"I think everyone loves a good fish story," he quipped as he discussed the mercury poisoning that almost took him out of the game last year and left his producers thinking Piven had wimped out on them.
When asked by David Letterman about the ailment that forced the Emmy winner to quit the Broadway revival of David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow in December, Piven joked that mercury poisoning sounded more like "a rich man's disease...like something you might get from the leather seats in your Lamborghini, like a rash—like a rash that hurts."
Alas, he just got it from eschewing red meat and dairy and loading up on fish for the last 20 years.
The Entourage star explained that, four months into his six-month run, he was overwhelmed by fatigue and doctors ended up finding "elevated levels of mercury [they had] never seen before" in his system and advised the actor to stop working.
"I took his advice, and then this kind of turned into 'I ate a bad piece of yellowtail and bolted,' you know?" Piven said.
A case of Epstein-Barr—mono, basically—didn't help matters along, either.
"How do you get that?" Letterman asked.
"Just from being a coward," Piven deadpanned.
Check out the full interview in the above video, and judge for yourself whether Piven's story seems kosher (minus any shellfish he may have ingested over the years).
Catch Jeremy Piven and all your other faves at the 61st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards Sept. 20. Follow our complete coverage here for that so-close-you-can-taste-it experience.