From his early days of performing standup comedy in small, New York clubs to the international spotlight in which he now resides, Zach Galifianakis has always done things his way. So when we had the chance to chat with him as he reflected on his time as a Communication major at NC State, his favorite professor and more – including some advice for current NC State students – we jumped at the chance.
Dave Pond, University Communications: Tell me about your time at NC State?
Zach Galifianakis: Well, my father and my older brother went there. My father played football, so we inherited being Wolfpack fans from that. As far as my time there, I really liked Raleigh and Hillsborough Street. I had some great professors, but I was not the student I could have been. There was a legendary establishment there during my time called The Five 0, and I spent too much time there. I was at NC State from 1988-1992, failed my last course by one point and never got my degree. My time is so limited, but I’ve definitely thought about finishing it. If I were to do it all over again, I would have studied something specific in agriculture, because I live on a farm now and do not know what I am doing.
DP: How often do you get back to campus?
ZG: I get to Raleigh about once a year, and I always walk through the campus. Usually East Campus. Last time I was there I met an old friend, and we ate at The Roast Grill towards downtown. I also try to stop into Sadlacks for a memory. I used to live very close to that place, in what could only be called a flop house for transients.
DP: What are your best memories about NC State?
ZG: I think one of my only A’s was in Anthropology. I think it was an “A” – nevertheless, I so enjoyed that class. It opened my way of thinking to be sure. I also took a design course that kind of blew my mind and gave me a different perspective on how the eye and mind work together. Socially, I worked a lot. I worked at Amedeo’s Pizza and also Two Guys. That was my socialization. I never joined any clubs or organizations at State – I was a bit of a loner – but those were some very fond memories.
DP: Do you recall any favorite professors or classes?
ZG: I had a professor named James Alchediak who was the coolest, and I hope he is still there. I would like to bump into that guy one day.
DP: What role did your time at NC State helped play in shaping your career and realizing your dreams?
ZG: A collaborator named A.D. Miles went to NC State when I was there. He was one of my friends. We moved to New York City, lived together and kind of came up through the ranks together in the comedy scene, and eventually worked professionally on a couple of jobs. If I had not met him at State I think things would have worked out differently. We see each other from time to time. He is the head writer of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and I do what I do, and the two of us used to be kids running up and down Hillsborough looking for nothing.
DP: Finally, if you could give one bit of advice to NC State students, what would it be?
ZG: There is more to life than college. Use your time in college and grow. There are some people who are still playing beer pong in their late 20s. Do not do that.
Editor’s Note: NC State magazine spoke with Zach and A.D. Miles a few years ago, after their Comedy Central show Dog Bites Man was cancelled – you can read that article here (in PDF format.)