Not My Job: Zach Galifianakis Plays A Game Called 'Between Two Derns'
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now the game where we ask people who have risen to the highest levels to come down back to ours. It's called Not My Job. So Zach Galifianakis is a comedian and a movie star. But he may be most well-known for his Internet series "Between Two Ferns." In it, he interviews real celebrities and says really mean things to them. And somehow the celebrities do not then arrange to have him killed.
SAGAL: "Between Two Ferns" is now a movie. It's premiering on Netflix. And Zach Galifianakis joins us now. Zach, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.
ZACH GALIFIANAKIS: Thank you so very much.
GALIFIANAKIS: It's a pleasure to have you. So I watched the movie, which is hilarious and...
GALIFIANAKIS: Thank you.
SAGAL: ...And has a bunch of "Between Two Ferns" interviews. And celebrities actually want to be on your show, right? They want to come and do this.
GALIFIANAKIS: I don't know. I mean, I don't really know why they would want to do it. But it's not a prank show. I'm not trying to prank anyone.
SAGAL: And if I understand correctly, you tell the celebrities their job is basically to sit there and just...
GALIFIANAKIS: Well, I tell them they don't have to be funny. They just have to sit there and be weirded out.
GALIFIANAKIS: And we will give them insults to give back to me. But sometimes in the moment, we just get talking, and the insults kind of fly naturally.
GALIFIANAKIS: I've cut an interview short because...
BOBCAT GOLDTHWAIT: (Laughter).
GALIFIANAKIS: The person - and I don't want to reveal who it was - but the person was acting so well I thought they were going to just choke me out in the parking lot.
SAGAL: So - that somebody was acting so upset at your character that you honestly thought that this was going that badly?
GOLDTHEWAIT: It was...
GALIFIANAKIS: And I kind of said we're done to the director. And he said, we don't have anything. And I said, well, I want my life.
SAGAL: You'd rather live.
GOLDTHEWAIT: You can say Florence Henderson.
GALIFIANAKIS: But it turned out that person just was that great of an actor. I was just fooled by them. So...
GALIFIANAKIS: But I don't try it. I'm not trying to hurt anybody's feelings. I just am trying to cause weirdness.
SAGAL: Yeah. And - but it is amazing. For example, you did one with President Obama.
GALIFIANAKIS: Oh, yeah. I forgot about that.
SAGAL: Oh, yeah.
SAGAL: I understand how that could slip your mind. And so you were going to go to the White House. This is when they were rolling out the...
ROXANNE ROBERTS: Obamacare.
SAGAL: ...The Obamacare thing, and they were trying to get it around to things the youth might watch. And so when you got a chance to go do this bit with President Obama, what did you say to yourselves?
GOLDTHEWAIT: I just couldn't believe - you know, even when we got to the White House, I was - I just thought they were going to - that it was never going to happen. And I was nervous. And I actually - I sat on some historic furniture that was roped off...
GOLDTHEWAIT: ...At the White House twice.
GALIFIANAKIS: Two different times.
SAGAL: I mean, was that - they didn't have, like, the rope tied between, you know, the...
GALIFIANAKIS: Yeah. It was next to the war room and - or it was the War Room or the map room. I didn't know that there was a rope - velvet rope situation, and I had sat down on one of the seats. And then a security guard blew his whistle in my ear.
GALIFIANAKIS: And then I was so nervous, I did it again.
ROBERTS: Zach, this is Roxanne Roberts. Did the president have any sense of - or do any of the celebrities you interview have any sense when you start what you're going to ask? Or is it all news to them as you ask it? Is it...
GALIFIANAKIS: I do...
GALIFIANAKIS: I don't give them the questions ahead of time. With President Obama, though, because of limited time, that one was more scripted than the others. But he just kind of ran with it, and a lot of that is improv.
SAGAL: Really? So in the interview with President Obama, you sit with the then-president of the United States, and you say - if I remember correctly - how does it feel to be the last black president?
SAGAL: And you said that to him.
SAGAL: And I legitimately thought he was about to kill you.
GALIFIANAKIS: Well, he doesn't have to kill me. He has people around him...
SAGAL: That's true.
GALIFIANAKIS: That was one of the questions where I asked his speechwriter, have - I pointed to that question before we taped it, and I said, has he seen that question?
GALIFIANAKIS: And the speechwriter looked at me and said, yeah, I think so and just walked off like, of course, he hasn't seen it.
SAGAL: So when you were sitting there with the president, and you didn't know that he knew you were about to ask that, and you did it anyway...
GALIFIANAKIS: I'm playing an idiot. So when you're playing an idiot, you kind of get away with things because part of the comedy for this thing is how not to be as a human being.
SAGAL: Right. Yes.
