WORTH REPEATING: Being Zach Galifianakis

zach.jpgNEW YORK TIMES: Perhaps more than anyone else in the business, Galifianakis embodies the rebellion against the outmoded Comedy Club circuit — the exposed brick, the two-drink minimum, the indifferent audience, the “regular guy with an attitude” routine — which has come to be labeled the “indie comedy” movement. […] The Internet, with its steady appetite for eccentric and off-the-cuff content, has been crucial to Galifianakis’s growing prominence, and to the rise of indie comedy as a whole. “College kids these days have an appreciation for randomness — just completely bizarre stuff,” Galifianakis told me, “and they didn’t get that by going to Uncle Chuckle’s Comedy Hut.” Of all the Galifianakis clips, gags and sketches currently in Internet orbit, none have done more to cement his reputation as a leader of the comic avant-garde, curiously enough, than a series of three ads in 2008 for Absolut vodka. “This advertising firm from Sweden called me out of the blue and asked me to do an ad,” Galifianakis said. “The one request they had was to not make it look too ’80s, since Absolut is perceived as kind of an ’80s brand.” He paused there for a moment, clearly savoring the memory. “That’s what gave us the idea to make the skits a kind of homage to ‘The Golden Girls.’ ”

The resulting three sketches, made in collaboration with the absurdist comedy duo Tim and Eric (of “Awesome Show, Great Job!” part of the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming), attain levels of absurdity — and, at times, flat-out stupidity — that test the limits of belief, even in this golden age of irreverent, self-reflexive, cooler-than-thou advertising. The premise is simple: in each clip, a man named Zach — played by Galifianakis himself, in a flaming-red wig that might best be described as the love child of Bea Arthur and a tsunami — pours his similarly bewigged friends, “Tim” and “Eric,” grotesque amounts of vodka, swills it with them perfunctorily, then loses his temper for no apparent reason. The sets look hastily thrown together, the video is cable-access quality at best and the mood of each sketch progresses seemingly haphazardly from awkwardness to tension to inappropriate rage. There is nothing inherently funny in this scenario — with the possible exception of the obvious disdain its creators feel for the product they’re ostensibly selling — but the ads are both hilarious and, paradoxically, highly effective.  MORE


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