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August 2010

August 25, 2010

From USA Today's Popcandy

Aug 25, 2010

Unreleased comedy album from The State arrives Sept. 14

MTV's The State has remained a cult classic ever since it premiered on MTV in the mid-'90s. But did you know the comedy troupe recorded an album after the series ended? Sadly, it was never released ... until now.

On Sept. 14 Rhino will release Comedy for Gracious Living, which was recorded in January 1996 in the Bahamas. It features 25 tracks from the whole gang, including Michael Ian Black, Thomas Lennon, Michael Showalter, Kerri Kenney-Silver, Ken Marino and David Wain.

"It was a freeing experience because no one was watching over us, there were no 'adults' around," original member Kevin Allison says. "We'd swim and drink and gamble all day and record the silly ideas we'd had that day up into the wee hours that night like kids making tapes in the basement. If you listen, you can hear the ice clinking in the rum drinks we had in hand at all times."

Rhino now has an exclusive link to pre-order, along with samples from each track (!). Sweet.

August 22, 2010

Last Night I Kind of Lost My Shit

It's the late show on a Saturday night in Columbus, Ohio. I'm halfway through my set and I mention Barack Obama. Some scattered boos. Which is normal. Somebody always hates the president, no matter who that president might be. In this case, the president is Obama and I am a fan, so I always ask they are so mad at him.

"Why are you mad at the president?"

Some common responses:

"Because he's an idiot."

"Because he doesn't do anything."

"Because he broke his campaign promises."

That's usually as far as people are able to go. They're mad but they don't know why. Which is always funny, at least to me. In fact, now that I think of it, nobody has ever given me a specific policy reason why they do not like our current president. I try to be polite about it while simultaneously making fun of them, then I give whoever I was making fun of a dollar, and we move on.

Last night, as I was talking about how much I love the president (because I do), somebody yelled out "Heil Hitler."

Heil Hitler?

My immediate reaction was to crumple to the floor, which I did. I don't know why, except that it seemed to me in that moment that the show had now gone south very quickly, and if bottles were going to be thrown, I didn't want to get hit.

But then I stood up and asked the person (shrouded in darkness, as people who scream "Heil Hitler" often are) why he yelled that, thinking maybe he thought it was funny in some obtuse way, like maybe he though shouting that would be interpreted as clever satire. Or maybe he was being ironic. Grasping, I know, but I honestly had no idea why somebody would yell that outside of a Klan rally. 

But I am still being polite.

The guy in the dark says, "Because when you say you like Obama, that's the same thing to me as saying 'Heil Hitler.'"

The audience, predictably, starts booing. I ask them to please calm down, that I will handle this in a mature way. While I am saying this to the audience, I am thinking, How do I possibly handle this in a mature way.

So the audience settles down, and I turn to the gentleman and say, "Sir, I say with this all due respectyou are a fucking moron."

And then I kind of lost my shit.

I just started screaming at the guy. Screaming. I don't even know what I was screaming, although the gist was, "How dare you compare Hitler to this president or any president? How dare you equate what he did with Obama is doing? Do you have any idea how insulting that is? Do you know anything about history? Do you have any idea what Hitler did? He killed six million of my people, which is six million more than Obama has killed. You're a fucking idiot. You're a fucking moron. You're the fucking problem with this country. You and your reflexive retardation. You're a fucking this-and-that..." and then I just basically started yelling "fuck" a lot at the guy. Fuck fuck fuck fuck.

Then he stood up and left.

It felt really, really great.

But now I feel bad. I feel bad because, in retrospect, that guy didn't deserve that. Yes he said something incredibly stupid, but my response was just as stupid. I could have made my point a million different ways without screaming into a microphone in a room filled with drunk people. I wasn't clever, I wasn't thoughtful, I said nothing that would move the conversation forward. I just yelled because Nazis push my Jew button (my Jew button is located right below my tail).

