Between Two Ferns: The Movie

Even Zach Galifianakis couldn’t have predicted that Between Two Ferns would not only be so successful to have lasted ten years (albeit sporadically, with a spread of twenty-one shows in total), but also that it would receive its own feature film edition. Almost naturally, the show that served as one of the progenitors of the Internet-based comedy show medium is premiering its movie on Netflix. Given the streaming giant’s predilection for picking up and ordering somewhat similar shows dispensing bite-size, reality TV humour such as Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, it’s a natural fit.

Having a show that lives halfway outside the fourth wall brings its own opportunities to convey that comedic sensibility in trailer form, and debut of Between Two Ferns’ cinematic trailer does not disappoint in this regard. The trailer implements a pointed send-up of what’s being termed “the booj”: what we variously called a “power down” sound or a reverse-“Inception” sound is notoriously popular enough in modern film trailers to get a well-deserved satirical take here. (Once you hear it, you won’t be able to un-hear it.)

It first sounds out at 0:22, preceded by some light, foreboding strings. The juxtaposition between the massive sound is a total mismatch for the non-severity of the situation (a sprinkler and fire alarm going off). The sprinkers turning off at 0:30 apparently warrants another sounding of the deep, foreboding tone, only to occur again at 0:35 once the cameras go off, displaying instead the SMPTE colour bar test, setting up the plot as an exploration of Galifianakis’ troubles behind the scenes in shooting the series, in addition to new interview content with a cavalcade of celebrity guests within the film itself.

It’s all too appropriate that Between Two Ferns would self-reflexively lampoon the vocabulary of modern Hollywood trailers—as far back as 2010, Galifianakis noted that he started the series in part to make fun of “the sycophantic way that Hollywood machine runs.” In contrast to the aforementioned Comedians in Cars, however, Between Two Ferns aims to puncture the facade of naturalness and spontaneity in late night television and other TV that functions as much as PR as it does entertainment.

Of course, there’s also a fun, modern, indie guitar track that stops and starts at the right moments for insertions of deadpan dialogue as you’ll hear in any other comedy trailer, but it’s the shameless, multiple insertions of “the booj” in the first half of this trailer that makes this particular piece special. 

It’s this aural in-joke between the largely-Millenial audience and the editor, playing on the now-cliche trappings of the modern trailer medium itself for laughs, that turns the production inside-out in the same way that made Between Two Ferns endure and make its sporadic comebacks over the years. Galifianakis’ brand of humour thrives on pointing out the inherent comedy of how things are by amplifying its inherent nonsense just enough to be noticed, as the over-the-top nature of this sound editing staple does against the sprinker system going off.

— Curtis Perry