After all these years I’ve figured out that I don’t want the actors that make me laugh to be cuddly and kind. I want them a bit subversive, still willing to do “mainstream” projects but not endorse something like Geico, smart enough to not be papped by TMZ, and I guess being sort of homely also helps. That’s a tough order to fill but Zach Galifianakis does it beautifully. Really the only bad thing I can say about him is that spelling his last name sucks. That’s it. He’s elusive and a little mean, awkward, and if we ever met he’d probably say something to me that I’d later sit on the toilet and ruminate on and then cry. Perfect. Here now are 5 performances that make him tops in my books.
(Deep Inhale.) Here, first, is an aside that grinds my ass, a longstanding beef I’ve had – a rant about SNL’s opening sketch. It is pretty much always, like 99% of the time, political. I don’t have the Nielsen ratings on hand, but I’m pretty f*cking sure SNL’s demographic is North Americans between the ages of 18-28. And me, and my friends who are a c*nt hair older than that but still really “cool and with it.” Guess what we don’t think is funny or want muddying up our Saturday night? POLITICS, MAN. If the golden rule of entertainment is to hook your audience at the start (or I just made that up, but it totally makes sense), then it’s insane that this precious chunk of airspace is essentially flushed down the toilet week after week. It’s like if a David Sedaris book started out “One day in my house there was some carpet and then some lint accrued in that carpet and we sat in a sad circle staring at it while an airplane flew overhead to nowhere and we put on knitted skullcaps and picked our toenails” and then two chapters later it became diamonds-on-my-damned-chain comedy gold. It would never get read because people need to be hooked. Same with SNL. We only watch because we PVR it and can fast-forward through the BS before the credits. Everybody everywhere loves to rag on this show so you’d think Lorne Michaels would think for a second and do the most simple and elegant of shake-ups by putting something actually funny at the top of the show to make us laugh and look forward to what comes next. F*ck it, put a Digital Short at the top of the show. Anything. Please. (Exhale.)
Sorry. What I really want to express here is Galifianakis obviously was able to do whatever he wanted for this monologue while the writing staff just sat and stared in awe. A Little Orphan Annie ensemble and some amazing snappy stand up = something only he could have pulled off. If SNL would stop trying to be all important and same-day-news satirical and just be funny, man, what a show it could be.
This sweet little ditty of a show has run quietly on HBO for two seasons now. Jason Schwartzman is the lead, a struggling writer who takes on Private Detective cases he acquires from his ad on craigslist. The eternally cool white fox Ted Danson is his magazine mogul friend/mentor who loves weed a f*cking lot, and Galifianakis plays the third banana, a sadsack comic artist and writer who has an alterego Super Ray, a Superhero with super strength, super breath and the power to fight with his dick. Yes, you read that right.
Each episode is a madcap 30 minutes that is quirky and clever and showcases the quaint nooks and crannies of New York that make you actually consider paying $3500 a month to rent an attic with a fridge and futon in Williamsburg. Galifianakis isn’t in every scene but when he is, he’s a sweaty and stumbling stocky beast aka AMAZING.
3. The Hangover
This little arthouse film, seen by only a handful of people…..(A record scratches, I laugh and nobody else does.) Yes, yes, I know everybody has seen this movie. I think even my Mom has seen it. Not to attempt to be all cool and braggart, but we saw it right when it came out, before the masses starting spreading the word about how amazing it was, and being in a large, hot, packed movie theatre with everybody bent in half with laughter is the reason (or should be) why movies survive despite downloading. For Galifianakis, this was a big Hollywood pic. Some alternative comedians don’t make it out of ‘em alive, or they have to soften their schtick to make it more palatable to play to the moms from Sheboygan, but Galifianakis did his thing – weird, creepy and unpredictable – and it was lapped up. Despite a naked Chinese gangster, a bathroom tiger, Bradley Cooper in a sick suit and even Mike Tyson crooning a Phil Collins tune, Galifianakis was still the best thing in the movie. That’s impressive. (We’ve already booked a babysitter so we can see The Hangover Part II. SHITYEAH.)
If you haven’t seen any of these, you’re ridiculous and your Mom smells like hotdogs. It’s exactly what you think: Galifianakis on a shitty set, sitting between two healthy ferns, interviewing big name actors, who become that much cooler by playing along as he insults or confuses or sexually harasses them. The lo-fi set and theme music only add to the rad factor. I could not choose a favourite one. Could you?
For reasons unknown I have a soft spot and a hard-on for the Southern USA. (Before having a kid, I always wanted to rent a motorhome and tour through the scary KKK moonshine hills of the Carolinas and Alabama and such. Just think of the souvenirs you’d get from the gas stations alone. AMAZING. My body is shaking with squashed desire.) This alternate video for Kanye’s best track off Graduation was my first exposure to Galifianakis and I’ve watched it a million times and posted it on Facebook (because I’m 12) and could watch it a million times again. Set on Galifianakis’ North Carolina farm, him and his creepy buddy Will Oldham take a lip-synching, cross-dressing, crotch-thrusting, spitting, bearded rambling tour of the land, accompanied by smoking farm equipment, a chainsaw, and heavy-set pinafore-clad girls dancing. The first and last time you’ll see a beautiful sunset over a cornfield in a rap video. Inspired and absolutely retarded, this is my favourite Galifianakis sh*t, of all time, ever.
[Editor's Note: The Hangover Part II opens today. For more Galifianakis goodies, scroll down and check out his stand-up.]