Michael Ian Black
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Michael Ian Black

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"“Comedy Central Has ‘Issues’”"

Comedy Central has greenlit a new half-hour laffer from comedy troupe regulars Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter.
"Michael and Michael Have Issues" casts the pair as hosts of their own TV sketch show who intersperse their own behind-the-scenes cinema verite drama in between the comic bits they perform.
Comedy Central has ordered seven episodes of the series and plans to premiere it in July.
Black and Showalter will also exec produce "Michael and Michael," along with Jim Biederman ("Whitest Kids U Know," "I'm With Busey"). Lou Wallach, Comedy Central's recently ankled East Coast development topper, also has an exec producer credit.
Showalter is a founding member of sketch-comedy troupe the State, which had an eponymously titled series that ran on MTV for three seasons. He also partnered with Black and David Wain in Stella, a troupe that had another eponymous series on Comedy Central from 2004-06. - Variety, February 18, 2009, By Daniel Frankel


"“Q&A Michael Ian Black”"

Michael Ian Black's cynical, self-effacing performances in the sketch-comedy show The State and the subsequent college-dormitory hit Wet Hot American Summer generated a cult following. But the comedian is probably most recognizable as a snarky commentator on VH1's I Love the '80s nostalgia series. His latest endeavor is the Comedy Central show Michael and Michael Have Issues, which debuts July 15 and co-stars fellow State alum Michael Showalter. TIME talked to Black about his career, tacos and whether or not he really loves the '80s.
Tell me about your new show, Michael and Michael Have Issues.
It's about the lives of sketch-comedy writers, but I'd say it's more specific than that. It's really sort of about the relationship between my partner Michael Showalter and me, rather than the fact that we make sketch comedy.
Which Michael has more issues?
He does.
What's wrong with him?
Paranoia. Hypochondria. Body dysmorphia. Egomania. He's anorexic. Also a terrible overeater. He's a recovering alcoholic and an insomniac, but he made up for that by becoming a very serious drug addict. He's agoraphobic and argyle-phobic, which means he's afraid of argyle socks.
That's an incredibly specific fear.
I know. It's terrible. It's very debilitating for him.
So basically, this show is going to be about his neuroses and your attempts to calm him down.
Well, not really. As a result of his neuroses, I'm incredibly neurotic.
You've referred to yourself before as being associated "almost exclusively with failed projects" over the course of your career. Do you really feel that way?
Well, you know there's that expression about people sleeping their way to the top? I've been failing myself laterally for about 15 years now. My career is going in an almost perfectly sideways direction. Flying under the radar gives you a little more freedom. But at the same time, fame and popularity allow you to do what you want to do. It's a little bit paradoxical. I actually don't know anyone who wants to be famous for fame's sake, at least not anyone I respect. But you need to have a certain amount of power in order to be able to do what you want.
Do you have that power?
Oh no. Not yet, and not for the foreseeable future.
You're on TV and in movies, though, so you probably get recognized a lot.
People recognize me, but they don't know where from. Today I was in the elevator and somebody asked me if I worked for his company.
Are you ever tempted to say, "Yes, I do work with you"?
No, but I do lie about some things. Whenever anyone asks me if I'm from a TV show, I say yes — no matter whether I've ever been on it. It just makes the conversation that much easier.
You started something on Twitter called the "F___ It List," a series of things you don't want to do before you die. What's on it?
Well, I almost broke one of them, which was, "See the reunited Phish." I went to Bonnaroo and they were performing, but I was fortunate not to have to see them play.
Why do they book comedy acts at music festivals?
There's this misconception that comedy and music go together. They don't. Comedians can't compete with rock stars; they're just not on the same level. Rock stars will always be cooler. They will always get more girls. We'll always be the ugly stepchildren in the entertainment industry. And that's probably as it should be. If comedians were ever supersuccessful or cool, it would sort of destroy our credibility. Our job is to speak for the losers of the world.
I read your essay "Taco Party" in your book My Custom Van and 50 Other Mind-Blowing Essays. When I went back to try to find it, I discovered an entire rant you'd written about taco-flavored Doritos. Apparently you really love tacos and write about them a lot.
Tacos run through my work. Tacos are essential to my oeuvre. A taco done right has pretty much your recommended daily allowance of everything. It's God's perfect creation.
Do you really love the '80s or is it all just a sham?
I'm rather indifferent to any 10-year period as an arbitrary measure of my own happiness. There were certainly some good moments in the '80s, like when Michael Jackson moonwalked. There were also some not-so-good moments, like when the space shuttle exploded. Coincidentally, they both involved space.
There's a series called I Love the New Millennium, but the decade isn't over yet. Do we really need a TV show that helps us remember 2005?
You're living in a bizarro universe where time folds back on itself and nostalgia is something you reminisce about before it even happens. In fact, we're shooting I Love the 2020s right now.
What happens in the 2020s?
I can't tell you about it because it would change the course of history. Then we'd have to reshoot the entire episode. - TIME, July 14, 2009, By Claire Suddath


