So I went and saw The American last night and there was a preview for Its A Funny Story, one of a couple movies that Zach Galifianakas has coming out this fall. The movie looks good in a cute and funny way. But, as usual with his work, I couldn’t take my eyes off of ZG when he was on the screen. He’s been on my mind of late, as I’ve been watching Bored To Death on HBO. I’m not a big fan of the show, I think Jason Schwartzman struggles in the lead part, but ZG is reason enough to watch it.
As I was having a sandwich after the movie I was thinking: Why is ZG so watchable? Why is he such a good actor? On another level, I thought why am I even thinking about this? He’s not the type of actor I usually like to watch; there’s no transformation, he’s always funny, and usually always playing the same role - himself. But still, I love watching the guy. Why? The answer is this: He always plays with high stakes. Everything is life and death to a ZG character. Unlike other ‘funny actors’ Galifianakis doesn’t play at being funny. His humor comes from the need of his characters, and always being in a life and death situation, even when he’s talking about a something as mundane as sumer school.
I don’t think Galifianakis has had any training. (He seems to have found his own way, using his odd view of the world and youtube to catapult his way to stardom.) But somehow he learned to play everything very serious, deadly so. And from that commitment, in an unusually odd situation, humor springs to life.
I think Galifianakis is a great case study for any actor. He’s a self-made man; he’s not some pretty boy whose father was in the business, or anything like that. And his work is fantastic; every actor needs that same level of commitment in pursuing their characters need.