It’s a tricky business getting into the Los Angeles hotel room where ShortList’s interview with Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis is taking place.
Not due to us being viciously frisked by mountainous security guards or harangued by clipboard-clutching press officers, but rather because the duo have decided to scatter several banana peels across the threshold.
“Do you do this for every journalist?” we enquire, tip-toeing delicately between the slapstick landmines. “Nope, just you,” smiles Zach. We’re not quite sure whether to feel insulted or honoured. We settle for both. We’re speaking to the two comedy heavyweights about The Campaign – a gloriously silly satire that sees the pair playing rival US politicians who’ll go to any lengths to get the better of their opponent. Which begs our opening question…
Of the two of you, who’d make the more successful politician in real life?
ZG: Will, for sure. He’s better with ‘the people’. You have to agree with me on that, right?
WF: [Shrugs] I’m better with the people.
ZG: You could run for office. You should run for office.
WF: Yeah, but I wouldn’t be able to keep the talking points straight. You watch people in office and you realise that they have to remember a lot of sh*t.
What would be top of your respective political manifestos?
WF: I would campaign on the platform of bringing back government cheese programmes. Every household would receive a wheel of cheese.
WF: Once a month.
That’s a pretty firm stance.
WF: Very firm. But I’d allow people to exchange their cheese wheel if they wanted cottage cheese or yoghurt.
My policies would always be rooted in some form of dairy produce.
ZG: My manifesto would make farting illegal [Will laughs]. I think that actually happened in the country of Malawi.
WF: Really? You can’t fart there?
ZG: I’m pretty sure there was a leader there who made farting illegal. He was voted out, though, I think. Maybe the anti-farting policy was the final straw.
WF: [Laughs] Yeah. That really touched a nerve with the voters.
The film features plenty of political ‘mud-slinging’. If you were running against each other, what would you pick out to damage your opponent’s reputation?
WF: I would point to the fact that Zach has a real affinity for what I call ‘spa’ music [Zach laughs]. You know the type of music you hear when you’re getting a massage? He goes for anything with pan pipes or flutes.
ZG: If I were to run for office, I would come out [at debates] to that music. Holding some crystals.
WF: I would point that out as being ‘un-American’ and odd.
Zach – what would you pick out about Will?
ZG: Well, I hope Will doesn’t mind me saying this – but he had a race change. He’s actually Chinese. [Will laughs.] Don’t laugh about it. Come on.
WF: [Pointing with his banana] It’s not the admission that’s so awful, it’s the fact you got it wrong – I’m not Chinese, I’m Laotian.
ZG: Well, the way you gesture with a banana is Chinese.
Can you foresee another Ronald Reagan situation where a Hollywood actor becomes US President? People often talk about George Clooney running for office…
WF: You always hear about Alec Baldwin [doing that] as well. I think that if you have a basic mind for policy and the American public finds you charming to look at, then you’re in. But if you have the most brilliant political brain yet you’re the ugliest human being alive, with thick Coke-bottle glasses and a lisp, you would never get elected.
ZG: There’s an image we’ve created for politicians, unfortunately. And Hollywood fits into that. Schwarzenegger is probably closest to actually achieving the actor-to-president jump…
WF: Yeah. That was one of the craziest moments in political history when he came out at that Republican convention and just did lines from his movies. [Adopts ‘Arnie’ voice] “…And we’re going to say ‘Hasta la vista, baby!’” and everyone’s like [screams]. The media said, “Schwarzenegger sure was charming,” but he didn’t say anything. Just bad quotes.
You both have equal billing in The Campaign – did you squabble over who got the bigger trailer?
WF: No. I just made sure mine was technically the biggest.
ZG: Will’s trailer was also propped up four inches higher than anybody else’s.
WF: Yes. I usually had a couple of beautiful flags flying. And a guy on the roof with an Uzi. But we had fun on set, right? Like the time I put that wild pig in your trailer.
ZG: Yes, that was funny. It was a wild pig and an ox.
WF: They were in there for two weeks, defecating, ripping up furniture and fighting. They even had babies.
