Zach Galifianakis Biography

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.
May 24th, 2013

Zach Galifianakis Biography

Zachary Knight Galifianakis was born on Oct. 1, 1969, in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. Galifianakis received his Greek heritage through his father's extended family (who emigrated from the island of Crete), while his mother is of Scottish-Irish origin. Galifianakis was the second of third siblings (he has an older brother, Greg, and younger sister, Merritt), all of whom were brought up in the Greek Orthodox faith.

As a teenager, Zach Galifianakis attended Wilkes Central High School in the nearby town of Moravian Falls. Galifianakis graduated from high school and went onto take a communications major at North Carolina State University, although he did not graduate due to failing a class. This was not a setback for Galifianakis because it ultimately spurred him to leave the state of North Carolina for greener pastures.

Galifianakis made the move to the Big Apple and began performing standup in a hamburger joint. Progress was slow for Galifianakis in New York City, but it did open up a career on television. Galifianakis' first role on television was as Deuce in "Boston Common." Galifianakis' role was that of a stoner, but he performed the role well enough to be hired as a recurring character. "Boston Common" was one of the highest-rated sitcoms during its first season in 1996, but the following year resulted in a sharp decrease in viewer numbers, which led to the series being canceled prematurely. Although Galifianakis was suddenly out of work, he joined "Saturday Night Live" as a writer. However, he only lasted two weeks before being let go by the producers. The following few years resulted in numerous small film roles for Galifianakis, but he did costar in "Out Cold."

In 2001, Galifianakis was able to bring his two loves together by hosting an episode of "Comedy Central Presents." Galifianakis included a usual stand-up routine but played a piano cameo to go along with it. This gave Galifianakis a taste for television comedy, and the following year, he became the host of a VH1 talk show, "Late World with Zach." The show only lasted for 29 episodes before it was pulled due to low ratings, but Galifianakis was able to showcase some of his comedic talents on cable television.

After "Late World with Zach," Galifianakis returned to trying out for more serious acting roles, although he still worked as a stand-up comedian in his spare time. In 2003, Galifianakis landed a main character role in the Fox television drama "Tru Calling." The show lasted for only two seasons, so it seemed as though once again, Galifianakis' acting career was running into brick walls. In 2006, Galifianakis returned to television comedy, this time as Alan Finger on "Dog Bites Man." The Comedy Central show delivered fakes news, something which Galifianakis thrived on. That same year Galifianakis released a comedic rap song titled "Come On and Get It (Up in Dem Guts)" with musician Fiona Apple. In addition to acting, Galifianakis produced a series of videos on the Funny or Die website called "Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis." The show revolved around Galifianakis conducting interviews with popular celebrities who are situated between two potted ferns.

Galifianakis continued to perform stand-up and find small film roles for a few years, but it wasn't until 2009's "The Hangover" when he started to gain national recognition for being a comedic actor. The film earned the MTV Movie Award for Best Comedic Performance, while Galifianakis' performance was largely praised by film critics. This rapid rise to fame resulted in many supporting film roles in movies such as "G-Force," "Youth in Revolt" and "Up in the Air." With Galifianakis now in hot demand for his acting as well as his comedy skits, he returned to a place where he was previously rejected: "Saturday Night Live." Galifianakis hosted a show during SNL's thirty-fifth season and returned to host the following season as well.

In October 2010, Galifianakis courted controversy when many people believed that he smoked marijuana on "Real Time with Bill Maher." The host Bill Maher came out to support Galifianakis by saying that it was not real marijuana. The following summer Galifianakis reprised his role of Alan Garner in "The Hangover Part II." The success of this sequel led to plans for a third film to be released in 2013. Galifianakis has repeatedly thanked the cast and crew of "The Hangover" trilogy for giving him a chance on the big screen. "The Hangover Part III" is scheduled to be released in May 2013 and is anticipated to be the best of the trilogy. In 2013, Galifianakis will star in a comedy film, "Birdman," alongside Emma Stone and Naomi Watts.