Welcome back to the Watchlist. Where I finally watch the messy sock drawer that is my Netflix Watchlist, because if I don’t watch it then Who Watches The Netflix Watchlist?
This week it’s my all time favorite (I didn’t say this was only movies I haven’t seen, or did I? If I did I’m changing the rules right now.) Zach Galifinakis’s stand-up feature Zack Galifianakis: Live At The Purple Onion.
“I’m Zack Galifianakis and I hope I’m pronouncing that right.”
Is how this wonderful, wondrous, wow-inducing movie starts. Zack Galifianakis is now 46 and has become a household name thanks in part to The Hangover, which is actually my very Christian Mom’s favorite movie. My sweet Mom loves this Mitch Hedberg with all her heart. So if you don’t know who he is, here is what she said about him when asked to describe him in three words:
“He lost a lot of weight. He looks so good! O.k. but three-words. Alcohol, greek, alcohol, fat Jesus. He looks real different. real real different. Oh, he cracks me up!”
This movie is his stand-up set at The Purple Onion, interspersed with clips from him touring in his van, and a bit with Joe Unger where he interviews Zach’s twin brother Seth (Zach with only a mustache, and track suit). This bit never grows old as we find out that Seth is his conservative, youth pastor, twin, we feel like we are learning about the Galifinakis’s on a personal level (even though, yes it’s totally fake, I want it to be real, and it kind of does). His stand up set could have sustained an entire movie, but these two other bits fill out the movie to something that sticks to the ribs a little longer than your usual Comedy Central Special.
These other pieces also give us a warmth to his persona that doesn’t come across in his stand-up set. At one point we see him get out of an elevator after too many people get on. It’s not a bit and he momentarily breaks through his performance persona the he wears so elegantly. After getting out of the elevator the producer asks him why he left, and what his claustrophobia feels like.
Then he jokes.
This moment of honest emotion that turns to silly character comedy is the best that Zach can be. He can so easily make silliness come from honest emotional depth that it’s no surprise that he makes the last moment of his stand-up set work so well.
In his final bit he asks the audience if he can be self-indulgent for a moment. He brings out a children’s choir.
As they sing he goes through an over-sized notepad of embarrassing moment from his childhood.
This is a gag he used in his SNL monologue five years later, after The Hangover got big and everyone fell in love with his lovable idiot character. In the SNL monologue he dresses as Annie and heightens the bit. He refuses to take his own story seriously, or even make it a part of something for the world to consume. This is a story that includes a marriage, a child, a deep friendship with a homeless woman, and a charity for Texas Abortion Fund. This is not up for grabs in his comedy, but he knows that people’s stories are what we live for. He gives us the nearly emotional equivalent with Seth’s bit throughout the movie. Silliness is fun, but honest stories are life-giving. This truth is made fun of, and— at times— implemented, but at the end of the day Zach is here to make people laugh, and hopefully get his dad to change his last name.
“Growing up my dad was like “Zach, you have a great last name: Galifianakis… Galifianakis… Begins with a ‘gal’, ends with a ‘kiss’”… I’m like “That’s great, Dad. Can we get it changed to ‘Galifiana-fuck’ please?”
Article by Kevin Cucolo