It was a purely emotional response, the kind that I get upset at other people for making when talking about the mosque they want to build or gay marriage or gun violence or any issue that people use to piss each other off.

Hitler is just a buzz word. Which is actually part of my problem with him saying it in such a blithe way. In a weird way, by equating policy disagreements with a genocidal egomaniac, you're actually disrespecting Hitler. You're actually bringing his evil down to the level of the mundane, which we should never do. Obama is Hitler because he created a consumer protection agency? C'mon.

So yeah, I kind of lost my shit last night. And to that guy who shouted out "Heil Hitler," I apologize. There was no reason to meet your idiocy with my own, even though you are a fucking moron.

August 18, 2010

I'm in Columbus Ohio This Weekend. Go.

I'm in Columbus, OH this weekend. Go.
Open Mike Michael Ian Black on the joys of commercial failure

By Travis Hoewischer

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7 Comments Photo courtesy Schacter Entertainment

Michael Ian Black is funnier in a day of tweeting than most people will be all year:

“Confirmed again today that I like boobs.”
“Finally heard the Mel Gibson tape. I hate to say it, but I don’t think he and his girlfriend are going to make it.”
“If the choice is between seeing morbidly obese people walking around or people with yoga mats, I’ll take the fatties.”
“No matter how many cardigan sweaters I wear, it seems like Prince is still a sexier motherf***er than me.”
“In Canada. Hoping to get diagnosed with a very expensive disease while I’m here.”

Yeah, and that’s just a Wednesday. Then again, it’s the kind of output knowledgeable fans would expect from Black, the comedy equivalent of the veteran utility infielder.

You need someone to make up for the numerous unfunny schmucks on I Love the ’80s? You need someone to play a gay demon? An oversexed pudding salesman? A dude named Johnny Bluejeans? Bring in Black. The dude’s funny in any situation.

He and his cohorts from the mid-’90s MTV cult sketch show The State have since planted themselves, at least temporarily, in several critical niches, with alums of the show comprising most of the Reno 911! cast, playing key bit roles in mainstream comedies, as well as their brilliant summer camp spoof, Wet Hot American Summer.

Black carries himself in that rare Carlin-like manner, where he is equal parts silly and endearing, biting and smearing. Case in point: on his blog, he had words for those who had accused him of “selling out” for accepting advertisement deals on his Twitter feed. His response? Pure pro.

I’m sorry if it pisses anybody off, but if you are upset, I know what will make you feel better: a delicious Klondike bar washed down with an icy cold Sierra Mist.

That’s what the Brits call “taking a piss.”

Black, who will appear at the Columbus Funny Bone August 20th and 21st, took time away from his vacation to wax further on Twitter, his place in the comedy world, and let (614) pitch him the ultimate project that will bring him mainstream success.

Are you surprised when people accuse comics of “selling out?”

I find it kind of maddening. I think a lot of artists these days - I use that word sparingly - have the same frustration, which is that the arts have become commodified because of the Internet. You can get anything you want for free, which as a consumer, I’m thrilled about. But, as someone who is trying to create content for a living and support themselves, it can be a challenge. Twitter, in particular, is providing a platform for people to speak - which is great - but they are the sole benefactor. It’s not like they’re a non-profit group trying to save the planet - they’re a company trying to make money, just like everybody else. It’s frustrating for me when people get up in arms when an artist tries to get compensation for what they do.

I think people feel the same way about the media. Yeah, news on the Internet is “free,” but someone should be compensated for generating it.

It’s just a weird time in terms of how we think about the intersection between art and commerce. Maybe it’s preposterous to be able to think you can make a living doing this. I mean, ultimately, what I’m doing is making dick jokes. (laughs)

And some fine dick jokes they are. I enjoy that you bill them on your blog as a “steady stream” of dick jokes. Packs more of a punch that way.