ZG: They created a new cross-breed: ‘pox’. What began as a prank turned into an important scientific discovery.
What was the most difficult scene for you to shoot?
ZG: Oh, God. There was one scene where I was dressed as a cheerleader, wearing a live python round my neck, and thinking the whole time, “This isn’t going to end up in the movie.”
WF: And it didn’t – it got cut [laughs].
How did Zach look as a cheerleader?
WF: Better than I expected, actually.
ZG: The snake peed and took a crap on me at the same time.
Was that in the script?
ZG: No, totally unplanned.
WF: Well, it was planned by me [Zach laughs]. Zach didn’t realise, but between takes I was coaxing the snake and over-feeding it.
There’s another animal-based scene featuring Uggie, the dog from The Artist. What was he like to work with?
ZG: They say it was the dog from The Artist. Was it really the dog from The Artist?
WF: It really was.
ZG: How do we actually know that?
WF: I guess you’re right. The animal trainers could have been lying to us.
ZG: It could have been a labradoodle in an outfit.
You’re both funny men – do you think it’s true that the trait women find most attractive is a sense of humour?
WF: You always read that in Cosmo, but I don’t know. I was considered a funny guy by my friends in college – as I’m sure Zach was too. Did you feel women were flocking towards you back then?
ZG: No. You have to be in the movies for that to happen. Women love a funny guy as a friend. But nobody likes a funny guy in bed [laughs]. It doesn’t work to say, “Remember that dinner party? I was hilarious, right? Let’s go to bed together.” Plus, comedy groupies aren’t usually very… [coughs] You know what I’m saying…
WF: I did SNL [Saturday Night Live] for seven years and there was only a brief window where I was single, but during that time I’d hear all these stories about everyone hooking up. I’d be introduced to a friend of someone’s friend who was like, “Hi, I’m Maureen. I’m a school teacher from [New] Jersey. Do you want to go out?” I’d say yes, but I’d never call. That was it [laughs].
You were both on the 2008 Funny Or Die comedy tour – were there any rock‘n’roll shenanigans?
ZG: I have social anxiety, so I drink when I’m nervous and I was drinking a lot back then. God, do you remember that song we did?
WF: Yeah, that was my idea.
ZG: And you loved it because no one enjoyed it [laughs]. Will got such pleasure out of the audience being like, “What the hell is this?”
WF: I made us dress up in turtle-necks and Uggs, with giant crosses round our necks. Then we sang No One by Alicia Keys. The audience never laughed. It was torture for them [laughs].
Have you had any encounters with obsessive fans?
WF: I’ve seen a tattoo of my face on some girl’s shoulder.
ZG: Well, you’d think that would be a sure-fire way in with her.
WF: It was very flattering. She was a heavy-set Latino woman. I just said, “Wow, that’s really cool” and we took a picture together. I think she’s a regular [in the audience] at Jimmy Kimmel’s show, actually.
Finally, we’re ludicrously excited about the Anchorman sequel – will there be a cameo from Zach?
WF: We’d die to have Zach in it.
ZG: What are the hours?
WF: See, that’s the problem. That’s always his first question.
ZG: That and “What’s the pig/ox situation?”
WF: If we can get him, we’d love to have him. You know what? I wish I could rip a fart right now. That would be such a great ending to the interview.
ZG: [Laughs] You could pick up that thing [ShortList’s voice recorder] and fart into it.
WF: Yeah. OK, let’s see if I’ve got one here [picks up the voice recorder and presses it to the seat of his trousers].
ZG: Will, maybe he doesn’t actually want you to do that with his recorder.
No, honestly, go ahead. It would be an honour.
WF: [Straining] OK. I’m right on the verge. I’m trying.
ZG: Good thing we’re not in Malawi.
WF: [Still straining] No… No. It’s not happening. Sorry [puts the voice recorder back on the table]. Maybe next time.
ZG: [Laughs] Never clean that recorder.
The Campaign is at cinemas nationwide from 28 September
(Image: All Star)