In the latest edition of comedian Zach Galifianakis’s masterclass in awkward hilarity, “Between Two Ferns” on Funny or Die, the bearded one “interviews” pop singer and teen idol Justin Bieber. It, like all “Between Two Ferns” “interviews” is chock full of stunned silence, mumbling, impolite questioning and a tension that borders on homicidal … all in the service of creating that rare kind of laugh where the viewer is apt to crawl under a table and hide his eyes while he chuckles nervously.
The Internet’s reaction to this was, mostly, to laugh about how “Justin Bieber gets the slapping he so richly deserves” and how “Galifianakis eviscerates/destroys/tears down Bieber” in a great display of schadenfreude for the American public, like Bieber is some war criminal or megalomaniac that needed comeuppance.
Well, I hate to break it to you guys, but Justin Bieber is a kid who made his dreams of being a singer come true through hard work and performing his ass off on YouTube day in, day out until the force of his following and his talent was undeniable even to the most tone-deaf A&R man. And Zach Galifianakis didn’t have Bieber on his show to make fun of him. Part of the point of “Between Two Ferns” is to make fun of the crusty people who take an antagonistic point of view toward celebrity. Galifianakis has said in interviews and on podcasts that he respects those who create and he doesn’t have much time for those who tear down.
I’m no Belieber, nor should I be. His music is not for me. But it’s clearly something that millions of teenage girls want. And despite the fact that the now twentysomething Bieber is having a “public meltdown” as Galifianakis so slyly put it (having recorded himself pissing in a bucket [?] and supposedly having a taste for marijuana), he’s not “deserving” of a beating, whether figurative or literal. (Near the end of the episode, Zach stands up, makes a grand declaration about what he did when he was Justin’s age, takes off his belt and starts to whip at Justin’s legs – a clear parody of the weirdly prudish and conservative mindset of people who read tabloids and give more than half a shit about what a pop singer does in his personal life).
And if you still don’t understand that this whole series is a satire of irrational celebrity hatred, at the very end of the episode, Zach inadvertently dumps a bucket of Nickelodeon slime on himself, thinking it would hit Justin. I don’t know how much clearer a metaphor you need, Salon.com.