A Radar Magazine Q&A with Zach Galifianakis, a true Comedian of Comedy. I wish I could have posted the whole transcript (maybe later). Until then, I quote Nicholas Cage on the oh-so-Bergmanesque Hollywood action director John Woo: "He makes me feel free." Text follows after the jump.
Freaks and Greeks
Say hello to Zach Galifianakis, the greatest Greek comedian North Carolina has ever produced.
Zach Galifianakis has the best beard in comedy. But behind the bushy mass is an incredibly innovative comic, and perhaps the most gifted piano-playing ironist—“At what age do you tell a highway it’s adopted?”—on the circuit. With joke-telling friends Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn, and Maria Bamford, Galifianakis is currently starring in The Comedians of Comedy, a straight-to-DVD film and Comedy Central show chronicling a concert tour of the nation’s smaller stand-up clubs. Radar recently cornered Galifianakis in his Venice Beach home, hoping to take pruning shears to the soup catcher attached to his face. We settled for a discussion about the perks of making crap movies, the comic potential of Noam Chomsky, and Galifianakis’s uncanny resemblance to Malcolm-Jamal Warner.
RADAR: So, we’re guessing there weren’t a ton of Greek comedians in your neck of North Carolina growing up.
ZACH GALIFIANAKIS: There weren’t any Greeks there. We were the only ethnic family. It was a pretty hillbilly place. I actually just bought a 45-acre farm there. Sadly, there are no Greek comedians there. But David Sedaris is from North Carolina.
Yeah, where’s he from again?
He’s from Raleigh. I used to work for a Sedaris family. They were, I guess, cousins of the famous Sedaris family. Greeks in North Carolina—they don’t really belong.
Okay, enough small talk—why the Noam Chomsky obsession?
I don’t know. I’ve seen him speak several times, and I love the guy. If his message was being delivered by someone who was younger and more vibrant, I think people would really perk up, but he’s an MIT professor. I want to do a sitcom where it’s just me and Noam. And I say in this college dude voice things like, “Noam, I wanna go to Daytona. It’s spring break!” And he gives a reason, one of his famously long and brilliant explanations, why not to go to Daytona. And then my tag line is, “Noam, you’re such a buzzzzkill!” And then people applaud. It’ll be great.
In The Comedians of Comedy you have a manservant. Is he off today?
He is, I’m afraid. His name is Albert, and he’s been in my life for about 12 years. He’s my old next door neighbor. And a very hard worker.
You’re the guy who provides the metacommentary on the show, the one making observations. Are you like that in all social situations?
Well, Brian and Patton are so similar to each other; they really are professional nerds. If I saw them outside the documentary and didn’t know them, I’d be like, “That’s a little bit over the top.” I called Brian last night, and in a flat monotone he answered the phone: “I’m playing Dungeons and Dragons. What do you want.” He wasn’t making a joke. He and Patton were playing D&D together.
Live action D&D?
I don’t know man, and I don’t want to know.
Netflix is backing Comedians. It’s the company’s first attempt at producing. How did that come about?
Well, the guy at Netflix just has a really great sense of humor. He’s a fan of Mr. Show, which is really surprising for an executive. And Netflix means that it doesn’t have to be huge in the theater for it to be successful and reach the people you want to reach.
You’ve been in some amazingly shitty movies: Corky Romano, Out Cold, something called Flushed. Which was the most fun to work on?
Oh, they’ve all been fun. Hey, shitty movies paid for this house. I do, though, choose not to audition for too many things anymore. This town is a shit factory. And I’m tired of going into a room and trying to impress people who aren’t as smart as me. And I’m not even smart!
I’m just really good-looking. I wear the beard so as not to drive too many adoring fans insane. When I shave I look like Malcolm-Jamal Warner. People keep asking me to shave, though.
Yeah, someone asked me to do it just the other day, for a guest spot on that shitcom Joey.
Have you ever done Leno? If not, would you?
A writer called me about doing it a couple of years ago, and I never really looked into it. I would have had to drive to Burbank.
You’ve been on Conan a lot, though. Seems as if you and Conan are more on the same wavelength.
Conan’s raised the bar, no question. I never watch Leno, but I think he’s a watered-down version of what he used to be. He used to be a great comic.
Do you think Conan will have to water himself down when he takes over The Tonight Show?
Leno plays to the middle of the country, and I guess that’s smart, ratingswise. But I don’t know how Conan will tackle that.
What do you think of the phrase “alternative comedy”?
I hate that term. I hate it. To me it’s just comedy. We just don’t happen to be doing airline jokes. I compare it to music: Some music is mainstream; some isn’t.
I just heard Sarah Silverman on Elvis Mitchell’s radio show The Treatment on the way over here, and Mitchell was deconstructing what she does with so much complimentary lit-crit language in his attempt to get at how what she does is “groundbreaking” and “innovative.”
I know, he really was into her. I was expecting her to go, “What the fuck are you talking about? I’m just writing stupid jokes. Don’t look too far into this.” I gotta give her a call and make fun of her for that. You know, there’s a famous quote: “I want to be so famous I’m never told the truth again.” You’re given all this attention, the way Sarah is—and everyone’s vulnerable to it if you’re put up on a pedestal—and soon you start to think, Maybe I am that great. But with comedy you gotta watch it. Because you forget what brought you there in the first place. Once you start getting wealthy, and all that crap, you become very unfunny. Bill Murray and Dave Letterman are the only two older successful comedians who are still hilarious. But they’re fuckin’ crazy. They’re both just still nuts. Which is good.