|512-Go!»||Mess with Texas (March 16-17, 2007)|
Zach Galifianakis is probably one of the most unique comedians in the circuit today. His stand-up routine sometimes consists of sitting at a baby grand piano, improvising wispy, meditative melodies suitable for melodramas and elevators, and dropping weirdly deadpan one-liners: “He ain’t gon’ email you!” He appears in the documentary Comedians of Comedy, the hilarious reality-meets-improv-meets-prank series Dog Bites Man, and his very own Comedy Central Presents half-hour special.
But these impressive achievements were merely preludes to his most important gig yet: the Mess with Texas party and comedy festival held during the final weekend of the South by Southwest Music, Film, and Interactive Festival for People Who Can Afford It (Friday and Saturday, March 16–March 17). Usually Zach tells jokes, but we made him answer a bunch of questions about politics, the environment, and religion instead. “That’s so Raven!”
That Other Paper How do you feel about the current political climate of America?
Zach Galifianakis I think it’s starting to feel like we may be turning a corner. It looks like the religious right is losing a bit of power, which is great. I really like Obama at the moment. George Bush reminds me of every guy I hated in high school. The way he talks, the way he walks, the way he called me a “pussy” during the State of the Union. I disliked him before it became chic.
TOP What’s your opinion on the environment and pollution?
ZG It is depressing. Plastic forks make me cry. I travel often, and every town in America is starting to look exactly alike. There is a Best Buy next to a Chili’s right next to an Office Depot. I think Americans especially have to start reinventing the way we live. We have been duped a bit by Madison Avenue and Details magazine on what is important, which has caused mass consumerism, which leads to all these problems like pollution. I like the slogan “Live simply so we can simply live” – but I also like the slogan “Who let the dogs out?” so who am I to say? I think if the corporate lobbyists – whose job it is to ruin everything – were to be stopped, that would be a nice start. Arrogance is hurting us.
TOP What’s your take on the Bible?
ZG Well, it is hard to argue the teachings of Jesus – whether you believe or not. But the jerks at the Southern Baptist Convention and the freaks at Focus on the Family have completely hijacked those teachings of Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount is all about turning the other cheek. I think if Jesus were to come back he would more likely hang out with low-lifes and perhaps be in a really bad cover band, but do his good work. The Bible has too many typos.
TOP What sort of role did religion play in your life growing up, and what sort of role does it play now?
ZG I was baptized in the Greek Orthodox church. The Greek church is very ceremonial. I don’t mind that. I was raised in a small town where we were the only Greeks, so we would go to my mother’s Presbyterian establishment. My brother and I made a complete mockery of it. My mother and father were upstanding members, but I think they appreciated us making a mockery of it a bit. As kids we went every Sunday to church and it gave us loads of material for ridicule. My dad would say we were going to Hell but would laugh at our diatribes about the church. Also, a Greek priest tried to get me drunk at his house one night when I went to dine with him so I could get a recommendation from him for a job in Greece. Two weeks later he was arrested for rubbing the altar boys the wrong way. I was older and had my guard up, so nothing happened – even though he was adorable.
TOP Do you think outsiderism and alienation are essential elements of being funny? How about in your own personal experience?
ZG A bit. I do consider myself a little bit of a loner. But I am pretty happy. I had a very healthy upbringing for the most part, but as a kid there was a lot of alone time. I used to eat in the cafeteria alone in high school and act like people were sitting with me and mime talking to them, but I think I was just trying to make people laugh.
TOP Speaking of trying to make people laugh, do bad comedians know that they’re bad?
ZG I think comedy is so subjective. I may think someone is not that great, but that does not mean someone else will not like them. It’s like music: Some people like Toby Keith, and some people like music.
TOP Since good and bad are so subjective, what would you say are some indications of good or bad comedy?
ZG Laughter is usually a good sign.
Zach Galifianakis on YouTube
But it sure is funny.
Marvel as Zach berates an annoying audience member
More Mess with Texas coverage
Read more interviews with comics appearing at this year’s Mess with Texas party.
- Jon Benjamin: Almost a rabbi
- Michael Showalter: The state of comedy
- David Cross: An eye for a tooth and a tooth for an eye
- Andrew W.K.: Good genes and pure fun
- The Fun Bunch: Do you believe in inevitabilities!?
- Jonah Ray: Human giant from Hawaii
- Brian Posehn: Save the rocking for the stage
- Hard ’n’ Phirm: The Phirman Principle of Comedy
- More coming soon!