Rock Center   |  May 17, 2013

Zach Galifianakis: Comedian, actor, beard enthusiast

Zach Galifianakis, the bearded comic turned reluctant big-time star, opened up to Brian Williams about more than just “The Hangover” trilogy that has made his extended Greek moniker a household name. They talked about life on his North Carolina farm, his family, weed, and of course his hit online talk show, “Between Two Ferns.”

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> see what can happen when you spend any amount of quality time with zach zach . with "hangover 3" on the way, it is released thex thursday, you are about to see more of him. we got mar than we bargained for and are still recovering from our time spent with him. there's a lot there. this is a complex individual as funny as anyone alive today. he is very definitely the sum of his many parts and he brings all of it to the various parts he has played. when interviewing zach galifianakis , it helps if you ever raised an 8-year-old child.

>> i do it so the viewer will be entertained by something.

>> as an adult he has instructions on how much should air.

>> don't do a long piece because people will turn it off. i'm telling you they will turn it off when they see it.

>> reporter: because that's a risk we're willing to take we begin with his life story . second generation greek, born and raised in north carolina where his uncle was a three-term member of the house of representatives . yes, that means there was a one in congress. a vh-1 talk show with a yellow stripe, reno 911 , the hbo series bored to death and many more. he was discovered as part of the traveling ensemble comedians of comedy .

>> sucker for the word the spoken word of comedy.

>> reporter: she married to quinn lundberg. cofounder of growing voices, a non-profit helping the needy in both north carolina and africa. he has traveled there often. and here's where he gets different from others. there are no pictures, no video. he doesn't do it for that. zach and his wife live on a farm in north carolina , which we got to see only in a video he made for kanye west .

>> i have donkeys. i have blueberries.

>> but enough about your brooklyn apartment. i asked about north carolina .

>> in north carolina i have three donkeys. i have named two of them but i haven't gotten around to the third one yet. but i only had him for a couple of months. we have blueberries, grapes, apple trees , and, you know crystal meth lab.

>> reporter: if those stories of idyllic back country conjure up a certain tv image, in fact that song played a big role in his career when the man who whistled it came to zach 's school assembly.

>> the guy whistled and i remember thinking in sixth grade, he didn't have to bring anything to work. he just showed up and i remember being affected by that whistler. thinking oh, that's kind of -- maybe i can do something like that with my life. not whistling but telg diarrhea jokes.

>> reporter: when he is home in north carolina , he goes all in, full emersion from chewing tobacco to chain saws. his farm is the anti-hollywood, and so is he.

>> it's not for me. i'm not in to that scene. i'm in to doing my job and that's it. i'm not in to that horse blp blchlt it is so stupid. it is all so dumb. you know? it is so weird to me.

>> a highlight of our conversation came early on when his movie publicist from the studio arrived late.

>> jeez. who?

>> oh, tell him to leave.

>> he ultimately relented.

>> come on in, guys. welcome.

>> it's all right.

>> back to zach . he's a very private, very reluctant celebrity in a culture where everyone carries a camera and wants a picture.

>> sometimes i'll say, i'm real shy about pictures. i'd love to sign something, wright you a note. no thanks and just walk away . it is not like they are interested in chatting or talking. they just want to text their friends oh, i met that fat dude . you know what i mean ? it is all about them. it is not about you.

>> so you didn't get in to this so you could be well known?

>> i think civilians look at entertainers and think well, you made this bargain. you wanted to be an entertainer.

>> i think i would have changed my last name to make it more marketable.

>> streamline it is a little bit. if i always wanted to have my name up in lights i would have changed it to "don't walk." while he credits his stylist and beardist with his personal look, remaining anonymous and not standing out has become difficult of late because he's the instantly recognizable star of "the hangover" movies.

>> you are going to wear that? are you [ bleep ] with me.

>> it is where i keep my things i get a lot of compliments on this. it is a not a man purse. it is a satchel. indiana jones has one.

>> cooper seems like the natural target.

>> oh, precious. that's what we call him.

>> yeah.

>> promoting a hangover film usually means hosting snl and as guest hosts go he is pal ably more dangerous, more live material, borrowing from his stand up act.

>> here's something you will never see in braille. if you see something, say something. [ laughter ]

>> he will do almost anything in the pursuit of comedy. he famously shaved his beard for one sketch on snl and then showed up with a fake beard for the next segment. by the end of another show he sacrificed half of his hair.

>> unfortunately we could not get to the mr. t sketch. his side job is a project of funny or diechlt it is a take down of every bad celebrity interviewer and every bad interview ever conducted.

>> you played in a movie hunger games.

>> isn't that your life story ?

>> you shouldn't say that. that is off putting.

>> you should have off pudding.

>> between two ferns is just that. he has interviewed the great and near greats with spectacular on screen misspellings and simulated violence. our version took place on the small, stifling hot improv stage at the citizen's brigade and our interview went almost two hours and featured highlights like these.

>> when i was in the joint that was an expression. [ laughter ]

>> that's good.

>> you wore tweed.

>> it is cold outside. plus, it's my only blazer.

>> this is a lightweight poplin.

>> we'll be right back with the world's worst bragger. i don't know where this is made. you like mouth breathing? can i guest host the news?

>> no.

>> this is the longest conversation i have had with anyone in like seven years. it's going to be on tv?

>> not any of. this.

>> back in the other room, we thought it was a good time to ask about his reputation as an inthuzist of what he appeared to light up on national television.

>> what's the important of wooed weed in your life? [ laughter ]

>> i'm not -- i'm not. i don't want to be known as that thing.

>> i think that has left the barn.

>> i'm not -- i don't think -- you know f someone were to say to me, you have a choice of picking two vices for your country. the choices are pot or alcohol. i would have to pick marijuana. because it doesn't cause the problems that alcohol causes. it's not to say that it doesn't have -- some negative effects. i'm not saying that. i'm not -- people think of marijuana, i think they think of hey, dude. it shouldn't be that. i know you document by the way, i got your text. i don't smoke pot anymore.

>> and that's pretty much it. as the two-hour mark approached, it was time for him to take another spin.

>> oh, good, one more lap. and time to say good-bye. do you have anything else.

>> no. i have nothing to ad but i want to thank you and the naushl broadcasting company for letting me come on and tell my fascinating story.

>> so formal, so official. one more word about zach 's life on the farm. he doesn't own a television television there. what he watches he sees on his computer and his favorite show is "front line" on pbs. just throw that on to the pile of zach 's personality profile. we'll take