Ever since he absolutely killed as The Hangover’s Alan Garner back in 2009, few people have been unaware of the comedic genius who is Zach Galifianakis. The actor starred in all three of the franchise’s films, audiences loved him in 2010’s Due Date, and critics praised his performance in 2014’s Birdman. Galifianakis is also leaving fans laughing in the aisles (or in front of their screens) with his current Funny or Die gig, Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis. But we all know this.
True fans, however, are also in the know when it comes to more obscure Galifianakis trivia. They know he attended North Carolina State University, he’s half Greek, he lasted two weeks as a Saturday Night Live writer in 2000 (it’s apparently a really bad idea to annoy Britney Spears), and he appeared in a number of bit television and movie roles before really breaking onto the scene with his unique and off-center brand of comedy on 2005’s Comedians of Comedy tour. But what about the truly trivial facts, those that aren’t obvious from a simple Google search of the actor’s name? Did you know that Galifianakis’ first film role was that of Santa in 2002’s Stella Shorts? Or that he credits his massive weight loss to abstaining from alcohol? Those who really follow news of the comedian might even be aware he’s enjoyed dipping Skoal ever since filming 2007’s Into the Wild.
“They gave me prunes, but I couldn’t talk with them in my mouth. So I said just give me the real thing,” Galifianakis told Rolling Stone in 2011. “And I loved it. It’s embarrassing.”
So maybe you know a lot about him, but do you know the following 10 little-known facts about Zach Galifianakis? How big of a Galifianakis fan are you? Let’s find out.
10. He’s Visited Sesame Street
Wondering how to get to Sesame Street? Just ask Galifianakis. He appeared on the classic children’s program at its new digs on HBO last year, where he helped Murray Monster deliver a lesson on the definition of the word nimble in the show’s “Word of the Day” segment. In an adaptation of the classic nursery rhyme, Galifianakis acted out, “Zach be nimble,” but Murray didn’t think the actor was properly demonstrating the meaning of the word. To get Galifianakis moving more nimbly, the Muppet sent a piranha after the actor, and preschool-appropriate laughter ensued.
9. He Owns A Farm
While suggestions that he farms pot are purely speculation, Galifianakis actually owns a 60-acre farm in North Carolina, which he’s nicknamed Farmageddon. If you remember when he rode a tractor in Kanye West’s Can’t Tell Me Nothing video, you’ve seen Farmageddon. There, he and wife Quinn grow blueberries, strawberries, grapes and apples, and they have no television or cell service. Galifianakis even raises horses and honeybees, and he built a barn for some goats.
“This tractor is painfully slow, but whenever you let your guard down, it screws you,” Galifianakis told the New York Times in 2009. “My comedy is like that.”
8. He’s Suffered From Depression
While he doesn’t often discuss the subject, Galifianakis has struggled with depression. In a live performance released on DVD, he spoke of “the fragility of the human psyche,” and explained his belief that all comedians are to some extent mentally ill. It was no mistake that Galifianakis was cast as a goofy, yet depressed high school student who survives a jump from the Brooklyn Bridge and is institutionalized in It’s Kind of a Funny Story, based on the 2006 semi-autobiographical bestseller by Ned Vizzini.
“The character in the movie is more similar to me than anything else I’ve been involved with,” the The Hangover actor told HitFix in an interview. “I mean, that’s not the greatest endorsement for your own personality but… it came pretty easily.”
And while Galifianakis found further success with the role, sadly Vizzini lost the ultimate battle with his own mental anguish in 2013 when he jumped from an upper-story window of his parents’ home.
7. He Missed Getting A College Degree By One Point In One Class
We’ve all heard plenty of tales of the student with a dream who drops out and heads to Hollywood just a semester or two shy of a diploma. But Galifianakis takes the cake when it comes to just missing out on his degree. The North Carolina native enrolled in North Carolina State University in 1988, where, ironically, the sports teams are nicknamed “The Wolfpack.” He studied there as a communications major for four years, but failed his final course by one point and left without earning his degree. Still, Galifianakis looks back on his experience fondly.
“There is more to life than college,” he told North Carolina State News in 2010. “Use your time in college and grow. There are some people who are still playing beer pong in their late 20s. Do not do that.”