"“Michael Ian Black’s Theories of Comedy”"

(CNN) -- Michael Ian Black has a fine sense of the absurd.

You can hear it in the comedian's deadpan delivery, which makes some of his serious musings sound like jokes -- and some of his jokes sound like serious philosophizing. You can see it reflected in his VH1 "I Love the ..." guest spots, in which he acts as if the most ridiculous pop cultural events are worthy of solemn commentary.
The absurdity is also obvious in his new Comedy Central show, "Michael and Michael Have Issues," in which he and pal Michael Showalter -- the two go back to the early-'90s troupe The State -- play exaggerated versions of themselves doing such things as competing for the attention of an intern and torturing a reporter as they make a TV show.
"Michael and Michael," which airs Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m. ET on Comedy Central, premiered last week for a multiweek run. Though Black has hopes for more, he's well aware of the pitfalls of his particular brand of humor: Not everybody gets it.
"Well the first episode has aired, and it was a HUGE HIT!!! (Except for the fact that not enough people watched it)," he wrote on the "Michael and Michael" site. "Yes, once again Showalter and myself have produced a show which America has yet to discover."
America may catch on yet, thanks to Black's determined publicity tour. He talked to CNN.com about the origins of "Michael and Michael," the comedy of discomfort and the "Jack Benny Projection Theorem." The following is an edited version of the interview.
CNN: How did the show come about?
Michael Ian Black: The last show [Showalter and I] did together was called "Stella," which was also on Comedy Central. After that, I talked to Comedy Central about doing a different show, and they said sure. I brought on Michael to help me make it. We made that pilot, it didn't go, but when it was done, they said, "We'd still like you guys to do something." So we started pitching around ideas, and this is the one that stuck.
CNN: Does Comedy Central keep a hands-off attitude with you guys?
Black: Yes and no. They definitely trust us to a certain extent. We've had a long relationship with them, so they have a lot of faith in us. ... At the same time, they're a television network, and I don't know if you're familiar with television networks, but they definitely have opinions.
CNN: They like to provide notes, I've heard.
Black: Yes, that's exactly right. So they've given us lots and lots of notes.
CNN: One thing that always strikes me about you guys is that you like the comedy of discomfort, [as in] the kind of thing that makes you laugh but makes you squirm a little bit?
Black: When phrased that way, then yes, I suppose we do like that. There's something very funny to both Michael and myself about putting yourself in awkward situations and revealing this banal awkwardness that kind of happens to everybody.
CNN: What makes you uncomfortable in real life?
Black: I'm very uncomfortable with sincerity. (laughs) Anybody who's being sincere about stuff gives me the icks. I just invented a term: "gives me the icks."
CNN: Who did you follow when you were growing up?
Black: The comedians who I always really looked up to when I was a kid were John Belushi, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy ... but for different reasons. I can't say I'm particularly like any of them, but I've always responded to comedy that doesn't point itself as being comedy. ... That's where that straight-faced thing comes from. You're telling the joke without telling people you're telling the joke. You have to trust that they're going to get it.
CNN: How about Jack Benny? He was always marvelous at being able to stand off to the side.
Black: I think what was great about Jack Benny or anybody who sort of does that kind of thing -- that deadpan thing -- is you're allowing the audience to project their thoughts on to you. So you think you understand what Jack Benny's thinking ... but it's because it's what you're thinking. And what you're thinking is funny, and that's what makes you laugh. Does that make sense?
CNN: Absolutely.
Black: It's a theory I just made up. I feel really, really good about it. ... I'm gonna call it the "Jack Benny Projection Theorem."
CNN: What do you think you'd be doing if it weren't for comedy?
Black: Well, I don't know what recycled cans go for these days, but I suspect I'd be in that industry.
CNN: Does "Michael and Michael" look like it will be renewed?
Black: We just premiered last week, and it's just too early to know whether we'll come back or not. We've been fortunate. The press for the most part has been very good, and so now it's a ratings game and we'll wait and see how it does.
CNN: You've worked consistently since the early '90s, but there's always the question of the big breakthrough. Your comedy might be too offbeat for the mainstream to get. Does that concern you?
Black: Well, it certainly concerns the people who hold my mortgage. They're very concerned about it. They often say to - CNN.com, July 21, 2009, By Todd Leopold


