Galifianakis proves to be an all-around entertainer

Galifianakis entertained the audience with hilarious stand-up comedy last Thursday. (credit: Celia Ludwinski | Assistant Photo Editor) Galifianakis entertained the audience with hilarious stand-up comedy last Thursday. (credit: Celia Ludwinski | Assistant Photo Editor)

Last Thursday, in the midst of yet another thrilling Carnegie Mellon Carnival, AB Comedy showcased a man who has reached a new level of comedic genius in today’s world: Zach Galifianakis. But before talking about the show itself, let’s talk a little bit about the man behind the beard.

Galifianakis, 40, has been acting in films and television shows for the last decade, including a leading role in the upcoming film The Hangover, in which he plays one of three groomsmen who wake up in a Las Vegas hotel room with no memory of the previous night and a missing groom. The trailer of the movie was played before he took the stage Thursday night to raucous applause from the audience.

Galifianakis was born in Wilkesboro, N.C., where he remained through his college days at North Carolina State University pursuing a degree in communication and film. In 1992, he left for New York City, where he still resides in a “hip” section of Brooklyn, a place that he asserts would not enjoy his new catchphrase: “Look everyone, here comes the Choo-Choo!” After toiling in the dregs of NYC for four years, Galifianakis got his big break on a short-lived sitcom called Boston Common, and in 2001 appeared in three mainstream movies and one smaller film in which he had a leading role. Since then, he’s also had roles in the Academy Award-nominated Into the Wild and What Happens in Vegas, as well as the upcoming films G-Force and Youth in Revolt. Galifianakis also splits his time between two other residences, one in Venice Beach, Calif. and the other, a 60-acre farm in North Carolina, that he hopes to someday turn into a “writer’s retreat.”

But most of Galifianakis’ notoriety came from his performance on an episode of Comedy Central Presents that first aired in Sept. 2001 in which he did stand-up, played the piano, danced, and lip-synched while making jokes with a pad of paper. Stand-up has been his calling in life. He combines elements of absurdity, not-so-subtle one-liners, political incorrectness, and much more to make his act an absolute laugh riot. While some of his jokes contain somewhat obscure references, he’s one of few comedians today who still assume his audiences are smart enough to just get his jokes and move on. He doesn’t linger on the hits or the misses, but breezes through his act, delivering punch line after punch line, with nearly all of them hitting right on the mark.

The little charades mentioned earlier from his first on-air special are still incorporated into his act to this day, and last Thursday was no different. After a short delay, AB Comedy chairman Danny Schoenfelder, a senior civil and environmental engineering major, went on stage to plug the AB elections and introduce the man of the hour.

Beginning with some of his quality stand-up, including a slight ribbing of Carnegie Mellon’s most phallic landmark and all the hallmarks that come with performing at a carnival, Galifianakis got into a nice groove with the crowd before moving to his piano to play some quality tunes. He delivered some of his best one-liners, like why he plays the opening riff to “Turning Japanese” whenever his Asian roommate entered the room — because he doesn’t have a gong, of course. Later, Galifianakis “freestyled” while getting to know the audience a little. He made fun of a few people’s inability to elaborate on any question asked of them.

Before his finale, Galifianakis did some more stand-up and played a little more piano, and also delivered one of his best jokes of the night. For the grand finale, Galifianakis talked about how newly elected president Obama made him feel he could change to be a better person in life, so he changed into a neon-lit jumpsuit and started tearing jokes off of a large notepad as a video montage played multiples of him lip-synching to the tune of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” It was truly a sight to behold.

After the show, Galifianakis was kind enough to share his thoughts on the realm of comedy and how he gets the ideas for his own brand.

“Some people, their minds work mathematically, some socially, and others’ minds work dramatically,” he said. “And some people just have this thing in them where they have comedy in this part of their brain. And if you nurture that, then it just comes from you, but you need people in your background to make it all happen.” This just goes to show you that people with the “professor on meth” and “vice president of ultimate Frisbee” look may be more than their beards make them out to be.