Zach Galifianakis Is Absurd

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John Wray, author of the novel Lowboy, recently wrote “The Making of Zach Galifianakis” for The New York Times Magazine. Wray takes a long look at how the scruffy comedian, who leans more on performance art than old school stand up, became the “comedic hope of his generation.” He also writes about Zach’s beard:

Galifianakis’s beard has since become indispensable, both as source material for his jokes — “When you look like I do, it’s hard to get a table for one at Chuck E. Cheese” — and as a symbol of sorts to his burgeoning fan base of young hipsters, many of whom are defiantly furry themselves. It also seems to have made him funnier. Distinctive hair, facial or otherwise, is nothing new in comedy — Chaplin’s mustache, Andrew Dice Clay’s sideburns, Carrot Top’s carrot top — but in Galifianakis’s case, it actually serves as an organizing principle for his career, a useful dividing line between his formative and mature periods. The less hirsute Galifianakis of “Late World With Zach,” “Boston Common” and “Tru Calling,” was a talented wisecrack, a perpetual adolescent, smirking his way through the conventional stations of showbiz; the post-“Late World,” fully bearded Galifianakis plies much stranger waters, and he has adjusted his exterior to match. The beard lends him a subtly beatnik air, a link to the first generation of stand-up iconoclasts, like Lord Buckley and Lenny Bruce; at the same time, it gives him a professorial quality — dare I call it a gravitas? — that makes his more meatheaded material jarringly effective. Galifianakis himself put it more succinctly: “I look like a homeless guy now. People seem to appreciate that.”

Aside from a beard becoming a comedic rock star also involves: a woman, failure at VH1, a farm, Absolut vodka commercials, getting mad on stage, and doing hit videos for both Kayne West and Fiona Apple, respectively. Read it.

Extra: Zach interviews The Hangover co-star Bradley Cooper. It does not go well:


Isaac Fitzgerald has been a firefighter, worked on a boat, and was once given a sword by a king, thereby accomplishing three out of five of his childhood goals. Formerly of The Rumpus and McSweeney’s and most recently the founding editor of BuzzFeed Books, Isaac is now the co-host of BuzzFeed News’ Twitter Morning Show, #AMtoDM. He also appears frequently on The Today Show to talk books, and is co-author of Pen & Ink: Tattoos and the Stories Behind Them and Knives & Ink: Chefs and the Stories Behind Their Tattoos (with Recipes) (winner of an IACP award), and the author of a YA novel and picture book forthcoming from Bloomsbury. He uses Twitter. More from this author →