Jen Candy had never done stand-up comedy when her friend Jeff Garlin convinced her to give it a try. They'd met on the set of a children's show, where 34-year-old Candy was hired as a stand-in for Garlin — an odd staffing choice, considering that the two actors look nothing alike. Candy, a TV producer, has short blond hair, big eyes and a cheery, near-permanent smile. Garlin, 52, whose personality is interchangeable with his Jeff Greene character on Curb Your Enthusiasm, has dark wavy hair and a constant scowl.
Still, the unlikely duo hit it off immediately. Onstage at the Westside Comedy Theater last Thursday night, Garlin, the headliner of a show called “Virgin Sacrifice,” said, “I knew there was something about Jen.” It all made sense to him once he figured out what that something was: She's the daughter of the late comedian and actor John Candy. “That's why I have this affection for her that I can't explain,” he added.
This was only minutes after she'd lost her virginity — stand-up virginity, that is — and had been “sacrificed” live onstage. The concept of the monthly stand-up show is that someone who's never done stand-up before performs a set for the first — and, presumably, only — time in his or her life. Candy's entire set turned out to be a tribute to her father. Garlin's set, meanwhile, was a tribute to her.
“SCTV is one of the reasons that I went into comedy,” Garlin said, referencing Second City Television, the variety show where John Candy got his start before becoming synonymous with the endlessly quotable, lovable goofballs in John Hughes' The Great Outdoors, Uncle Buck and Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Garlin lost his stand-up virginity a week after his 20th birthday (he lost his real virginity to a heckler at one of his stand-up shows not long after) and said, “Every show was like 'holy fucking shit'” kind of terrifying.
Of course, Garlin quickly got over that short-lived case of virgin stage fright — so much so that at last week's show, his improvised routine was so candid and so exhaustive that it seemed as if he'd forgotten he was on a stage at all. At one point he took a seat on a corner of the stage after tiring himself out with rants about the anxiety of texting (“I have lost sleep over not what was said but what wasn't said”), the futility of hiking (“I have never been on a hike”) and the racial profiling in that controversial cat-calling video (“Every fucking guy who yelled something was either an old black man or an Italian man — it was right out of Central Casting”).
Candy's set was more focused, with a central theme: road trips. In her opening monologue about a trip from L.A. to her native Toronto (one of many), she recounted stopping at Biscuits Diner just outside of Denver one night, only to discover a family shoplifting everything from the gift shop next door: shot glasses, magnets, teddy bears. The moral of the story? “Never eat at a fucking diner named Biscuits.”
At the heart of her set was a road-trip story that suggested her father was exactly the larger-than-life king of road trips that he played on screen, in iconic roles such as Del Griffith (“the shower curtain ring guy”) in Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Gus Polinski (“the polka king of the Midwest”) in Home Alone. In one real-life family road trip from L.A. to Toronto (one that Candy says her father attempted to do in four days — which is possible with only two bathroom breaks total), her father got pulled over for speeding. (At least their speedometer hadn't melted, like Griffith's after a car fire in Planes, Trains and Automobiles.)
Still, things escalated pretty quickly when a cop pulled out his gun and pointed it at the family. Next thing they knew, they had been booked at the Canadian police station, held for what felt like hours until the cops finally realized who they were dealing with and burst into laughter. John Candy spent the rest of the day posing for pictures and signing autographs for every single cop at the police station.
“If you ever want to go on a road trip with the Candys, be prepared for weird shit to happen,” Jen Candy said, and then exited the stage to roaring applause, including that of her mother and brother, who were both in the audience. The virgin sacrifice was complete, and Candy wasn't half-bad. Even Garlin agreed.
Jennifer Swann on Twitter:
Public Spectacle, L.A. Weekly's arts & culture blog, on
Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.