is between two ferns staged
Source: Adam Rose / NETFLIX

Believe It or Not, 'Between Two Ferns' Is Totally Unplanned and Unscripted


Apr. 16 2020, Updated 1:07 p.m. ET

Before he became a household name, Zach Galifianakis started a Funny or Die talk show where he interviewed celebrities ranging from Michael Cera and Jennifer Aniston to President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. 

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The show has been running for over 10 years now, and after picking up a few Creative Arts Emmy Awards in 2014 and 2015, has now been turned into a full-length Netflix film, Between Two Ferns: The Movie.

Which brings back the question we've all been asking since the show's 2008 debut: Is Between Two Ferns staged? Keep reading to find out.

is between two ferns staged
Source: Adam Rose / NETFLIX
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Is Between Two Ferns real or staged?

The aesthetic of Between Two Ferns is immediately recognizable as a sort of mockery of the cable access shows we grew up with in the early nineties. And while Zach's interviews with celebs from all walks of life often go spectacularly haywire, he and co-creator Scott Aukerman claim the show isn't scripted at all.

Scott spoke up on Quora, where the question of whether the Funny or Die show was real or staged received some traction. "It's as real as anything in a way," Scott, who's also the host of Comedy Bang! Bang! said. "If you watch a talk show, the talk show host knows what they're going to talk about most of the time."

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"They have done a pre-interview where they script the conversation. We've never scripted a conversation," he added. "So it's actually more real than most talk shows, which are staged. The people who are on it are always surprised by what is being asked. So, in that sense, it's very real."

For Zach, Between Two Ferns is a "fantasy" he's always dreamt of.

In an interview with ABC News, Zach explains how his out-of-the-box interview series came to be. "I think it is somewhat of a fantasy interview for me to be rude to the Hollywood types, which I hold of a certain disdain and egotism. The sycophantic way that Hollywood machine runs — it's fun to make fun of it. That's how Between Two Ferns started," he said.

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is between two ferns staged
Source: Adam Rose / NETFLIX

The show actually began as a short film on another one of Scott's projects, a pilot called The Right Now! Show that never came to be. But Zach and Scott decided instead of throwing out the fern interview, they'd put up the short on Funny or Die's website. That's where it garnered its first million views and became something of a cult internet series.

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Zach confirms Scott's claim that the guests have no idea what they're about to be asked, or what ridiculous situations they're going to be in. During his interview with Natalie Portman, he asks, "You shaved your head for V for Vendetta. Did you also shave your V for vagina?" In an episode with Bradley Cooper, the Star Is Born actor slaps Zach repeatedly.

"They sit down, they agree to come," Zach says of the process. "There is no discussion beforehand. It just happens, no real prep, no organization whatsoever." And it's this candidness and inability to know what to expect that excites The Hangover comedian about the show.

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"Being able to say anything to anyone at any time regardless of if you are interviewing him or not is fun to do, and inappropriateness is really fun to me," he continued to ABC. "When I see somebody being rude in public, I laugh, not because I agree with it, because I am laughing at them. That is kind of the take on Between Two Ferns — inappropriate humor."

While there's surely a bit more planning involved in the feature-length documentary, we can't wait to see the uncomfortable situations that Zach puts his interviewees, including Benedict Cumberbatch, Peter Dinklage, Awkwafina, Brie Larson, Tiffany Haddish, and Keanu Reeves, among others.

Between Two Ferns: The Movie drops on Netflix Friday, Sept. 20.

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