Zach Galifianakis is probably one of the best examples of an alternative comic out there. Blending music, non-sequitur imitations, and a generous helping of self-loathing, you’re either going to get him or you’re not, and he really doesn’t care either way. No one seems more surprised by his recent celebrity status that than him as he’s always drawn attention to his unpronounceable name, his less than movie star quality looks, and his somewhat embarrassing filmography, but he is committed to making the most of his opportunity. Made a couple of years before his break-out performance in The Hangover, Zach Galifianakis: Live at the Purple Onion showcases his unconventional stand-up and makes it clear he is a disciple of the late Andy Kaufman by showing the “real story” through interviews with “Zach’s brother” who only wishes Zach would allow him to in so they can be real brothers. Fan of this Netflix exclusive may find Galifianakis’ latest role as the southern political hopeful in The Campaign very familiar.
One of the best examples of Galifianakis’ style of humor is when he notices an older gentlemen in the crowd and calls him out, claiming there was no way he could possibly be a fan and demands to know who he thought was performing when he bought his ticket. It really demonstrates who he is as a performer. He certainly isn’t someone who sticks to the script and isn’t afraid to make things uncomfortable for his audience. It also displays his combination of arrogance and self-deprecation (saying in one breath “YOU can’t like me” and “you can’t like ME”)which I believe has allowed him to stay centered as his career took off. He knows he’s good but he also knows his limitations.
While I’m glad this unconventional comedian is getting more attention, I find his list of films to be kind of a mixed bag. I was very underwhelmed by The Hangover, finding it bit mean spirited for my tastes. Don’t get me wrong, I love stuff like Wedding Crashers or Superbad, but this one just didn’t sit right with me. On the other hand, I loved his performance in It’s Kind of a Funny Story, a more dramatic turn for him. I would love him to do more serious work in the future because he carries a sadness with him that could lead to powerful stuff, however he has been hanging around that Will Ferrell a lot lately and the two seem to be a good match.
Great stand-up film from a comedian that loves to play with the medium and never takes himself too seriously. Galifianakis is one of most inventive comedians out there, but be warned, he’s not for everyone. If you love acts like Larry the Cable guy, you’re probably not going to be laughing much. This is also a good look at someone before stardom hit and it’s clear he never saw his current success coming. If you likes this one, also check out The Comedians of Comedy, which features Galifianakis as well as other big names on the alternative comedy scene.