Thursday, May 10, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Zach Galifianakis: Live at the Purple Onion (2006) ***

NR, 72 min.
Director: Michael Blieden
Writer: Zach Galifianakis
Starring: Zach Galifianakis, Joe Wagner, Brian Unger

Back before the Netflix business brain melted, they produced a comedy special by then up and coming comedic actor Zach Galifianakis. Although Galifianakis’s awkward name was starting to buzz out of the comedy world and into mainstream pop culture, nobody knew how big the bearded oddball would become once he appeared in “The Hangover” in 2009. So it’s a little strange to look back at was he was before his superstardom.

If the comedy special proves one thing, it’s that fame has not changed Galifianakis in the slightest. The self-deprecating humor of incompetence that he still utilizes to great effect in interview shows like “Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis” or even in big time movies is on full display in this comedy special. Much of his stand-up humor consists of cursing his own failure as a comic. Stumbled joke deliveries, refilling his beer, and heckling the crowd before they heckle him are all milked for every laugh he can get out of what seems to be the unintentional. All the while, he plays the piano seemingly without thought and fairly well.

Peppered throughout the stand-up segments is an interview of his ficticious brother Seth. He’s played here by Galifianakis himself. The interview is conducted by NPR personality—now there’s an oxymoron for you (yuk, yuk)—Brian Unger. Unger spends much of the time holding back his laughter as Galifianakis portrays his brother as a flamboyant southerner who barely seems to know anything about the world Zach really inhabits.

“Live at the Purple Onion” is hardly a breakthrough in stand up comedy, but it is funny. It’s sketch segments don’t suffer from the awkwardness of many such segments in other comedy specials, perhaps because Galifianakis’s comedy feeds off its own awkwardness so much. If you like stand-up comedy or if you like Galifianakis, it’s worth a watch.

No comments: