A funny thing happened on the drive home from my bar mitzvah. My mom started talking to me about sitcoms and Judaism, and one show in particular came up multiple times.
The Goldbergs then became a nightly ritual for the Aronoff family. We’d eat dinner, then my brother and I would sit down, pull up Hulu, and start with that immensely cheesy intro:
I’m twisted up inside but nonetheless I feel the need to say … don’t know the future but the past keeps gettin’ clearer every day.
We loved The Goldbergs. While Adam, Beverly, Erica, Barry and Pops were all charming and lovable in their own right, everyone’s favorite was the lazy, grumpy dad who was constantly yelling at his kids. Murray Goldberg was the heart and soul of The Goldbergs, and we all knew that.
Over time, I became more familiar with Jeff Garlin. I was able to catch his voice acting in WALL-E and Toy Story 3. I really enjoyed his comedy. I thought he was a really funny guy.
Then, one night, I was not feeling great. I had a huge stomach ache and was sitting on the couch, eating white rice. My mom, my brother and I were in the middle of Michael Bay’s The Rock, which I was not enjoying. My dad was upstairs in his office, playing poker with a bunch of his friends. Suddenly, my mom picked up the remote, paused the movie, and said “Dads playing poker with Murray Goldberg.”
My jaw dropped. Shocked and excited, I went upstairs, ignoring the pain shooting through my stomach. We opened the door, and my dad was laughing along with all of his friends as usual … but Jeff Garlin was on the zoom with them. I could hear my dad’s friends asking nerdy questions about different famous actors like Jason Bateman and Paul Rudd. Jeff Garlin fit in perfectly. Sure, he was a celebrity that we had all watched on The Goldbergs, but he felt like a part of my dad’s friend group. He seemed so nice and so funny. He didn’t call any of them morons, even though a friend we'll call "Barry" was being a moron.
From there, Jeff Garlin became a constant presence in our household. Whenever we talked or quoted The Goldbergs, our conversation eventually shifted into Jeff Garlin as an actor and then how nice of a person he was.
He even came on a roadtrip with us, sort of. On the drive home from a guy’s trip for spring break – Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Football Hall of Fame, Godzilla vs. Kong on the big screen – we needed something good to listen to.
We called my mom (for a recommendation). Immediately, she thought of Armchair Expert, the podcast hosted by Dax Shepard, and the episode with Jeff Garlin as the guest.
The next hour and a half were filled up with great stories from Jeff and Dax. Both Garlin and Shepard were incredibly honest about their lives and perspectives. Usually, when something gets philosophical, it plays with my mind too much and I’m not able to handle it, but when Armchair Expert got philosophical about life and religion and G*d, I was intrigued, because I was listening to these two people that I had watched on TV growing up.
I recommend the whole episode, but here are a few of my favorite Jeff Garlin quotes:
"People who convert – they’re the biggest Jews I know."
"I think atheism is completely wrong. I can understand someone being an agnostic … What works for me is there’s something bigger than me. And I don’t know what it is and I accept it and you can even refer to it as the universe."
"I find organized religion completely arrogant and almost anti-humane … a lot of wars are started because of it and that’s because of their definition of God."
"I’m just this schmuck who does comedy, trying to help easy people’s pain. Being humble and confident in your skills – there’s no more delightful combination."
Me? I’m twisted up inside, but nonetheless I feel the need to say that Jeff Garlin has become an inspiration to me. Between his unforgettable characters, his humility and his cameo appearance at poker night, Jeff Garlin has motivated me to pursue my dreams of working on movies or as a critic (“Morons!”).
Aiden Aronoff is a student at Berkley High School and the creator of Sweet and Sour Reviews, a movie blog with film reviews and authoritative franchise rankings, as well as a ton of other pop culture content.