Zach Galifianakis on ‘Baskets’: “Not to sound too pretentious or actor-y but you want to kind of challenge yourself”

Actor Zach Galifianakis

Zach Galifianakis is best known for his role in the Hangover movies; a trilogy of films all following a group of guys who are old enough to know better, but still go out drinking and partying anyway. It’s fair to say the movies are laugh out loud funny, and really cemented Galifianakis’ reputation as a great comedian. But comedian’s are easily pigeonholed, and while some are happy to continue playing variations on the same role, Galifianakis has branched out. He can currently be heard on the big screen as the voice of The Joker in The LEGO Batman Movie; a role fits so well that it makes you want to see what he’d actually look like in the part, too. Aside from that, he can also be seen on the small screen in FX’s Baskets, a show he created with fellow comedian, Louis C.K.. 

Taking the central role, Galifianakis plays a clown school dropout, who has moved back home, and now spends his time trying to one up his twin brother as they vie for their mother’s attention. While essentially a comedy, Baskets is at times quite dramatic and bleak. In fact, like all good comedy, it borders so close on being a tragedy that sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between the two, Galifiankis acknowledges that it’s not to everyone’s tastes, but for him as an actor, he wanted to move into more dramatic roles.

“The Hangover movies were — it was a really wonderful time. But that’s a character. That Alan guy was a big, big, loud, dumb character. Dumb I can do. Not to sound too pretentious or actor-y, but you want to kind of challenge yourself. As a comic — as a fat, bearded comic — you can paint yourself into a corner. And this town wants to do that because it’s a copycat business. The entertainment business is very copycat. And you can do that for a few years, rely on that, but then, you know, if you want a longer career you try to change things up as much as you’re allowed to.”

Sometimes people want their comedians just to be comedians. And I do get that. I mean, when Jim Carrey did Eternal Sunshine [of the Spotless Mind], that depth — I think comedians have a lot inside of them, a lot of angst and a lot of sadness, and that can be really good for drama. But a lot of stand-ups or comedians can’t shake their stage performance, meaning their stage persona is carried over sometimes into their acting, and I never wanted to do that. I didn’t want my version of my stand-up to be my version of acting; I wanted it to be separate.”


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