(Laughs) A steady stream of, hopefully, medium-quality dick jokes. It’s interesting, because since I’ve started accepting ads, which I believe there are three, I feel a bigger obligation to be entertaining. I actually feel like they’re getting more for their money in a weird way, because I’m thinking about being funny rather than just posting what comes to my head. I guess I still do that, I’m just more judicious about it now.

Well certainly. Somebody backs it now, you kinda have to deliver, give it your all.

I don’t know if I would say I give it my all (laughs) - I certainly give it something.

Back to the dick jokes. Is there a Holy Grail or go-to that you’re most proud of?

Nope. They are all my children - I care not at all about any of them.

How did you decide to go out on your own as Michael Ian Black, rather than working on stage, or on camera with ensembles?

I am doing it because it’s a challenge, and because I have always admired standup comedians; I’ve always admired the craft of it. But, I’ve never had the time to devote to it. Now seemed like as good a time as any to see if I could do it in a way that made me proud.

How have the shows been so far? Any rough nights?

The crowds have been great. I don’t really have any of the comedian horror stories because I’ve been fortunate, in that I don’t have to show up at an open mic night at a Mexican place at 2 a.m. and make three people laugh.

Yeah, but that would be awesome if you did. It would be fun to go down to the Mexican joint and slay those three people.

Oh no. It would be fun in the telling of the story. Not fun to do. That would be horrible. (laughs) See, that’s the thing, I never wanted to pay my dues, go through the horrors and rigors - I’ve got horrors and rigors of my own.

So, your advice to any young comedian would be to make sure to get a popular show on MTV?

That would be my first piece of advice, yes.

Is it weird to look around and see everyone from The State, essentially your college buddies, on different TV networks and in movies?

Yeah, but the thing is, when you’re in this industry, you end up knowing everyone. We are all proud of what we do, but the novelty of seeing your friends on different shows has worn off - to the extent that now, my only real thought is: How come that f***ing guy got a job and I didn’t?

Ha! Now, your first thought is sabotage?

It’s only about sabotage. Sabotage and schadenfreude.

Well, you do know those guys better than any; you should be able to throw some dirt on them.

I know, but the problem is, any dirt on actors or comedians only helps them. There’s nothing bad you can say about them … except pedophilia.

Yeah, that’s still pretty taboo.

Yeah, nobody would believe me if I accused 10 other people - who all happen to be in my old sketch group. Unless I was also implicating myself.

Were there comedians who influenced you?

The ones I was aware of, and thought were great, were Woody Allen, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy … I thought Sam Kinison was really funny.

Any projects you would still like to do? You’ve done such a variety already.

What I would like … is for something I do to be successful. That would be terrific. (laughs) If I could do something that was accepted by the mainstream, that would be fantastic. Barring thaaattt? I’m content doing what I’m doing. I’ve got a nice job floating around, doing different things. I’m not locked into anything. There’s a lot of advantage to being a commercial failure.

Here’s your chance: pitch me the mainstream project that will put you over the top.

I wish I had it. I wish I were capable of coming up with those sorts of ideas.

What if you pitch The Cosby Show back to NBC, with the entire original cast, only with you as Bill Cosby?

I like that! Can we use their scripts? I think that’s a pretty good idea. But again, that’s a good idea to you and me - I don’t think America is ready to accept me as Bill Cosby … with Phylicia Rashad as my wife.

Michael Ian Black Performs @ The Columbus Funny Bone
145 Easton Town Center
August 20th - 21st
8 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. nightly

August 12, 2010



I love this picture. For so many reasons, I love this picture. First of all, context. I found it on the site girlcameramirror, which is exactly what it sounds like: girls taking pictures of themselves in various states of undress. Mostly the girls are young, skinny, and making that face girls make that I think is supposed to look like a kissy face but instead comes off more like “this is what I will look like when I get my lips done.” Also they show their boobs, which I like a lot.

It would be disingenuous of me to say I like those picture ironically. I do not; I like them because they are pictures of naked girls. But I also recognize that there is something kind of sad and troubling about girls posting pictures of themselves without their clothes on for no discernible reason other than the fact that girls have a biological compulsion to make boys salivate, and boys have a biological compulsion to do so, and then masturbate.

