[caption id="attachment_178675" align="alignleft" width="300"] Funny or Die[/caption]
Here lies a true fact: There have only been 17 total episodes of Zach Galifianakis' "Between Two Ferns." Doesn't that surprise you? Meaning, it surprises me, so shouldn't it surprise you?
The esteemed Funny or Die web series has made such a massive comedic impact in such a limited amount of time that the idea that it exists as only a mere 80ish minutes of total running time is downright absurd. And here's the kicker: They're all gold. There's not a single episode of BTF that one would call "weak," just "weaker than the exceptional."
The following episodes are the exceptional.
5. Jon Hamm
If your intent is to find the ideal episode to introduce someone to the BTF series for the first time, the one with Jon Hamm might be your best bet. Of all episodes that don't feature some extreme outlier, be it overt weirdness, overt cruelty, a musical performance midway through the interview, etc., Hamm's episode — the third of the series — delivers most from a pure laughs standpoint. Galifianakis asking Hamm if he has ever fingered any of the female cast members of "Mad Men" (to which Hamm asks if he means fingering in a police lineup) would make any "Best 'Between Two Ferns' Lines Ever" list, so long as the list's maker wasn't someone who was wrong a lot.
4. Ben Stiller
The Ben Stiller episode safely makes the Top 5 for two specific reasons: 1) Galifianakis is so unbelievably mean and disrespectful towards Stiller, yet the meanness never transcends the comedy. "Because people down there wouldn't like that ... and they're stupid enough to go to your f**king movies [heavy sigh]" is perfect. 2) You can't help but get the feeling that Stiller has been down this road before, except for real. The faces he makes aren't so much "uncomfortable" — at least to the degree that actors on other episodes sometimes strain to make their best "uncomfortable" face — as they are confrontational, as if they come from experience. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, Ben, but I'm thinking this might not be your first "interviewer is a dick" rodeo.
3. Tila Tequila and Jennifer Aniston
Galfianakis does a straight, respectful interview with Tila Tequila — the first interview guest, typically reserved for the bigger star, of course — while all but ignoring Jennifer Aniston after she's finally brought out. When he doesn't ignore Aniston, he has Tequila talk about herself to her. There's a lot of talk among dumb Internet people about whether or not the actors are in on the joke or not with each BTF episode. SPOILER: Of course they are ...with the possible exception of Tequila. Or at least, if Galifianakis eventually admitted "Yeah, Tila had absolutely no idea this wasn't a real interview show," I wouldn't be remotely surprised, and neither would you.
2. Steve Carell
This being the ninth episode of the series, Steve Carell preempts Galifianakis' verbal beatdown by bringing along a few meticulously-planned insults of his own, mostly targeting Zach's pudginess. Zach starts crying, and Carell, being a renowned nice person, feels remorse for what he's done. Apologies quickly turn back to jabs, however, and soon they're ready to fight again. The episode is pretty much made by Carell's performance in what is probably the best straight-up acting in any of the 17 episodes, which just makes you even more upset that he somehow never won an Emmy for playing Michael Scott on "The Office."
1. Michael Cera
Appropriately, the debut episode of the series still ranks as the all-time best, and that sentiment isn't even contrivedly based in nostalgia the way we all love George Washington for some reason.* The fact that Michael Cera somehow doesn't break when Galifianakis is either tickling his thigh or trying to have Cera tickle his thigh (that will be a weird sentence to read if you haven't watched the video yet) officially means that Cera deserves every Oscar from the next 79 Academy Award ceremonies. Obviously, Cera's unmatched awkwardness plays right into the show's intentions, and it's a beautiful, ticklish marriage of hilariousness.
*This is a joke.**
**Or is it?***
***Yes, it is.