Zach Galifianakis

Zach Galifianakis

Date of birth: 01-10-1969
© Warner Bros

Zach Galifianakis – Original Review

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

When you first espy the bedraggled figure of Zach Galifianakis shuffling unhurriedly on to the stage, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Unabomber had taken to stand-up.

But while he has the sartorial sense of Daniel Kitson, Galifianakis has the comic sensibilities of Demetri Martin – even if his stand-up origins surely predate his fellow New Yorker.

His is the sort of act where almost every quirky line shines like a polished gemstone; each one a nugget of original, oblique thought fused into a brilliant joke of great beauty and value.

The gags are mostly off-the-wall, and while it would be easy to say ‘crazy name, crazy guy’, his stock-in-trade is not oddball buffoonery, but inspired, carefully written one-liners. Both quantity and quality are impressively high, a volley of eminently quotable bon mots cascading irresistibly from the stage.

Some of these are set to a musical accompaniment, too, as Galifianakis provides a pleasantly lilting melody on the grand piano, giving his jokes an extra gravitas, ready to be punctured.

Mostly the languid Graeco-American comic plays down his brilliance. He slouches listlessly around the set, peering behind the speakers to see if there’s anything there that might be more interesting than the job in hand. He delivers material in such a casual, low-energy style that downplays the obvious skill in the writing.

It’s a persona that’s part aloofness, part shyness. But again, things are not all they appear, as he’s happy to go in among the crowd and chat to people at their tables. It’s here he demonstrates a natural quick wit, able to conjure up good lines in the heat of the moment, not just when he’s got the time to craft them offstage.

Finding a student who, unconvincingly, states that he wants to become a stand-up, Galifianakis prompts him for a joke – and eventually elicits a bog-standard email gag about dead babies. It’s not long until Galifianakis has rejigged it to make it his own, incorporating an insult to the hapless punter and setting it to music for good measure. This banter with an unresponsive crowd was hard work, yet he still found plenty of laughs, the comic equivalent of blood from a stone.

Although his set is smart and original, it’s by no means overly-cerebral. The lines are stupid, and there are subtle prop gags and some daft ‘characters’, who tend to have just one line and over-complicated names, like The Really Masculine Redneck Who Orders At A Convenience Store But Will Say One Of The Things On The List In A Non-Masculine Way.

And for his bizarre but unforgettable finale he lip-synchs to Tomorrow from Annie, wearing the dress, and unveils daft slogans on a flip chart, taking easy-but-effective pot shots at George Bush and lowest-common-denominator comic Dane Cook.

That’s a charge you could never lay at Galifianakis, who takes a distinctive approach to his comedy, and succeeds magnificently. His planned run at Edinburgh this summer has been cancelled, but if he ever reschedules a trip to the UK, he will be a must-see in any serious comedy fan’s book.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Montreal, July 2007

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Published: 16 Jul 2007



DVD (2009)
The Hangover


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