Film and TV

The Intertubes: Between Two Ferns

Surly, hairy man Sourly, cluelessly grumbles At celebrities.

There it is, the premise of Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis in haiku form. It seems so simple, and yet it is endlessly entertaining.

Presented in a format akin to a low-budget early-80's cable access show, complete with trumpet-heavy adult contemporary theme song, Between Two Ferns literally takes place between two large, conspicuous ferns. They are on either side of actor/comedian Zach Galifianakis and his guest, fencing them in together claustrophobically.

Natalie Portman plays with a random dog while she dodges Zach's wildly inappropriate questions - "You shaved your head for V For Vendetta. Did you also shave your V for vagina?". Portman and other guests tend to play the straight man, but that's not the rule. Charlize Theron seems oddly attracted to Zach, while Steve Carrell is pre-emptively combative in one of the series' funniest moments:

Zach: What is the thing that you're most proud of in your career? Steve: Oh, Evan Almighty, of course. Zach: That's a good movie. Steve: Fuck you, fatty.

Bruce Willis seems quiet and petulant until you find out he's actually wildly confused, isn't sure where he is, and then the nonsensical babbling starts. Sean Penn, best known in the comedy world for his portrayal of Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and, more recently, for his gallant and entirely humorless defense of Jude Law from Chris Rock's gentle ribbing at the 2005 Academy Awards, interviews with Zach's twin brother Seth Galifianakis, an effeminate Southerner whose sense of humor has little in common with Zach's. It doesn't go very well.

The series is a perfect example of Zach Galifianakis' type of humor: bizarre, confrontational, and at times, quite dark. "I hope your dog dies," Zach mutters to Charlize Theron, who erupts into wild laughter and squeals "I just pissed myself!" Although he hasn't had a new episode in a few months, Zach has still been pumping them out even as he's become more and more famous, so hopefully Between Two Ferns will continue indefinitely, or at least until he can land James Lipton to take the reins from him.

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John Seaborn Gray