Comedians hosting talk shows for the web are most definitely nothing new, either as a joke or for real. But one of the early pioneers in mocking the institution is definitely comedian Zach Galifianakis, whose inspired Between Two Ferns series has been providing 3-minute bursts of awkward Andy Kaufman-esque chatting on an irregular basis since early 2008.
Since beginning the series with ingenue Michael Cera, Galifianakis has gone on to interview Jimmy Kimmel, Jon Hamm and Natalie Portman exclusively for Funny or Die, asking awkward questions of his guests that border on sexual harassment. Trying to get Cera to “tickle” his upper thigh, pushing Kimmel for details on exactly how close he and Ben Affleck got during the shoot for his I’m F—ing Matt Damon response, asking Portman if she shaved more than just her head for her role in V for Vendetta…There’s no denying that Galifianakis is pushing the comedy towards the offensive on purpose. But the end result is alarmingly funny, mostly due to the reactions he gets from his guests, ranging from outright disgust (Portman) or shame (Hamm).
Today’s new installment features Bradley Cooper, who co-starred with Galifianakis in the upcoming comedy The Hangover. (In an obvious yet wise bit of cross-promotion, banner ads for the film dominate the FoD page.) It’s by far the most personal and vicious of the series, probably because Galifianakis actually knows Cooper pretty well after working with him on the film. His insults are targeted at tearing down the heir apparent to Affleck’s funny-leading-man persona, reminding him that he can’t just coast on his looks. But Cooper proves to be the first Ferns guest to give as good as he gets, deflecting many of Galifianakis’ barbs with well-rehearsed talk-show-couch banter about his past films. That’s before the slap-fight, of course.
When Karina profiled Galifianakis in January 2008, she posited that his random web-based endeavors were a means of perpetuating his fame in between big projects. But it now seems like Galifianakis is better known for the online than the offline; by playing almost exclusively to his audience for the past few years, he’s assembled an impressive and hilarious portfolio of innovative comedy, but has yet to break through on a mainstream level.
However, this seems likely to change in the next few weeks — The Hangover apparently tested so well with audiences that a deal for a sequel has already been struck, and in promotional materials for the film, Galifianakis shares equal billing with the much better known Cooper and Ed Helms (The Daily Show, The Office). Galifianakis, in short, seems likely to break out big, and soon.
The question is — is that something he wants? Being a latter-day Jack Black means cutting back dramatically on Tim and Eric and Reno 911 appearances, not to mention lip-syncing for Kanye and Fiona. And sure, the money’s better — but is it as much fun?