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Ricky Gervais

Zach Galifianakis Biography


Home > Actors > G > Galifianakis, Zach > Biography


Birth Name: Zach Galifianakis
Born: 10/01/1969
Birth Place: Wilkesboro, North Carolina, USA


Born on Oct. 1, 1969 in the folk music mecca of Wilkesboro, NC, Galifianakis was raised in a Greek Orthodox home by his father, Harry, an oil heating vendor, and his mother, Mary. His flair for bizarre comedy developed in high school, where he spontaneously launched into a lisping, effeminate redneck with an exaggerated fear of strangers - his first character creation. Though it was a hit with classmates, Galifianakis failed to consider a comedy career until years later. He attended North Carolina State University, where he majored in communications and film. But with only one course to finish for graduation, Galifianakis suddenly dropped out, citing a "nervous breakdown" as the cause. With no concrete plans, the 23-year-old Galifianakis moved to New York City, where he took acting lessons and worked a series of dead-end day jobs, including a stint as a busboy in a strip club. In 1995, he met Texan stand-up comedian, Lisa deLarios, who inspired him to try his hand at the mic. After his first show at the Times Square burger joint, Hamburger Harry's, Galifianakis' comedy career was underway.

Galifianakis spent the next year developing his act around the city, but found that his brand of conceptual humor - a punk rock mélange of off-key piano playing, metaphysical zingers and random outbursts of rage - ran afoul of the conventional New York standup world. In 1997, he moved to Los Angeles, where he began a lengthy, but uneven career in television, beginning with the short-lived Anthony Clark sitcom "Boston Common" (NBC, 1996-97), where he portrayed an over-aged stoner. Similar roles followed, including the slacker comedy "Apt. 2F" (MTV, 1997) and "Tru Calling" (Fox, 2003-05), an Eliza Dushku-led metaphysical drama about a woman forced to live the same day over and over. Galifianakis portrayed an eccentric coroner on the series, which he openly derided as "Truly Appalling." He also popped up in minor roles in lesser comedies like "Bubble Boy" (2001) and "Heartbreakers" (2001), while briefly hosting "Late World With Zach" (VH-1, 2002), a disastrous, marijuana-fueled talk show that threatened to end his career.

The situation looked up for Galifianakis in 2005 when he toured with like-minded, unconventional stand-up comedians Patton Oswalt, Maria Bamford and Brian Posehn in small clubs across the country. The resulting documentary, "The Comedians of Comedy" (2005), became a lightning rod for the burgeoning indie comedy scene and cemented his status as one of the movement's most inventive and volatile exponents. The success of the tour and documentary opened new doors for the now heavily-bearded comedian, allowing him to enter a new phase of his career. Free from his ill-fitting flirtations with mainstream film and television, Galifianakis began concentrating on quirkier projects. He became a semi-regular on Comedy Central's "Reno 911!" (2003-09), a wholly improvised take-off on "COPS" (Fox, 1989- ), starring various members of long-running comedy troupe The State, and co-hosted a short-lived, but highly inventive mock-news program, "Dog Bites Man" (Comedy Central, 2006).

Strangely, given his aversion to commercial accessibility, one of Galifianakis' most popular projects was a series of short internet movies for Absolut Vodka. In 2008, along with frequent collaborators Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, Galifianakis shot several low-budget, anarchic promos for the product. In the spots, Galifianakis wore a strange beehive wig, guzzled booze and picked fights with his costars. Not surprisingly, the ads were a huge hit among college-age viewers. That same year, "Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis" premiered on Will Ferrell's online comedy site, Funny or Die. "Between Two Ferns" was a purposely awkward five-minute talk show, where a sputtering Galifianakis attempts to interview bewildered celebrities like Natalie Portman and Michael Cera. Like the Absolut ads, "Between Two Ferns" went viral, with each episode garnering nearly a million views.

In 2009, Galifianakis co-starred along with Ed Helms and Bradley Cooper in "The Hangover," a smash hit comedy from director Todd Phillips. The story of three groomsmen who wake up from a drunken bachelor party in Las Vegas to find that they have lost the groom, "The Hangover" managed to bring a fresh spin on the old screwball formula, while Galiafanakis's unique brand of oddball humor was perfect for playing the whacked out brother-in-law to be. Though it took nearly two decades, Galifianakis finally landed a mainstream role that kept his unhinged comic persona intact. Thanks to the $220 million take at the box office, Galifianakis was asked to reprise his role in a quickly developed sequel. Following a role in the live action-animated combo, "G-Force" (2009), the actor returned to television as one of the stars of "Bored to Death" (2009), playing the comic book artist best friend of a neurotic writer-turned-amateur sleuth who helps him solve cases to varying degrees of success.

After supporting Steve Carell and Paul Rudd in the screwball comedy "Dinner for Schmucks" (2010), Galifianakis was a grating actor who forces himself on a cross-country trip with an uptight yuppie (Robert Downey, Jr.) in Todd Phillips' panned comedy "Due Date" (2010). Meanwhile, the comedian caused quite a stir while making an appearance on "Real Time with Bill Maher" (HBO, 2003- ), where he displayed his support for legalizing marijuana by appearing to light up a joint on set. Though host and audience appreciated the gesture, some pundits went into a frenzy until Maher told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that said marijuana cigarette was in fact not real. Back on the big screen, Galifianakis and company reprised their roles for "The Hangover Part II" (2011), a nearly identical sequel that nonetheless bested its predecessor to become a huge international box office hit. While basking in the glow of part two's mega-success, Galifianakis was the recipient of an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for his hilariously odd hosting stint on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ). Turning to animation, he voiced Humpty Dumpty in the successful animated "Shrek" spin-off, "Puss in Boots" (2011).




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