FRESH AIR: I’m Terry Gross. My guest, Zach Galifianakis, stars in the new FX comedy series “Baskets.” He co-created the show with Louis C.K., who’s also one of the executive producers. Galifianakis co-starred in “The Hangover” movies. In “Birdman,” he played the producer and right-hand man of Michael Keaton’s character. Galifianakis created the web series “Between Two Ferns,” a satirical interview show on the Funny Or Die website, in which he plays the disaffected host who asks inappropriate questions to his celebrity guests. The guests are real celebrities who appear as themselves. His most famous guest was President Obama. We’ll talk about that later.
In Galifianakis’s new series, “Baskets,” he plays Chip Baskets whose dream is to be an artistic, poetic clown. In the opening episode, he’s studying in Paris at a French clown academy, but he doesn’t speak French and has no idea what is being said, so he’s learning nothing. That’s typical of how his life is going. He returns home to Bakersfield, Calif., with his new wife, a French woman who’s made it clear she doesn’t love him or even like him. The only reason she has married him is to get a green card. She refuses to live with him. He’s staying at a cheap, rundown motel, and he can’t even afford that. In this scene from episode one, he interviews for a job as a rodeo clown at a small time local rodeo. […] I always thought there was something really sad about clowns. I never really liked clowns as a kid. I thought I was supposed to, but I didn’t. And I thought there’s something really off-putting about clown suits, so I’d like to know what your position is (laughter) about clowns.
GALIFIANAKIS: I’m not really creeped out by clowns. I remember seeing “Short Cuts” – there was a Robert Altman movie and there was a female clown in that. And it was just kind of a matter of fact, you know, she was a clown that just went and performed at kids birthday parties. Kind of a regular, you know, existence – and that to me is more interesting is – it’s just, you know, people that actually have to do it, not the weird extremes clowns can be or how they are portrayed. I think it’s kind of more interesting to see the boring clown sometimes. And to see him with his makeup on and shopping for cheese is kind of the clown world that we wanted to paint. This guy is a clown accidentally. When he’s trying to be a clown at the rodeo, he’s not very good. But when he’s out in the real world, he falls down a lot or things happen to him, but he’s not trying to be a clown. And that’s kind of the thing that’s – the dark cloud that’s over him all the time is he can’t be a clown when the lights are on him. He can only accidentally be a clown, and that was kind of an interesting thing to me, too. MORE