""Black to go solo in Ames""

He's been a Crank Yanker, a sock puppet, Stephen Hawking, Johnny Bluejeans and a bowling alley manager. But you probably know him best as a talking head on VH1's "I Love the..." series. He is Michael Ian Black.

But Black cannot rely on any of his characters to save him from a bad show during his stand-up routine Friday at Stephens Auditorium. Fortunately for Black, he has a sure-fire plan.

"[I'll] be making blatant passes at all the girls," Black says.

He is known primarily for his dry wit and sarcastic tone, and most remarks leaves some audience members a bit curious if he's being serious. For Black, disapproval doesn't affect him like some might think it would.

"I tend to cry a lot; I brood, become despondent," Black says. "I check my bank account obsessively. I try writing poetry like Sylvia Plath."

He says he was able to overcome his fear of a disappointed audience after getting a nice call from Iowa State.

"[Iowa State] called and offered me money," Black says. "I said I'd come, largely as a result of the money they offered."

Black admits he was working hard to entertain the crowd in Ames with his show -- until he found out the performance was free to students.

"That removes all the pressure," Black says. "Now I don't feel responsible to do anything. I might just stand there for an hour, eyes unblinking, pants to the floor."
All kidding aside, Black says playing in Ames will be challenging because it will be one of his first solo performances.

"Iowa will be my guinea pig," Black says.

"[But if it's bad], word might spread like wildfire. I could be dead in Story County."

Black has considerable experience on stage, performing heavily in the comedy group "Stella," made up of Black and two fellow cohorts. They used to host alternative comedy shows, but the group just started their own tour, playing to crowds in the thousands. Black describes "Stella" as a three-man comedy trio, since that's the most pretentious way to describe it.

"It's not exactly skits, but it's not exactly stand-up. It's professional bickering," he says.

"Oh, and we make filthy videos, too."

And "Stella" is only the tip of the iceberg. Most of Black's resume features work in television and on-stage, though very little movie work. He says the main reason he isn't a big movie star is because of one little obstacle.

"I don't do movies primarily because no one wants me to be in their movies," Black says. "Literally, that's the only thing standing in my way."

Through all the work he's done, he is most commonly recognized nowadays for his part in VH1's "I love the..." series. That's not too surprising for Black.

"I've been on TV for 10 to 12 years now, and whatever I'm doing currently is what [people] recognize me [from]," Black says. "That's not too bad because I'm pretty funny on that show."

Looking over his upcoming show, Black says he has the highest of expectations for his performance.

"In the worst case scenario, the show will be at least terrible," Black says.

"In the best case scenario, well, it will be something better than that." - University of Iowa Paper - By Keith DuCharme


"“Comedian Tells More Than ‘Knock-Knock’ Jokes”"

Last night comedian Michael Ian Black confessed he only knew one joke. It was a "knock-knock" joke told by his son, and it lacked an intelligent punch line.

"He's 4 years old; you'd think he could write a knock-knock joke that would make some fucking sense," Black said. "He's not really college material; he'll never go to Kent State. Akron maybe..."

More than 1,000 students packed the Student Center Ballroom last night for the event sponsored by the All Campus Programming Board. Though his jokes ranged from making fun of college women to Intelligent Design, the "Stella" star's straight-faced comedy style meant there was rarely a lapse in laughter.

"College women look for sex with men in this order: basketball players, professors of art history and TV stars," Black said. "Not me! I'm married; I'm taken! Your feminine wiles will not work on me - until you buy me a couple beers. Or maybe one beer. Maybe a root beer. Then we'll have ourselves a sex sandwich at Olson."

