I grew up skinny — my first driver's license had me listed at 6-foot-1 and 136 pounds — so for a long time I had it in my head that I was skinny. But I also have an Italian mother who constantly brought more and more food to the table. We moved to Las Vegas when I was a kid, and in high school my friends and I would get the buffets and the $2 steak dinners at the Horseshoe casino. That's Vegas: For $3 you can eat until you throw up. As a result, I had no sense of what a normal serving was. When I see what a serving is now, I get angry.
For years I had no idea what I weighed. I finally bought a scale in 2010. I think I ordered it because I'd read on a gadget website that it had WiFi. I weighed 208. When you see that number, it makes you look at yourself differently. Around that time we had Dr. Oz on the show, and we did a bit about my health and waistline. The next day he called me and said, "I'm worried about you. You're a young man. You have to take care of yourself." I was like, "You know what? Dr. Oz shouldn't care more about my health more than I do."
The Diet: Occasional Starvation
I started drastically, as I do with everything. With diet and exercise, there's no dipping my toe in the water — I'm all the way in. Then I'm all the way out. I decided I was going to have two protein shakes and a very small dinner every day. I did that for eight weeks, then I switched to a strict 2,000-calorie-a-day diet. I lost 25 pounds that way. Then, for a while, I'd eat a piece of salmon daily for lunch. Now the idea of eating salmon is revolting to me.
My new thing — something I've been doing for a couple of years now, actually — is starving myself two days a week. People call it the 5:2 diet, but I've been doing it since before it had a name. On Monday and Thursday, I eat fewer than 500 calories a day, then I eat like a pig for the other five days. You "surprise" the body, keep it guessing. I got the idea from a BBC documentary about this Indian man who seemed about 138 years old, and said his secret was severe calorie restriction. Some people have a photo of Daniel Craig or Hugh Jackman pinned up on the fridge for inspiration. I have Gandhi.
On fasting days I'm pretty unpleasant to be around. I mostly just drink coffee and eat pickles endlessly. For "meals" I'll have some peanut butter and an apple, or the whites of hard-boiled eggs, or if I'm really hungry, a bowl of oatmeal. The rest of the week I'm a glutton — pizza and pasta and steak. It sounds hard, but you get used to it and learn you can get through it. It's helped me stay at 182 pounds. And it's made me appreciate the food that I do eat.
The idea that you would not only exercise but that you would enjoy it is very difficult for me to understand. I just hate it. The only physical activity I enjoy is masturbating. I do have a treadmill desk in my office, and for a while I would walk on it while checking email and going through jokes. I haven't walked on it in probably four months. Now it's more of an upright dining table for me. At some point moss will grow over it, birds will build nests, and nature will reclaim the treadmill as its own. The last time I worked out was probably a couple of months ago with my wife, who is very fit. Her trainer had us do a thing where I put a rubber band around my knees and did situps on a ball. I felt very pleased with myself, but I also knew I wouldn't be going back anytime soon. I've realized that you can work out, and that's great, but if you really want to lose weight, you have to eat less. It's something that had never occurred to me. I always thought, "Well, if I start running, I'll be in good shape." But I know people who run every day and they still have a gut.
A Fresh Jimmy
We used to get a lot of mileage out of fat jokes on the show. At first I couldn't figure out why the audience wasn't laughing as much. Then I put two and two together: They're not laughing at those jokes because they don't think I'm fat! If anything, the weight loss was a bummer for my writers. There's nothing funny about being relatively thin.
I definitely feel pressure to keep slim. I don't want to be the guy who lost weight and gained it all back. But it's hard. Sometimes I'll gorge and gain nine pounds in a weekend somehow, and I get bummed about it. My wife will say, "Don't forget, I married you when you were fat." Then I buckle down and starve the pounds away. –As told to Burt Helm