54 Zach Galifianakis Trivia Tidbits on His 54th Birthday
From the lovable moron Alan in the Hangover movies to a frustrated clown in Baskets to a stoned comic book artist in Bored to Death, Zach Galifianakis has played an incredible part in shaping some of this century’s best comedies. And that’s before even getting into his impact as a stand-up and an internet comedian — not to mention, his beloved Between Two Ferns interviews.
Today marks Galifianakis’ 54th birthday, so let’s stroke our beards, tickle some piano keys and dive into 54 facts about the delightfully awkward funnyman...
Galifianakis was born on October 1, 1969, in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, home to noted frontiersman Daniel Boone.
He’s Got a Famous Cousin
His cousin is Nick Galifianakis, a cartoonist for The Washington Post.
His First Hosting Gig
He went to college at North Carolina State University, where he also taught a waltz class and hosted a show on local public access.
His National TV Debut
Galifianakis first graced national airwaves when he appeared on the 1996 NBC sitcom Boston Common.
His New Apartment
In 1997, he appeared in a few episodes of Apartment 2F, a VH1 sitcom/sketch show starring Randy and Jason Sklar.
His Short Tenure on ‘SNL’
Returning to ‘SNL’
His Time with Conan
Between 2000 and 2005, Galifianakis appeared six times on Late Night with Conan O’Brien as both a guest and a stand-up act. The best joke from a 2005 Conan set: “My brother has ADD, which is weird because he drives a Ford Focus.”
Facial Hair Care
A regular joke from his act is that he “Febrezes his beard.”
His Second Hosting Gig
He hosted a nightly talk show on VH1 in 2002 called Late World with Zach. It lasted just nine weeks, but he did interview his future Hangover cast mate Bradley Cooper on it.
The Kattan Connection
Galifianakis played Dexter, a computer hacker in Corky Romano.
He played a recurring character on Reno 911! named Frisbee, a crossbow enthusiast who lived in a school bus with his cousin-wife and numerous children.
He’s Also Done a Fair Amount of Dramatic Work
While primarily known for comedies, Galifianakis also has some dramatic chops. He was an outdoorsman in Into the Wild, a crew member named “Weird Wally” on the submarine-set thriller Below and a servant in the period drama Tulip Fever. He says drama is actually easier than comedy for him.
His OTHER Vegas Movie
The year before The Hangover, Galifianakis appeared in the Cameron Diaz-Ashton Kutcher comedy What Happens in Vegas. He plays a guy who goes by “Dave the Bear” and awkwardly hits on Diaz.
His ‘Hangover’ Character Was Intended for Someone Else
Alan in The Hangover was originally going to be the younger brother of one of the main guys, who was forced to bring him along. The part was written for Jonah Hill, who passed, leading to the character being reworked. Other actors considered included Jake Gyllenhaal and Thomas Haden Church.
He Didn’t Want to Audition for ‘The Hangover’
Hangover director Todd Phillips had been a fan of Galifianakis and wanted him in the film, but Galifianakis was reluctant to audition as he felt it was a weakness of his. He eventually sent in a tape and nabbed the part.
Mike Tyson Came REALLY Close to Punching Him for Real
Alan memorably gets clocked by Tyson in The Hangover. Of course, the punch was staged, but it wasn’t that far off from the real thing. “I felt his knuckles breeze by my beard. If he would have hit me, I think I would have died,” Galifianakis has joked.
The tiger in The Hangover was real. In an interview, Galifianakis shared, “There was a point where I was pushing the car, and my back was to the tiger. I couldn’t see the tiger, and the tiger was really close to my lumbar vertebrae, which is surrounded by back fat. I’m sure it looked so good to someone.”
Working with Todd Phillips
Galifianakis described Phillips as “a guy who makes you do things you don’t want to do.” He pointed to the scene in the first film’s credits where Alan “was fellated by an old woman.”
What He Liked About Playing Alan
Galifianakis said he enjoyed playing Alan because “he’s so stupid that he can say anything, and it doesn’t have to make sense.”