Girls want to be seen as pretty. Boys want to see pretty girls. (Plus, in my experience, girls want to see pretty girls too.)

Needless to say, somebody would have to feel pretty good about her body to post such a picture. The girls who tend to feel this way tend to have slamming bodies. So this picture is an anomaly on the site, a photo of two girls, obviously overweight, obviously good friends, with their shirts off, and apparently feeling very happy about themselves. That’s the context. And it made me feel good.

Second, there are the details. And the details are just as awesome as the context. The matching bathing polka dot bathing suit tops. That in itself is curious enough to warrant a thumbs up from me. Why are they wearing matching tops? Did they buy them together? Did one of them have both? Did they put them on specifically for the photo or are they on their way to some event where they are expected to wear matching polka dot bathing suits? (Bras?)

The goofy expression on the one girl’s face. To me, it is a face that says, “This is for fun.” What I read from her expression is simple: “Look how stupid I’m being with my friend,” the kind of face everybody makes for the camera now and again when she is having fun and wanting to record the memory. The face seems to harbor no resentment, no irony, no dismissiveness, nothing to suggest that she is making any kind of larger statement with this photo than she is being silly. I am a big fan of silliness. Plus she’s got a tongue stud.

Her friend’s expression is almost serene. Resting her head on her friend’s shoulder, she is absorbed in the image she’s creating. Her face holds no come hither look, no kissy face, no “I’m hot and I know it,” or even “I wish I was hot.” It’s just “girl with goofy friend.” She looks pretty. She looks happy.

Then there’s the post-photo decision to send the picture in to girlcameramirror. Why? What is the purpose? Why set yourself up like that? I don’t think it’s a political statement on their part. If I felt like it was, I think I would like the picture less. I choose to interpret it as, “we like this picture, we like the site, let’s send our picture to the site.” I think it’s as simple as that. I hope it is. I want these girls to be well-adjusted, happy BFFs with huge tits and matching polka dot bathing suits. Yes, they’re fat, and that’s part of the appeal of the picture. The image would be meaningless to me if they weren’t. I don’t even want to say I think they’re proud of being fat. I don’t think they are. I have no reason to think they’re proud; I think (at least in this moment) they are indifferent, which is better than pride. They are caught in a moment of unselfconscious happiness on a site which is all about the exact opposite of that, and that is awesome.

August 10, 2010

My New Kid's Book Comes Out Soon. Here Is A Review

It surprises people to learn that I write children’s books. It shouldn’t, as I have two kids. And also because I am a genius. And also because I like that easy children’s book money. This is a review from Publisher’s Weekly for my latest one, “A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea,” which comes out in a few weeks:

A Pig Parade Is a Terrible Idea

Written by Michael Ian Black, Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

(SSBFYR; ISBN: 9781416979227; September 2010; Fall catalog page 13)

Black’s pitch-perfect porcine parody sets off at a brisk pace. “Like most children, you have probably thought to yourself at one time or another, I bet a pig parade would be a lot of fun.” Hawkes (who illustrated Black’s Chicken Cheeks) supplies a picture of pigs dashing forth in spruce uniforms, playing instruments, as fireworks explode behind them. “The only problem is,” Black continues, “a pig parade is a terrible idea.” A double-page spread shows why; no parade anywhere—just a trio of porkers “snuffling” around, one with chewing gum stuck to its snout. Skewering stuffy types who belabor the obvious, Black points out that real pigs show no willingness to march, won’t wear majorette uniforms, and won’t hold big balloons (“Because while pig hooves are good for digging up wild mushrooms, when it comes to holding giant parade balloons, they are simply not up to the job”). The Monty Pythonesque premise delivers laugh after laugh, while Hawkes’s portraits of pigs chewing on their band hats, tromping on their horns, and floating into outer space with parade balloons will win over readers of all ages.