The other day in class, a student asked me if I liked Zach Galifianakis, and I responded, "yes." I saw his stand-up at Bumbershoot in 2001, and he was hilarious. He always seemed about ready to slide into a deep depression, and it was a great persona.
But the student said, "yeah, I loved 'The Hangover,' too, and he has a new movie coming out soon." After that statement, I had to backtrack. I didn't like "The Hangover." Didn't hate it, didn't like it. So me saying I was a fan of ZG's meant something different to him than it did to me.
That got me thinking about other artists to whom this curious divide might apply. That's not to say that I'm looking for the point when people jumped the shark, though that may be true as well. I just started to think about artists who, if you say you are a fan, it might mean entirely different things to different people, to the point where it would be pretty easy to like one part of a career and not like the other.
For instance, I loved Jack Black in the old Mr. Show skits, and in the original 15-minute Tenacious D shorts on HBO. He was also good in High Fidelity. But I haven't really liked him in anything since. So, if I told a student I liked Jack Black, he would be more likely to think I liked Year One than Mr. Show.
R.E.M. went from weird Rickenbacker playing indie types to stadium rockers. Fulcrum point: "The One I Love."
Before it was cancelled, The Family Guy was satirical and clever. Afterwards, it was shocking and puerile. Fulcrum point: after season 3. I am a fan of the first few season of TFG, but I'd be embarrassed if people thought I liked the new ones. The same with...
The Simpsons, which was a sharp satire before it was a sitcom. Fulcrum: season 10.
Johnny Cash went from country to indie. Fulcrum: American
Jim Carrey was a rubber-faced comedian before he became a dramatic actor. Fulcrum: The Truman Show.
Bill Murray went from hammy comedian to the sad clown. Fulcrum: Rushmore (or maybe The Razor's Edge)
Nicholas Cage has had parallel careers. He is a fine dramatic actor who also stars in big-budget thrillers. I told a class I liked Nicholas Cage, and they looked at me like I was nuts. I had to separate the National Treasure Cage from the Leaving Las Vegas one.
I'm sure there are a lot more of these. Any ideas?