Zach Galifianakis dislikes celebrities.
At least, that’s the vibe you get from revisiting his insanely popular web series, Between Two Ferns. The show featured the comedian playing the role of reluctant talk-show host as he rotated through a line-up of celebrity guests. Galifianakis’ interview style was a mix between classic David Letterman disdain and full-on psychopathic bullying. He teased, taunted, ignored and dismissed the talent that showed up, often pushing them to violence, stone-faced silence, or the occasional bout of vandalism. And we ate up every second of it.
With Galifianakis being forced to deliver a new handful of interviews to Funny or Die boss Will Ferrell, this time in the form of a Netflix original mockumentary, we thought we’d revisit the most cringe-worthy Between Two Ferns interviews to date. Warning: Sh*t’s about to get real awkward.
Brad Lee Cooper
We should’ve known things might get tense between these two frenemies when Galifianakis misremembered his Hangover costar’s filmography, first blanking on Cooper’s involvement in Wedding Crashers — he plays the conservative tool bag with a terrible bout of diarrhea — before confusing that film with the far superior The Wedding Planner. Cooper tries to bring it back around, spouting off the talent he’s worked with like Matthew McConaughey, but Galifianakis nips that in the bud with a terse “No one gives a f*ck.” Really, the withered ferns the men were sandwiched between serve as a dark metaphor for their toxic friendship, something on clear display when Galifianakis digs into Cooper’s insecurities over hosting Saturday Night Live. At one point, Cooper questions why Zach is being so mean to him before the two have a tussle that abruptly ends the interview — but not before Cooper tells his buddy to water his f*cking ferns. If this wasn’t staged, we hope Bradley’s found some better friends.
“Actor” Michael Cera
The quirky, unassuming Cera was made for indie comedies and teen cult classics but he was not made to take the kind of abuse Galifianakis doles out in this interview, the first to air on Funny or Die.com. The poor kid tries to engage with the grump early on, telling a story of how his mother got him into acting when he was a kid before he’s interrupted by the sound of the host’s snores. Things spiral quickly from there with a poorly-made 9/11 reference, some sound effects of a crowd booing Cera before the expected “vag” talk that comes when the actor plugs his movie, Superbad. All of this is bearable until the tickling starts. Watching a grown man try to force another grown man who resembles a 12-year-old boy to give his thigh a quick tickle will never not be cringeworthy.
This segment marked the rare occasion when Zach’s brother Seth, a flamboyantly Southern small-town amateur, played interviewer in his sibling’s stead. Zach was away at adult fat camp and, unfortunately for Seth, his wide-eyed approach to charming a gruff, monosyllabic Sean Penn did not go well. After countering Penn’s suggestion that Jack Nicholson is the actor of our generation with a Ryan Reynolds nod, Seth quizzes Penn on if he’s ever been to a Long John Silvers — only true Southerners will get this joke. He dismisses Penn’s charity work in Haiti once he learns there’s “no Six Flags down there” and spends most of the interview rambling about the star potential of his pug, Funyuns. Penn eventually threatens to knock him on his a**, and that’s where this tomfoolery ends.
Some actors make us truly question whether the hijinks on this show are staged or whether they just really f*cking hate Zach Galifianakis. Ben Stiller is one of those actors. He paid the show a visit to promote his latest movie, Greenberg — a rom-com so forgettable we had to source it from IMDb. It stars Greta Gerwig, so maybe it’s not that bad? — and got off to a bad start when he insulted Zach’s home state. Zach asked him to recreate his Blue Steel look from “Jewlander” before making a Night at the Museum dig that got Stiller really riled up, prompting him to walk off well before the interview was done, but not before making a decent fat joke.
Jennifer Aniston (and Tila Tequila)
Between Two Ferns could never be accused of indulging the vanity of Hollywood elite, but Jennifer Aniston really got the D-List treatment when she inadvertently crashed Tila Tequila’s interview and was forced to pay the price. Galifianakis was hamming it up with the reality star before Aniston showed up to sour the mood and Zach made her for pay it by ignoring her Adam Sandler anecdotes, asking loaded questions about nuclear airstrikes, and demanding to know if she’d ever given a blowjob on a motorcycle.
