Zach Galifianakis has his latest project ready to launch. Baskets, beginning today on FX, was created by three of the most popular comedians today: Zach Galifianakis (“Between Two Ferns”), Louis C. K. (“Louie”) and Jonathan Krisel (“Portlandia”). Baskets has been described as an incisive, absurd, darkly heartfelt show set in America’s dreary urban sprawl.
Baskets tells the story of funnyman Chip Baskets, a clown who aspires to art. Chip, played by Zach Galifianakis, has been studying at the Academie de Clown Français in Paris, learning the theory and craft of the art. He never misses an opportunity to tell people he was educated at clown college in Paris, even though he can’t speak French.
Financial difficulties and academic setbacks result in him moving back to his hometown in Bakersfield, Calif., with his new wife, Penelope (Sabina Sciubba). With no market for French-trained clowns in the area, Chip finally lands a job at $4 an hour as a rodeo clown. Chip Baskets is the classic sad clown, the self-important fool who’s crying on the inside. Zach Galifianakis has long excelled at fleshing out these types of tragic figures, from The Hangover’s Alan Garner to Ethan of Due Date.
In the pilot’s most memorable scene, Chip convinces his boss to let him play his former clown persona for the rodeo crowd. He enters the darkened ring in ghostly greasepaint, throwing glitter in the air as an old French song begins to play. The crowd boos, until a bull charges at him and knocks him over. The audience applauds wildly, chanting his name. Zach Galifianakis also plays Chip’s twin brother, Dale, the operator of a vocational college.
Chip’s mother, Christine is played by comic Louie Anderson in drag. Mr. Anderson gives a striking performance as Christine, playing a character whose dottiness and endless chattering are defense mechanisms against life. Over the course of the show, we learn that she is still in denial over her husband’s apparent suicide years ago, adding another dimension to an already complex character.
Baskets’ refusal to shoot for easy or even occasional laughs makes it an intriguing addition to the comedy scene. While Baskets is an acidic, sometimes depressing watch, it is a fully-realized work, rather than some anti-comic project from a bored superstar. The first show airs tonight at 10PM EST.