University of Akron student Jessica Doyle cheered at the prospect.

"I love Michael," sophomore marketing major Doyle said. "I came from Akron and paid the $5 to see him. I saw a sign in a friend's window saying he was going to be here. I had to come."

After discussing random subjects, Black shared memories of his youth in New Jersey.

"I grew up in a lesbian household, which wasn't great for my parents' marriage," Black said, listening to the audience's laughter mix with sighs of sympathy. "The neighborhood kids just think that's the 'bee's knees.' Kids walking around with eggs in their pockets and no place to throw them."

Despite his popular guest commentary on VH1's "I Love the 80s," Black said his experience of the decade while in high school was "a disaster that made me pray for death."

"Our sports team was the Violets," Black said of his college mascot. "Yours is the Golden Flashes? That's not much better, but at least you have talons. But Violets? What will they do? Aggravate your allergies?"

Before starting the acting troupe in New York that became MTV's "The State," Black said he quit college for acting experience as a traveling Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle on the "Coming Out of Their Shells" tour.

Black later showed the audience the "Pizza" episode from his Stella short films made with longtime co-workers David Wain and Michael Showalter. He also answered audience questions, gave hugs and signed chests.

"Being famous without being correspondingly wealthy is like being a really, really hot nun," Black said of his self-proclaimed C-list celebrity status. "The way I see it, I'm already going to hell. So why not fly coach?" - Daily Kent Stater, Ally Melling


"“With Off-Color Jokes, VH1 Comic Keeps Audience Laughing”"

No one can say Michael Ian Black isn't a "people person." Unfortunately, the people he had to deal with last night were college students.

Black, best known for his commentary on VH1's "I love the (Insert Decade)" and "Best Week Ever," as well as the cult film "Wet Hot American Summer," performed for an hour and a half to a crowd of about 1,100 in the Schine Student Center.

Instead of approaching the night in a typical comedic fashion of joke followed by joke, Black used everything available to him to make people laugh. He did physical comedy with things he found on the stage. He singled out audience members to either talk with or sexually harass, and most of all, he mocked himself.

"I am not a joke teller … I am not that guy," Black said. "I'm the guy who talks about The Rubik's Cube on VH1."

The night started extremely low-key. There wasn't an opening act; there wasn't even any music before it began. The lights went out and Black walked on stage, wearing a blue shirt/orange sweatshirt combination (for both school pride and because it was "laundry day") and sporting a new "Natalie Portman in 'V for Vendetta'" shaved haircut. But he immediately broke the crowd's awkward tension with a slew of amusing, but horribly offensive, race and sex jokes.

"Nazis sounds like nachos and rhymes with Yahtzee," Black said when talking about groups with the worst PR and how to fix it. "You find a way to combine (those two), I don't care what your politics are, I'm in."

There was a certain irony as he spoke about the Nazi Party, since the event was sponsored by The Winnick Hillel Center, as well as University Union. It was clear by the crowd's reaction that, although a little racy, it was still just comedy.

"We're all college students … that's our world," said Jessica Martin, a freshman public relations major. "We swear; we deal with race issues; we deal with sexuality. So I thought it was really good."

Black's idea to talk about anti-PC topics in order to get a rise out of students was a brilliant move, and the crowd was very loose for the rest of the night. At one point near the beginning of the show, Black commented about the fact you could get away with anything as long as you followed the statement with a cheer.

"You add 'yay!' to anything and it goes from being offensive to kind of cute," Black said. "Dead puppies, yay! Adult onset type two diabetes, yay!"

The whole night was based around the sometimes amusing, often awkward stories Black told. The problem was he couldn't concentrate long enough to tell the whole thing. Anything would distract him. An audience member would scream out, whether it was a coherent sentence or just a "Woo!" at the mention of a place or occupation, and Black would run with it. One of the show's running gag's was Black whispering (in the microphone) to different shouting girls that he "was staying at the Sheraton."

Still, when he did tell stories, they always provoked a laugh. Black detailed everything from watching the dance moves of Black Crow's singer Chris Robinson, to his own kids and even his troubles with a restaurant called Taco Palace, which did not come close to his expectations of a royal Mexican experience.

"If you call yourself a Taco Palace, then you should mean what you say and say what you mean," Black said. "That's why I like Pizza Hut."

