Is this the world's worst movie?

Updated: Oct 02, 2019, 06:49 IST | Mayank Shekhar |

Something about actor Zach Galifianakis; he makes us laugh, when it's seriously not even frickin' funny

What is Galifianakis's chat-show, Between Two Ferns? Opposite of an interview. Celebrities come in to waste their time. So does the audience on the Internet. They enjoy it for just that reason. Pic/Twitter
What is Galifianakis's chat-show, Between Two Ferns? Opposite of an interview. Celebrities come in to waste their time. So does the audience on the Internet. They enjoy it for just that reason. Pic/Twitter

Mayank ShekharDon't know if you recall Jaison Reitnam's Up In The Air (2009). It was a pretty serious movie, given its subject. There's George Clooney, whose character sacks people for a living. Which on any given day might be a sucky profession to be in, except one sense this corporate globetrotter, deeply lacking in empathy, secretly loves his job.

But more than that, the film was a direct response to the 2008 recession. And so a lot of people watching the movie in America could be seeing in it a reflection of their own vulnerable state, with folk getting fired right, left, centre. But I don't remember any of that, from the pic. The only thing I distinctly recall still is a shot of actor Zach Galifianakis, who shows up for a quick second — as one of the fellows getting fired. And right at that moment, the audience in my Mumbai theatre is in complete splits. They can't stop laughing. And I'm thinking, what's up with that? Or so I asked Galifianakis few years ago, interviewing him on the sets of Hangover 2. "It's offensive to me, man," he said, recounting how he had to deliver toasts at both his brother and sister's weddings.

"I was choking up. There were 400 guests. It was ridiculous to have that many people laugh, when I'm crying. It can be a bit of a burden to be never taken seriously. I go to eat where old people go now. There, people don't laugh at me. I am kind of a loner anyway. Stand-up tours are lonelier still. My mom tells me I must be having a woman at every port. What? Am I pirate..."

And thus he trailed off, in his uniquely deadpan expression, proving beyond doubt that you can't be taking him seriously in this interview either. Not that anybody wants to. Which could be a comedian's curse, although have to say, of all the Indian stand-up comics I've met, the veteran Cyrus Broacha comes closest to Galifianakis.

Of course, not saying this because their sense of humour is similar (not at all; that would be Cyrus Sahukar). But unlike regular funnymen/women who perform jokes for a living, comedy isn't so much a series of rehearsed set-ups and punch-lines in Broacha's case, as it is a natural extension of his personality. That's how he is. You catch him at an airport, or a show (recently went on a podcast he hosts, pretty much impromptu), no switch-on/off; he's absolutely the same guy.

What do you do with Galifianakis if someone had a strange brainwave to give him a chat show? Well you go straight to YouTube. You bring in what's not a set, with two massive jhaads (ferns), and two chairs, with the host and guest facing a camera. And there's supposed to be a misfire, where the host first insults the guest, struggling to pronounce their name — Cum-ver-ber-wer-bat-bitch (for Benedict Cumberbatch), Mac-koo-ko-naa-hey-ghey (for Matthew McConaughey)...

Which is only ironic, since the host's last name itself, Galifianakis, might be the toughest one you've come across. And then there is no chat, not even an intelligent/semi-funny banter, what with the show attracting some of America's top pop-icons. For what? An interview!

Which I suspect, by definition, involves a stranger talking to a celebrity, who in turn is being watched/read by far more number of strangers, in the hope that the celebrity will publicly reveal aspects of their life/personality (anecdotes and confessions) that they either haven't done before; or might, ideally, prefer to, sitting in a couch, opposite a therapist! You don't wanna go that deep, then you watch a show, where guests have fun playing games.

What is Galifianakis's chat-show, Between Two Ferns? Opposite of an interview. Celebrities come in to waste their time. So does the audience on the Internet. They enjoy it for just that reason. How huge did it become? To a point that President Obama, as guest, used the show for a platform to sell his healthcare policy among American voters.

How do you make it any bigger? I don't know, make a full-length feature film on this non-talk show, maybe? Which is precisely what I just watched: Between Two Ferns: The Movie, directed (or misdirected) by Scott Aukerman (that dropped on Netflix recently). It's a mumble-core mockumentary, along the lines of Borat, if you may.

It's still fictional. Surely Galifianakis plays a character? Yeah, he's the guy who collects newspaper cuttings — which is essentially all the pictures in the newspaper, so he doesn't have to read what's between. His secretary has to literally draw his itinerary — set of illustrations with him in it, so he knows what he's supposed to do.

What happens next? He non-interviews a set of celebrities, turning it into an adventure, packed with a climax. Why the hell did I watch it, and even loved it in portions? Because, as with that show, can't believe this non-movie exists!

Mayank Shekhar attempts to make sense of mass culture. He tweets @mayankw14 Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper

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