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Comedian Profile: Who is Zach Galifianakis?

June 1, 2009

Does comedy become more important in difficult times? Does our best comedy reflect the concerns of the time in which we live? Was 80’s comedy so bad because it was more of a “Wall Street” decade than an “Airplane” decade? Are comedy clubs inherently unfunny? Is it funny when a chubby, bearded white guy and a balding, bearded, singer/songwriter on a tractor lip-synch to a Kanye West song? These are some of the questions raised after reading a profile of comedian Zach Galifianakis in the New York Times Magazine. Here’s a sample of one of his recently performed “bits”:

When Galifianakis hit the 92Y stage in his customary jogging shoes and corduroy blazer, instead of breaking the crowd in by leading off with a few jokes, he regarded them blankly for a moment, then handed out a fistful of short yellow pencils and white slips of paper. “I don’t know what to say to you guys tonight, so I’m taking requests,” he announced. “Write down a song you feel like hearing.” The front tables looked to be a mix of stand-up fans and 92Y regulars reserving their judgment, but the slips were duly filled out and collected. Galifianakis rifled through the slips as he walked over to the baby grand piano at stage right, then stopped short, frowned and looked back at the crowd. “ ‘Joy to the World,’ huh?” he murmured. “I’ll see what I can do.” Then he turned and gestured to someone off stage left.

Suddenly, like a conjuring trick, the trio of tuba players stood center stage, playing a tightly rehearsed rendition of the requested song with businesslike looks on their faces. The reaction of the crowd was a mixture of astonishment, confusion and childlike pleasure at the unlikeliness of what they were seeing; the gag was, essentially, a bait and switch, but with no agenda other than delight.

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