Galifianakis struggled to get Brad Pitt’s name right when he came on the show, complaining that he preferred to host presidents, not actors, before questioning Pitt on when he lost his virginity and wondering if the actor knew he was Hitler’s dream. To be fair to Galifianakis, the only thing he could remember about the guy was that he was in a volume of Playgirl magazine, a magazine subscription his dad got him when he was in his teens, so he really wasn’t expecting much from the “12 Years a Salve” producer. Zach gets in a few good digs about Pitt living in then-wife Angelina Jolie’s shadow before playing the Friends theme song but the truly cringe-worthy segment of the interview comes when Louis C.K. pops up to do a bit of stand-up. It’s almost as terrible as the material he’s been performing post-#MeToo.
It’s not that Galifianakis manages to make President Barack Obama lose his cool. In fact, our former Commander-in-Chief delivers a few deadly blows to the talk show host over the five minute interview, but how can you not squirm with every birth certificate joke, every Kenya mention, and the question, “How do you feel about being the last Black president?”, especially in this political climate.
See above but add in a poorly-timed Trump campaign add and mention of losing the Scott Baio vote.
Bruce Willis starts off his interview by putting off some serious “tough guy” vibes. He’s smoking a cigarette indoors for God’s sake. The machismo is palpable. Zach puts out the fire using a fern and get Willis to open up about the dark side of losing his celebrity currency — missing patent leather shoes, women’s manicured toenails, getting blown up and down Hollywood Boulevard. Once Willis reveals what it’s like to wait for a call from his agent in a room full of his cousins, the sweet relief of the fern catching fire and burning Zach along with it is almost miraculous.
In the middle of a very public meltdown, Justin Bieber visited Galifianakis’ show to clear up some rumors. Unfortunately, he couldn’t shed his “young punk” attitude long enough for Zach to get to the meat-and-potatoes of the interview, and this chat ended with an uncomfortable act of corporal punishment involving a belt, and Anne Frank reference, and talk of peeing in a bucket.
Will Ferrell’s Funny or Die website hosts Between Two Ferns, so you’d think the two bros would be a bit more friendly than Galifianakis is with other guests. And for a short time, that’s true. They laugh it up together, feed each other cherries and eat out of each other’s mouths, and watch videos of gorillas forcing toads to perform oral sex, but the fun quickly ends when Zach gets Ferrell’s dance team mantra wrong and the comedian shouts at him to get the fat out of his ears.
Steve Carell came onto the show thinking he was ahead of the game. He’d seen how Galifianakis treated guests, so he quickly handed the sass back to the guy, shutting down barbs before Zach could unleash them and throwing a handful of fat insults back. But when Carell takes things too far with a French “buffet” joke that ends in tears, he relents and ends the episode by making some digs at himself.
Natalie Portman (and her dog, Whiz)
You just don’t spend the precious few minutes you’re afforded with one of the world’s most iconic actresses to question her on working with Chewbacca and if she shaved more than just her head for V for Vendetta.
Oscars Buzz Edition
Take your pick of which guest-star was treated to the most uncomfortable line of questioning. Maybe it’s Naomi Watts having to explain that, yes, toilets spin backward in Australia but no, they don’t put the feces back in your rectum. Maybe it’s Christoph Waltz getting peeved over questions about his acting methods and Mein Kampf tattoos. Maybe it’s a drunk and affectionate Anne Hathaway being forcibly removed off stage. Or maybe it’s an accommodating Amy Adams fielding tired references to her hair color as Zach lists off potential nicknames like “Fire Crotch” and “Cinnamon Muff.” Fortunately, Galifianakis gets his when Jennifer Lawrence counters an off-putting joke by telling him he needs to be off the pudding. Get it? Because he’s overweight.