It's the beard. The first thing you notice about Zach Galifianakis is his immensely thick beard. It's so thick that it looks like a costume beard someone is wearing to act as a character named Zach Galifianakis. The lines of show and genuine interaction are blurred during Zach's amazing hour Live At The Purple Onion. Here is a look at one particular show from a notably smart and sharp comedian, who completely owns the stage regardless of how uncomfortable he acts.
Or maybe he actually is; it's the uneasiness which brings the most laughter when Zach gives you a tension breaker line: “Wow! This is a dream for you.” I sat for a straight hour with my teeth showing through a wide smile because I love how this guy works. He tells a joke simply to use the punch line “Fuck a cracker,” He gets laughs by dropping Noam Chomsky and he delivers his jokes while keying classical piano. Most comedians use a lineage to go from joke to joke, but since most of Zach's are one liners, it's almost like there's no routine at all. It's like hanging with Zach in his living room riffing on anything that comes up.
A recurring joke through Live At The Purple Onion is that it's being filmed for this DVD. Restarting jokes with countdowns and self admonishment when screwing up make Zach's performance that much more personal as do the interspersing of the live performance and footage from the road. You're treated to meet his Orange VW van, “twin brother” Seth, a bout with claustrophobia, beard shaving and the Michael Jackson trial. An eclectic mix, but I never thought this would be straight standup.
The TV special and weekly television show I had seen previously with Zach, both ended with a “performance piece”; something that cannot be copied by other comedians. Instead of delivering the lines, Zach has them printed on a large pad of paper which is then torn through to the sounds of a boarding school choir. Granted, Live At The Purple Onion doesn't contain my favorite line during this, “I Look Like Fat Jesus,” but it's still a completely unique way to end a show and lets us wear the beard for a minute.