by Joe Payne
Before being known as “that funny fat guy with the beard in The Hangover,” Zach Galifianakis was just a modest stand-up comedian making his way through the streets of New York City.
Galifianakis was very popular with his underground fan base but never experienced much mainstream success due to his brand of off-beat, awkward humor that some might view as too absurd and dry. But with his role as “Alan” in the acclaimed comedy The Hangover, Galifianakis has become a household name.
Zach Galifianakis garnered a cult fan base from his fresh and unique stand-up comedy routines – softly playing his piano while dishing out clever one-liners and utilizing awkward pauses. Instead of screaming bloody murder into the microphone and convulsing on stage like comic (I use the term loosely) Dane Cook, Galifianakis zings witty social observations satirical stereotypes in a nonchalant manner, creating an atmosphere of someone venting in an embarrassing way in which hilarity ensues.
His strange appearance and even stranger name are often the subject of his comedy: “When you look like I do, it’s hard to get a table for one at a Chuck E Cheese.”
He can snap at any moment, becoming irate at the littlest interruption and belittling the unsuspecting perpetrator, but it is all in good fun.
To see the best of his stand-up material, check out Zach Galifianakis: Live at the Purple Onion on DVD (or on YouTube).
Aside from pursuing live comedy, Galifianakis has also appeared in numerous movies and television shows such as Out Cold, Corky Romano, Bubble Boy, Into the Wild, and was cast as the lead role in the 2008 independent dark comedy Visioneers. He has also been a frequent guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Reno 911!, but most notably displaying his odd sense of humor in full force on the cult classic show Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!
These various minor roles helped to establish Galifianakis as an actor, but everything changed for him with the 2009 blockbuster comedy The Hangover. His performance in the movie depicts Zach at his very best, playing the awkward and irritating role of Alan, stealing the limelight from co-stars Ed Helms and Bradley Cooper.
His character is the essence of his comedy: embarrassing and unstable, saying the wrong things at the wrong times and embracing his strange appearance. Galifianakis instantly won the hearts of America, becoming known as “Alan,” “the bearded guy” and “the fat guy from The Hangover.”
Zach Galifianakis’ success in The Hangover also helped him become a viral Internet star as well.
He now has a series of videos on Will Ferrell’s comedy website Funny or Die, “Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis,” in which he conducts a series of horrendously uncomfortable interviews with A-list celebrities, asking bizarre and inappropriate questions that poke fun at their personal lives and career mistakes.
Guests on these interviews have been Jimmy Kimmel, Michael Cera, Jon Hamm, Natalie Portman, Charlize Theron, Bradley Cooper, Conan O’Brien, Ben Stiller, Steve Carell, Sean Penn and Bruce Willis.
The guests are in on the joke, but the candid, tense situation creates truly hilarious videos.
Zach has also gained millions of views on YouTube for clips of his stand-up to videos of him portraying his effeminate, camera-shy twin brother Seth, youth minister and high school football coach.
Following the rapid success from The Hangover, Galifianakis has appeared in numerous comedies in the last year, with prominent roles in Youth in Revolt and Dinner for Schmucks.
Galifianakis is poised for yet another year of comic fame, starring in the upcoming films It’s Kind of a Funny Story and Due Date, as well as the highly anticipated and inevitable The Hangover 2.
Zach Galifianakis has ushered in a new era of unique and refreshing comedy and looks to become the John Belushi of our generation.