6. He Hosted A Late-Night Talk Show In 2002
Long before anyone outside of his immediate comedy circle knew his name, Galifianakis got a shot at fame hosting a late-night talk show for VH1. For nine weeks, viewers watched Galifianakis absolutely fumble all aspects of hosting on Late World with Zach. He didn’t listen to his guests, he zoned out at inopportune moments, and his nightly monologue was true to his unique style. It usually involved plenty of nonsense statements and topical humor set to piano, but long before his particular brand of comedic charm became trendy. In one particularly noteworthy and truly inspired segment with a then-unknown Bradley Cooper, Galifianakis conducted a typical interview wherein viewers simultaneously heard the host’s internal monologue, including his personal thoughts about Cooper and his boredom with the interview.
5. He Saved His Hangover 3 Premiere Date From Homelessness
Galifianakis surprised paparazzi and fans in 2011 when he arrived at the star-studded Los Angeles premiere of The Hangover Part II with a woman who was not his wife. Instead, the actor walked the red carpet with the diminutive yet feisty Mimi Haist, then 85, on his arm. Despite initial appearances the pair were not in a cougar/cub relationship. In fact, Galifianakis met Haist, who volunteered at a laundromat near his apartment, shortly after arriving in L.A. in 1994 and the two developed a friendship. Then, in 2011, Galifianakis discovered Haist had become homeless after her husband of 30 years passed away. The actor set the octogenarian up in a one-bedroom apartment and began paying her rent and utilities. He has since escorted Haist to the premieres of The Campaign and The Hangover Part III.
4. At One Point In 2014 He Was The #1 Referrer To Obamacare
President Barack Obama wanted to urge young Americans to enroll in a health insurance plan through the Affordable Care Act’s healthcare.gov website, and needed an outlet to reach them. He found it in Galifianakis’ web series, Between Two Ferns. In the talk show featured on the popular website Funny or Die, Galifianakis conducts celebrity interviews as he and his guests sit between two potted ferns. Not only was the interview with Obama viewed more than 6 million times within just a few hours online, but a White House senior advisor soon tweeted that Funny or Die was the No. 1 source of referrals to healthcare.gov that day, a claim that was later confirmed by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
After a hilarious discussion in which Galifianakis mocks both the website and the president with questions such as, “Why did you get the guy who created the Zune to create the healthcare site?” and ““Where are you planning on building the presidential library, in Hawaii or in your home country of Kenya?” Galifianakis memorably ended the interview by revealing to Obama that all episodes of the talk show are actually filmed in the White House Diplomatic Room. When the president asked him who gave him permission to do so, the comedian – in the cluelessly smug style that is his alone – simply replied, “Bush.”
3. He Is A Skilled Pianist
In some of his greatest stand-up work – on multiple Saturday Night Live appearances as well as in his more recent comedy DVD, Live at the Purple Onion – Galifianakis idly plays classical background music while somewhat absently murmuring non-sequiturs and set-ups to jokes, occasionally following through with a punch line. It’s a style he first put to use on Late Night with Zach and one he discovered by pure coincidence. During an early performance at the L.A. club Largo, Galifianakis noticed a piano set up on the stage for the various music acts that performed at the venue. He decided to try it out with some of his bits and the rest is history.
2. He Signed The U.S. Constitution
George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and… Zach Galifianakis? It’s true, the actor actually signed the United States Constitution — or at least an official reproduction of it. Galifianakis happened to be in Philadelphia to promote his 2012 comedy with Will Ferrell, The Campaign, when the National Constitution Center was hosting a celebration commemorating the document’s 225th anniversary. Galifianakis, Ferrell, and members of the Philadelphia Eagles and Flyers, signed a commemorative copy of the US. Constitution, following in the footsteps of some of America’s greatest visionaries.
1. He Only Auditioned for G-Force Because He Was Stoned
Galifianakis reportedly only agreed to audition for Disney’s G-Force, the animated action thriller featuring crime-fighting guinea pigs, because he was stoned when asked. Kind of makes more sense now, right? Of course that was far from Galifianakis’ first experience with marijuana. He’s known to have dated a Vancouver woman named Watermelon, who sold pot-laced cookies on the beach, and he famously lit a joint on a 2010 appearance on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, during a discussion of California’s Proposition 19 ballot issue, although Maher later denied the substance was actually marijuana.
“If it was a real joint, Wolf, I would have smoked it. I think it was cloves or something,” Maher told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in an interview on The Situation Room, adding “Zach’s crazy, he’s not that crazy.”
Still, the on-air joint, which Galifianakis graciously offered to share with the entire panel, sure looked like the real thing, and apparently Conservative pundit Margaret Hoover, who appeared with Galifianakis on Real Time, thought it smelled legit, too.