Many, it seemed, did not enjoy his sporadic comedic styling. Some in the audience looked bored or frustrated with Black's constant interruptions and free-flowing attitude.

"I didn't think it was funny," said Carlos Rosales, a freshman environmental biology major at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. "He didn't have much material, he just talked about anything. He tried too hard (and) didn't come prepared."

Black did at least have the college atmosphere in mind when playing Syracuse. He knew names of college dorms as well as Otto's name, which he mocked insensitively after learning it was just The Orange instead of The Orangemen. Black also had a lot to say about his favorite collegial pastime: co-eds.

"I love that college girls are at an experimental time in their life when they're, um, what's the word? Easy," Black said

There was a little explanation dealing with his time on VH1, but only to admit to his own humiliation with negative fan feedback. Black talked about how he would check message boards to see what people would say, and became depressed when seeing comments like, "MIB is an idiot," or "Gay" (with or without the question mark). He countered this by doing the only thing he could do to boost his sprit: work on his MySpace profile.

"MySpace is the perfect American invention, because we finally found a way to make friendship into a competitive sport," Black said.

When Black finished his material, there was still some time left, so he took questions from the audience. Without a microphone, it was often amazing watching students try - The Daily Orange, Alex Shebar


"Michael Ian Black Event @ Kent State"

Randy,

Hello, hope you had a nice weekend. The Michael Ian Black event last Thursday went amazing. We sold out the Ballroom, so there was over 1,000 Kent State students and community members there. All the technical aspects went well too. He was punctual, the dvd worked fine, etc. There were no glitches or flaws. The All Campus Programming Board and especially myself are very pleased with the success of the event.

Thank you so much for all your help. It was a pleasure working with you and I hope that ACPB can work with you in the future. I will not be the Artist/Lecture Chair next year, I am switching positions, but our new Artist/Lecture chair is a wonderful woman and I'm sure you will work with her as well. Thank you again for all your help.

I hope this feedback helps. If you want more information, I can send you a copy of my event evaluation once it's finished. April is so busy for us, so I am a tad behind on my paper work, but if you would like a copy of that I can get that to you by the end of the week, just let me know.

Thank you so much,

Colleen Burch
Artist/Lecture Chair
All Campus Programming Board
Kent State University
- Kent Artist/Lecture Chair


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Bio

Actor, comedian, and comedy writer Michael Ian Black is now working as editor-at-large of Cracked, the half century-old humor magazine that was re-launched in 2006 after a two-year hiatus. He is well known for co-founding and starring in The State, the groundbreaking sketch comedy show that appeared on MTV and CBS for a total of six years. He went on to be a series regular on NBC’s hit drama Ed, playing Phil, Stuckeybowl’s quirky manager. He also starred in the USA Films feature Wet Hot American Summer, opposite Paul Rudd and Janeane Garafalo. Most recently, he released his first essay collection, My Custom Van: And 50 Other Mind-Blowing Essays That Will Blow Your Mind All Over Your Face. He is also the host of Comedy Central’s Reality Bites Back.

Also after The State, Black co-created the Comedy Central series Viva Variety. He has also provided extensive comic commentary for the popular I Love the 70’s/80’s/90’s series on VH1, and has commented on politics and current events for CNN. His other past work includes being the voice actor for the Pets.com sock puppet, the main subject in a series of Sierra Mist commercials, and hosting the first season of NBC’s hidden camera show Spy TV. He has also appeared in the Comedy Central shows Crank Yankers and Reno 911! In 2005, he wrote and directed the film The Pleasure of Your Company, starring Jason Biggs, Joe Pantoliano, and Isla Fisher.

With his The State co-stars Michael Showalter and David Wain, Black co-starred in and co-wrote the Comedy Central series Stella, a live-action adaptation of their popular stage show of the same name. The ten-episode first season debuted in June 2005. The show featured Black, Showalter, and Wain as three characters whose travels through everyday life are unlike anything else on television. With a perfect blend of cleverness and absurdity, Stella satirized everyday experiences like finding an apartment, hanging out at a coffee shop, going camping, and trying to meet women.

An amateur poker enthusiast, Black made several appearances as a player on Celebrity Poker Showdown between 2003 and 2006. He is also an occasional contributor to the online edition of McSweeney’s, where he writes a column entitled “Michael Ian Black Is a Very Famous Celebrity.”