The winner of numerous comedy awards and recognitions, Janeane Garofalo officially began her career in stand-up comedy in the late 1980s during the pre-grunge era. Her appearance was often in line with very late 1980s style: disheveled with thick black glasses and unkempt hair. Her comedy is often self-deprecating; she has made fun of popular culture and the pressures on women to conform to body image ideals promoted by the media.
Garofalo's comedy shows involve her and her notebook, which is filled with years' worth of article clippings and random observations she references for direct quotes during her act, and uses current events to enhance the improvised, fully conversational aspect of her standup. Garofalo feels she does not tell jokes but makes observations and hopes to get laughs. In her act, she once told of getting mugged and having her notebook stolen. "So, if you see two guys bombing at the Funny Bone, that's them."