GALIFIANAKIS: So I don't know. He just took it in stride, and his response, I think, was made up.
SAGAL: Yeah. Well, what was - do you remember his response?
GALIFIANAKIS: He just told - he - I can't remember exactly what it says, which is weird because I watch it 16 times a day.
SAGAL: I would, too. I have to say - and I've seen "Baskets," which is great as well - you often play people who are terrible people. They're just - they're not self-aware. They're not nearly as talented as they think they are. They're mean to people.
ALONZO BODDEN: That's correct.
BODDEN: So when will you be running for president?
SAGAL: I know. Yeah.
SAGAL: Well, Zach Galifianakis, we have asked you here to play a game we're calling...
BILL KURTIS: Between Two Derns.
SAGAL: We've been talking about "Between Two Ferns." But what do you know about the Derns - specifically, Bruce and Laura Dern, the father-daughter team of actors? Answer two out of three questions about the Derns, and you'll win our prize for one of our listeners - the voice of anyone that they might choose from our show. Bill, who is Zach Galifianakis playing for?
KURTIS: Johnny Mays of Austin, Texas, this month's winner of our smart speaker quiz. Just ask your Alexa or Google Home-enabled device to open the Wait Wait Quiz and be like Johnny.
SAGAL: I feel vaguely cheap, Bill. How about you?
SAGAL: Meanwhile, back to you, Zach. Are you ready to play this game?
GALIFIANAKIS: Yes, I'm ready.
SAGAL: All right. Here's your first question. Bruce Dern got his start by getting rave reviews in a Broadway play in 1958. What was unusual about his role? Was it, A, he remained entirely still and entirely silent for the entire play; B, he spent only 52 seconds on stage; or C, he played the rear end of a horse?
GALIFIANAKIS: It is C.
SAGAL: It is C - he played the rear end...
SAGAL: ...Of a horse.
SAGAL: It was actually B.
GALIFIANAKIS: That's what I meant. That's what I meant.
GALIFIANAKIS: I understand. I understand.
SAGAL: The theater critic Walter Kerr wrote of the play, which he did not like, quote, "the play's saving grace is a 52-second performance by a heretofore unknown actor named Bruce Stern (ph)."
SAGAL: But it started him off. All right. You still have two more chances. There's no problem.
SAGAL: Bruce Dern later was horribly criticized for another role. He even received death threats for doing it. Why? A, he played the title role in "The Misunderstood Mussolini;" B, he shot John Wayne in the back; or C, he shot Raquel Welch in the front?
GALIFIANAKIS: Oh, boy. Is this for me again?
SAGAL: This is for you, yeah.
SAGAL: You're right. It is B.
SAGAL: In his movie...
SAGAL: He shoots John Wayne in the back. Apparently, nobody had ever done this to John Wayne in his entire movie career. No villain had ever successfully killed John Wayne before the end of the movie. And John Wayne on set said to Bruce Dern, you know, people are going to hate you for this. And Bruce Dern said to him, yeah, but they're going to love me in Berkeley...
SAGAL: ...Which is a great line. All right. So that - we've been talking about Bruce Dern, the father. Let's talk about Laura Dern. Once, while working on a David Lynch movie, Laura Dern told a producer, you're in a David Lynch movie, dude. You've got to sit back and enjoy the ride. What was she referring to? A, David Lynch had just announced that for the rest of the filming, the catering would just be ice cubes in the shape of demons...
SAGAL: ...B, David Lynch had just told the producer, from now on, Laura Dern over there is a kitty cat, and you are Laura Dern; or C, David Lynch had told the producer he needed, quote, "a one-legged woman, a monkey and a lumberjack by 3:15 p.m."?
UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE: C.
GALIFIANAKIS: What are people saying in the audience?
SAGAL: You've got a bunch of David Lynch fans...
GALIFIANAKIS: C, right?
GALIFIANAKIS: And they're all saying C.
SAGAL: You're right. It was C.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: And, in fact, the producer got them but not until 4:00 p.m.
SAGAL: Bill, how did Zach Galifianakis do on our quiz?
KURTIS: He did very well. Zach, congratulations - you got 2 out of 3.
GALIFIANAKIS: Thank you.
SAGAL: Zach Galifianakis is a comedian, and he is the star of "Between Two Ferns: The Movie." It is streaming now on Netflix.
Thank you so much, Zach Galifianakis.
GALIFIANAKIS: Thank you.
SAGAL: What a thrill to talk to you.
GALIFIANAKIS: Thanks so much.
SAGAL: Take care, Zach.
(SOUNDBITE OF DAVID BLUME'S "THEME FROM TAXI DRIVER")
SAGAL: In just a minute, Bill opens with the Sicilian Defense gambit in the Listener Limerick Challenge. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to join us on the air. We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR.
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