Zach Galifianakis is what you call an alternative comic. When you think of most standup comedians, you imagine stale comparisons between males and females, and what the deal is with parking tickets. Not so with Galifianakis, who states his joke and then quickly moves on, sitting calmly at a piano in front of the waiting audience. Discussing topics such as the difficulties of quitting cold turkey itself or wondering “if deaf people have a sign for ‘talk to the hand,'” his quips seldom last more than a sentence or two.
In 2005, he appeared in “The Comedians of Comedy” alongside Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn, and Maria Bamford and has since released a live standup DVD. Last fall he appeared in the Sean Penn directed “Into the Wild” and stars in “Visioneers,” an upcoming indie film.
Galifianakis is the only person in history to appear in music videos for both Kanye West and Fiona Apple.
How did you get into doing standup?
I moved to NYC after failing my last course in college by one point. I had a nervous breakdown and then moved there with my cousin Dean who was going to NYU. We shared a closet for a bedroom. I moved to Manhattan in hopes of finding a great acting teacher who would change my life. Instead I met too many drinks.
I eventually enrolled in acting classes that left me uninspired. I could not stop giggling in class because everyone was so super serious and many of the students would cry during their scenes and that made me laugh. Horrible to say when I think back on it. After being disenchanted with the acting stuff I would walk the city for what seemed like years and I then met a woman named Lisa DeLarios who had moved to the city from Texas to do stand up. She encouraged me to try. My first performance was in the back of a hamburger restaurant in Times Square. That is how I got into it. Without meeting Lisa I would more than likely would be still walking around the city into the early hours of the morning.
You’ve played everywhere from tiny rooms to college gymnasiums. What type of venue is your favorite to perform at? Least favorite?
I feel like stand up, at least for me, needs to be intimate. I prefer where the audience is on top of you. Stand up in those larger places is more of an event. It is hard to tell a joke to someone who is 190 feet away from you. Try it. My least favorite place I ever did it was on a boat circling Manhattan, for a prom full of drunk teenagers where I had to step over the children who were making out on the floor.
What is your writing process like? Do you have to sit down and write or do things just naturally come to you?
I just rip off Carlos Mencia. When that does not work I usually just wait for thoughts to enter my mind.
How did you end up getting your role in “Into the Wild”? Was Sean Penn a big fan of “Corky Romano” or what?
Well Mr. Penn called my cell phone. He got my number somehow through a friend of friend. I did not audition. He asked me what I was doing the next week and I told him that I had plans to go to Arby’s but would consider doing the movie. Then I flew to South Dakota to start filming and I asked him how he knew of me and he stated that he had seen a movie I did called “Out Cold” (a snowboarding movie with Lee Majors) about 12 times and wrote my name down from the credits and sure enough called me.
Is it true that you got a book deal? What can you say about that?
I did. Well I would like to say that it is a book of post Civil War poetry written through the eyes of a small Hindu child but that would be false. I am not sure what the book will be. Probably numbered.
In one of your bits regarding the apathetic state of the nation, you allude to killing Dane Cook. Why do you think so many people dislike him these days?
Well, I picked on Dane simply because he is so popular. I could care less about those comedian feuds. I make fun of everything and everyone. I feel now that it is a bit pass