Jeff Garlin comes full circle. Just with a little less circle.

Here in sweet home Chicago, Jeff Garlin has gone from "I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With" to "No Sugar Tonight." It's an interesting 20-year trajectory. A revealing 20-year trajectory. Wouldn't you say, Mr. Garlin?

"Yeah, I guess things have changed," the Chicago-born comedian, 49, said in a recent phone interview. "Now it's all about wanting to be left alone."


That first lactose-tolerant title, which played at Second City e.t.c., Live Bait Theatre and the old Remains Theatre around 1991-92, featured Garlin in a bathrobe discussing strategies for surviving the vicissitudes of life as, well, an indulgent schlub. I was very fond of that show — which former Tribune critic Richard Christiansen once memorably described as "the self-revealing comedy of low expectations."

Those expectations have not remained low, even if Garlin insists that all of his subsequent success has been a big surprise, every step of the way.


Garlin, you'll likely know, has become quite famous, thanks mostly to the HBO series "Curb Your Enthusiasm," which stars Larry David, but also through his books (his latest is "My Footprint: Carrying the Weight of the World"), movie acting, comedy specials and other performances. Indeed, "I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With" was made into a movie in 2006 with Bonnie Hunt andSarah Silverman.

His new show, opening Wednesday, carries that strikingly prohibitive title.

"I talk about my addiction to sugar," Garlin said. "It's a drug, man. It's true. Do you know what it was like for me to come off sugar? It was like coming off drugs."

I can't say I thought I'd live to see the day when Garlin was doing a show about being healthy and "going green," but the day has arrived.


There are some practicalities in play. From the beginning of his career, Garlin has used his own health as material. (I well remember him talking about his long-standing heart condition.) What's fun in your 20s gets more serious in your 40s. Garlin now has Type 2 diabetes, hence his determination to wean himself from sugar.

He is close to parents, who are both being treated for cancer. He says that situation also has changed how he performs.

"I feel like performing has taken on a new meaning for me," he said. "Much more now, I'm doing it for me. I've found that performing has really filled me up. It has made me feel happy at a time when, frankly, there is not a lot of happiness coming my way."

All in all, then, there were plenty of good reasons for Garlin to come home to his relatively new Chicago condo — do a show at Steppenwolf Theatre, hang out with the family for a few weeks.

Yes, the Steppenwolf. That new relationship, Garlin said, was born in aPilates class in Chicago. Garlin does Pilates (the changes just keep on coming) and so does Erica Daniels, now the associate artistic director of Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Daniels and Garlin were chatting and that led to a summer spot for Garlin in Steppenwolf's Upstairs Theatre.

Garlin also would seem to be at the point in his career where he could take a solo show — maybe this solo show — to Broadway. He allowed that New York was on his mind for "No Sugar Tonight," although he also made note that there is no actual director of the piece. (Not yet, anyway).

But there is a kind of through-line or arc. Right?

"An arc?" Garlin said, sputtering at the very thought. "I don't even know how much of a show there is. I like to go out there and improvise every night.


"That was one of my problems with 'Cheese.' The show that people were coming to see was nothing like the one you had reviewed. I like to think of this as a really good stand-up routine with, OK, some new levels to it."

Some things about Garlin, thank heavens, have not changed.

Twitter @ChrisJonesTrib