His Relationship with Ed Helms
Mirroring their relationship in the Hangover films, Galifianakis and Helms regularly tease and make fun of each other.
He Wore a Fat Suit in ‘The Hangover 3’
For the third Hangover, Galifianakis had to wear a fat suit because Phillips didn’t think Galifianakis’ recent weight loss suited the role.
Galifianakis’ ‘Hangover 3’ Pitch
“I thought The Hangover 3 should just be the three of us playing Parcheesi, and nothing happens,” Galifianakis told Conan.
He Regretted the ‘Hangover’ Sequels
In the same Conan interview, Galifianakis called The Hangover 3 the best of the series. Three years later, though, he said, “That was a good chunk of my life that I do not regret at all, but I wished we had just done one. I think leave well enough alone sometimes.”
So What About a Fourth ‘Hangover’ Then?
When asked on a red carpet what it would take to make a fourth film, Galifianakis joked, “Maybe if they made a Pixar version of it.” He then added, “I don’t think anyone is thinking about that.”
The Secret to His Beard
When asked what the secret is to having a kick-ass beard, Galifianakis replied, “One of the things that’s important is for your grandmother to be Greek.”
He Talked to Himself in High School
“In high school, sometimes I would sit by myself on purpose and act like I was talking to students who weren’t there, and that training helped me,” Galifianakis once said in an interview, as an explanation for his ability to play opposite CGI characters that are added later.
‘Between Two Ferns’ Debut
Galifianakis launched Between Two Ferns on January 4, 2008. It was initially part of a Scott Aukerman/B.J. Porter pilot called The Right Now! Show! After FOX passed on the show, they decided to put the segment up on Funny or Die.
‘Between Two Ferns’ Inspiration
When Aukerman approached Galifianakis about doing something for The Right Now! Show!, he returned with the Between Two Ferns idea “fully formed.” When asked what inspired the talk show, Galifianakis said it “came out of this celebrity worship culture that we have somehow adopted in our American psyche, and it was just a knee-jerk reaction to that. You know, just kind of making fun of the sycophantic interviewers that kiss the Hollywood machine. But I didn’t want to prank anyone. I didn’t want it to be mean-spirited. I wanted the people I was interviewing to be in on the joke.”
How Ticklish Is Micheal Cera?
Galifianakis’ first guest on Between Two Ferns was Cera. The highlight of the interview was him trying to figure out where Cera was ticklish.
Insults from Steve Carell
In an interview with Carell on Between Two Ferns, it was Carell hurling scripted insults at Galifianakis — who was heavier at the time — including: “I heard your last name used to be even longer, but you ate all the other letters of the alphabet,” and “You look like a homeless guy who’s been to a soup kitchen that specializes in ice cream soup.”
Galifianakis v. Cooper
A running gag on Between Two Ferns is that Galifianakis hates old co-star Cooper. This is why Cooper’s appearances usually end with the two getting physical.
His Burning Question for Hillary Clinton
In an interview with the then-Presidential candidate, Galifianakis inquired, “What happens if you become pregnant? Are we going to be stuck with Tim Kaine for nine months?”
Mocking Jerry Seinfeld
During his Jerry Seinfeld interview, Galifianakis asked, “You have Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, James Corden has ‘Carpool Karaoke’ — what’s next in lazy, car-based non-comedy?”
Barack Obama’s ‘Between Two Ferns’ Segment
Galifianakis’ biggest interview happened in 2014 when he sat down with President Obama. He asked the president if he wished he could run for a third term, with Obama quipping, “If I ran a third time, it would be kind of like doing a third Hangover movie — didn’t really work out very well, did it?”
He’d Never Interview Trump, Though
When asked if he’d want President Trump on Between Two Ferns, Galifianakis said, “I am not interested. He’s a different type of — I guess he’s a human being. I don’t understand what he is, so I wouldn’t understand what to do with him. I wouldn’t want to give him any attention. Nothing against the guy, but just don’t understand him.”
Galifianakis’ Best Obama Joke
While the whole interview is great, Galifianakis’ best joke at Obama’s expense was: “Is it gonna be hard in two years when you’re no longer president, and people will stop letting you win at basketball?”
