A proud Jew at home, Garlin also plays one on television.
Best known as Jeff Greene on the hit comedy series "Curb Your Enthusiasm," which returns to HBO for its sixth season on Sunday, Sept. 9, he plays the schlemiel manager to schlimazel Larry David, who created the show, as well as co-creating "Seinfeld."
In addition, Garlin is aso gearing up for the Sept. 14 launch of "I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With," a feature comedy he wrote, directed and stars in opposite Sarah Silverman and Bonnie Hunt. Garlin plays James, an overweight Jewish improv actor who can't seem to catch a break.
Garlin says he identifies with James because, "it's what I created ... my writing is very personal."
The Chicago-born actor made his stand-up debut at age 20, in the early 1980s, after dropping out of the University of Miami. Garlin spent much of the 1990s working with Second City, where he perfected his improvisational skills.
The film is a kind of Second City reunion, featuring such talent as Dan Castellaneta, Amy Sedaris and Richard Kind. Garlin describes the experience of working with old friends as "great fun ... when you have a great friend and then you work together again, its like you just worked with them the day before. It doesn't go away when it's right."
In "Cheese," James is a binge-eating, out-of-work actor who lives with his mother. While struggling to win the lead role in a remake of the film "Marty," a character James feels he was born to play, he juggles romances with Beth (Silverman), an off-beat chubby-chaser, and Stella (Hunt), a somewhat depressed, yet hopelessly romantic schoolteacher.
The first draft of "Cheese" was written in 1997, and Garlin said he returned to the project on and off over the years. Unable to secure financing, he says he continues to rewrite the script "to feel creative and connected to the project."
Distributed by IFC First Take and the Weinstein Co., "Cheese" premiered at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival and opens in Los Angeles on Sept. 14.
When Garlin returns to the small screen for the sixth season of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," he taps his Second City skills with scripts that rely on improvised dialogue.
As for rumors this will be the show's final season: "It might be," he said.
Garlin adds that if he had the chance to star in his own spin-off series titled "Jeff," he would only do it if Larry David would be heavily involved in the project.
Regardless of the fate of "Curb," he says he simply wants to continue acting, directing, writing and laughing.
But even with all of his success and his prospects for the future, Garlin prays he'll be inscribed for another year in the Book of Life and wishes the entire Jewish community a hearty "Zai gezunt."
The sixth season of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," premiers on HBO, Sept. 9, 10 p.m. "I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With" opens Sept. 14 at the Laemmle Sunset 5 in West Hollywood, Monica 4-Plex in Santa Monica and the Playhouse 7 in Pasadena.