team.

— Jennifer Dedes Nowak

Vine Line: What brings you to Chicago?
Jeff Garlin:
Two things bring me to Chicago. Obviously, to sing today which is always an honor, and my sister-in-law is getting married tomorrow to her Cub fan fiancée. They are lovely and wonderful.

VL: What’s your baseball background?
When I was growing up, I played baseball. I was a huge Cub fan. I lived in Morton Grove [Ill.]. I pretended to be Billy Williams when I was batting and Ron Santo and Bobby Tolan and also Willie Stargell and Joe Morgan because they had very distinct batting styles. I didn’t play Little League until I was older, but I played with my friends every day after school.

VL: What’s the scouting report on you?
Power-hitting first baseman with a high batting average but a weak arm. There you go.

VL: You have sung “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” a few times at Wrigley now. Is it something you get nervous about performing?
No, no at all, zero. I was looking at ESPN and the list of all the people that sang before, and I think I am the record holder for singing it the most times of any actor or performer. Ernie Banks has sung it every year, and I looked at the other categories, but in terms of the actor categories I believe this is No. 5 for me, and I would be No. 1. I’m going to brag about that for a long time.

VL: How do you feel about your singing voice?
I feel good about it. I don’t think it’s something that people should buy an album of, but I do a good job. I sing on key, and I take my time. I’ve actually been taking voice lessons, not for this. I have a nodule on my throat, so I do have to work on improving that.

VL: How often are you able to keep up with the Cubs?
Are you ready for this? I don’t miss a game between Direct TV and XM satellite radio. I listen to or watch every single Cubs game.

VL: You lived in Chicago before, what other places have you lived in?
I was born in the city of Chicago, and I lived in Morton Grove. Then my family moved to Plantation, Flo., which is by Ft. Lauderdale. Then I moved back to Chicago, to New York, back to Chicago, and now Los Angeles, and I’ve been there for 14 years.

VL: What’s the best part about coming back to Chicago?
That it’s still here, that’s the best part. You would hate to come back and, like the Pretenders sang, “My City is Gone.” Chicago actually gets better every year. Mayor [Richard] Daley makes the city better. He does a good job. I make phone calls, requests, and he just listens to what I say.

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