The Question He Refused to Ask Obama
On Conan, Galifianakis told a story where, before interviewing the president, he ate in the White House cafeteria/restaurant. On the menu, there was a dessert labeled “Chocolate Freedom.” Galifianakis said to the waiter, “You call the president this, right?” After that, the staff encouraged him to ask the president that question, but he refused.
Meeting Robert Downey Jr.
In 2010, Galifianakis co-starred with Robert Downey Jr. in the buddy road comedy Due Date. When asked to describe the first time they met, Galifianakis joked, “I saw Robert on the street, and I said, ‘I hear we’re doing a movie together.’ And he looked like he was reaching for a quarter to give me because I think he thought I was homeless.”
How Downey Really Felt About Working with Galifianakis
“There’s no telling what (he) might say, and it’s thrilling,” Downey offered.
What He Loved Most About ‘Due Date’
Galifianakis had the rare distinction of being a recurring cameo character in two Muppet films. He played “Hobo Joe,” the sole audience member for the Muppets’ comeback show.
Bill Clinton Inspired ‘The Campaign’
Galifianakis co-starred with Will Ferrell in the 2012 political comedy The Campaign, where he played a small-town weirdo trying to unseat an incumbent congressman. The movie grew out of a conversation the two had about the documentary The War Room, which covered Clinton’s run for president in 1992.
When asked how he would convince people to vote for him if he really ran for office, Galifianakis said he’d tell voters, “I don’t like to litter.” He also said his campaign song would be “On the Wings of Love.”
On Working with Big Celebrities
In an interview for The Campaign, Galifianakis said, “I was doing a scene with Brian Cox, Dylan McDermott, John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd and, in the back of my mind, I was like, ‘I don’t know how I scammed my way into this.’ It’s just bizarre. I was telling diarrhea jokes in coffee houses five years ago.”
Playing the Joker
Galifianakis played the Joker in The LEGO Batman Movie and said Jack Nicholson’s version helped inspire his performance.
Along with Louis C.K. and Jonathan Krisel, Zach Galifianakis co-created the FX comedy Baskets, where he plays twin brothers Chip Baskets, a failed clown working in a rodeo, and Dale Baskets, an influencer. He nabbed an Emmy nomination in 2017 but lost to Donald Glover in Atlanta.
When asked to describe his best look ever, he said, “I have an ALF sweatshirt.”
As for those who recognize him on the street, “It’s always somebody with a ‘Who Farted’ T-shirt,” he has joked.
He Likes to Bring Emotion to His Characters
“Even in the goofier, heavier comedy things, I’ve always tried to bring some layer of emotion to it that you don’t usually see. That has been something I’ve always tried to do, is to make the characters more emotional than you usually see comedic characters,” he has explained.
Full of Beans
In this year’s The Beanie Bubble, he played Beanie Babies creator Ty Warner. In describing his character, he said, “With Ty, he’s a goofball, he’s eccentric, he’s a salesman, but he also comes from such a weird past that I know he… at his core, is quite vulnerable.”
Preparing for ‘The Beanie Bubble’
To prepare to play the elusive Warner, Galifianakis said, “There’s very little interviews on him, there’s no video on the guy, so, part of it, I had to almost be a shrink to this person in my own way to try to figure him out.”
People Never Take Him Seriously
Galifianakis has spoken about how no one took him seriously while he delivered a sincere speech at his sister’s wedding. “I think it was a full-on, like, soap opera cry. It was a big wedding,” he explained. “I wasn’t being funny. I was just trying to talk about how I love my sister. So I started getting teared up, and everybody thought I was joking. And so they’re laughing at you crying. It’s so weird. I think if you’re a comic, people expect you to be a fun-loving guy all the time. It’s awkward when funny people get emotional.”
On Making It in Hollywood
When Obama compared him to Bradley Cooper, Galifianakis said, “Yeah, everybody loves Bradley. Good for him. Being like that in Hollywood, that’s easy — tall and handsome, that’s easy. Be short, fat and smell like Doritos, and try to make it in Hollywood.”