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March 16, 2012

Despicable We


Oh Michael Jackson, musical prophet. You always had the words when words failed us. Wasn’t it you, possible molester of boys, who told us:

    If you want to make the world a better place

    Take a look at yourself and make a... change.

Had I heeded your words all those years ago, perhaps I would not be struggling with my own mixed emotions regarding a column I recently wrote for Vice magazine entitled “Dead Celebrities.” In that column, which was about phony piousness in the wake of a celebrity death (a piousness which reached hysterical highs upon the passing of the aforementioned possible molester of boys Mr. Jackson), I called the recently deceased Internet publisher Andrew Breitbart “a despicable human being.”

This was about twenty-four hours after he died.

Several weeks later, I had occasion to rethink these words for reasons that are unimportant. Upon reflection, I began regretting that exact choice of words because I did not know Mr. Breitbart, only the clown nose he put upon his face when shaking his seltzer bottle and dick pics at Liberals intent on destroying all that is good and holy.

The only Andrew Breitbart I knew was the public one, not the husband and father of four. The public Mr. Breitbart was, in my estimation, indeed despicable. Not for his political ideology, but for his seemingly gleeful destruction of individuals, organizations, and reputations.

Upon the passing of Ted Kennedy (husband, father, grandfather) he said, “Why do you grant a bully special status upon his death?” Which was a similar point I was making in my column. But Mr. Breitbart’s tactics were nothing if not bullying; he did not use the word “despicable” in his obituary to Senator Kennedy, preferring the terms “villain,” “duplicitous prick” and “bastard.”

So the question I had to ask myself was, “Am I also being despicable for expressing my opinion about Andrew Breitbart?” Was I being despicable for writing in a separate tweet that Rick Santorum was going to allow Ricky Martin to cum on his face as an, admittedly crude, point about Santorum’s homophobia? Was I being despicable for calling Rush Limbaugh a cunt? Or for making a joke about admiring Sandra Bullock’s “new dress and face” at the Oscars?

Yes, I suppose I was.

My question to myself: where is the line? Opinions are like Newtonian physics. Every one will have an equal and opposite counter-opinion. So how do you express yourself without offense? The more forcefully you make a point, the more you offend. As entertainers, comedians, radio hosts, pundits, or just ordinary citizens, that’s something we have to accept.

I regret saying that Andrew Breitbart was a despicable human being because I did not know the totality of his humanity. I did not know him as a father or husband or friend. I only knew his public persona, which was indeed despicable. And kind of scummy.

Rarely do we know more about each other than the public faces we present to the world. The private person can be very different. The question I’ve been asking myself, though, is which is the “real” person? It’s a question I’ve been asking about a lot of people during this horrible political season we’re experiencing, in particular myself. 

Like anybody else in my profession, I am trying to use humor to make larger points. Some of them are offensive. Some of them just aren't funny. But that's the risk I take. Every day. In the case of calling of Andrew Breitbart “despicable,” I wasn’t making a joke. It’s what I think. And just as I stand by my jokes, I stand by my opinions. I piss people off sometimes. Words have consequences and I will attempt to accept mine whenever and however merited. Just as possible molester of boys Michael Jackson asked me to do, I am currently looking at the man in the mirror.




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i know what you mean, Michael.


i know what you mean, Michael.

Warren Benedetto

Wow. That was a really, really excellent piece. I recently had a similar experience while resurrecting my blog. I'd posted about 1,100 posts between 2003 and 2008, mostly targeting George W. Bush and his administration. I was re-reading the posts from the beginning to see if there was anything worth keeping, and I was surprised at how distasteful I found some of my own vitriol.

That said, I still wish Rick Santorum was the middle segment in a Human Centipede made from Republican candidates.


Mr. Black, I'm reading your book "You're Not Doing it Right" and I have (this is going to sound so effing corny, but it's true) laughed out loud, and blinked furiously through tears to keep reading. I have always thought you were funny. Now I know that you're also real.

Thank you for being so nakedly honest in your latest book. As funny as "My Custom Van" was (which I also purchased and read), your memoir is _true-ly_ funny and touching, and I think as a result, it's going to make a much more long-lasting impression on me as a reader and a parent.

I was going to send you a tweet (I follow you on twitter) but I honestly don't care to get an RT. I just want you to know that your writing touched someone. In a good way. Not in a creepy way.

Now I'm just messing it up. So I'll just leave it with "thank you."


Excellent. So very well written. Again.

My knee-jerk solution: find the middle ground. Seems like a more peaceful, drama-free way to live.

Comedians like Jim Gaffigan and Mike Birbiglia, etc, are highly entertaining yet have managed to keep their humorous insights, and opinions, in that magical place between lame and offensive. And it's working. For them. But - that's not where you tend to gravitate. You walk along the edge. A lot. It's risky but admirable. And it's rare.

Would it be disingenuous to bite your tongue and curtail your creativity? Or would "pulling in the reins" serve as healthy character development?

You have a dark, hilarious, twisted mind coupled with a kind, unassuming, and gentle persona. I imagine the battle for dominance, between the two, is ongoing.

In the end, it doesn't matter how much crazy-ass trouble your mouth gets you into. I'll always be one of the many who adore and love you anyway.


well, i love you and i bought your book and i stand by you even if some people find you offensive sometimes. you're human and you're wonderful.


What Renee said. Also, you make my ears perk up and my head tilt like a confused dog sometimes, but just like my family... I love ya anyway.


I think the fact that you have the courage to vocalize your moral rumblings, or perhaps just because you have moral rumblings, I think that speaks volumes. Does it get you off the hook? Yeah, I think it does. Because the thing about a public persona is, even if it is a mask and behind it hides a rich and full family life spilling over with good deeds and a big heart, the problem is, you decided it's better to put on an ugly bastardizing despicable mask. Even if there's more to you, the fact that you chose only to show what is disappointing is choice enough to call for being called out for being disappointing.

I don't buy the reality show cop out, "Oh, that's just the way it's edited. I'm not really like that. There's so much more that isn't shown." Is there such thing as manipulative editing? Yes. Is there more to the story? Yes. But did you say those words and do those things? Yes. That's enough. And in his case, and even worse, there were no mysterious "others" controlling the content: did you choose to do so? Yes.

In your case, in the case of Michael Ian Black, what mask do you wear? Not a despicable one. For as many rape jokes, penis jibes, cum shot references, and baby killer cracks you make, there's as many thoughtful, heart-warming, passionate, and balanced pieces. I remember a simple one about a winter day with your family. No jokes. I've seen thoughtful political commentary, I've seen adorable and fuzzy pieces on roller derbying. Your face is sweeter, more balanced, less a mask, more a face. Like this piece. Good for you for worrying. That says it all.

Wessex James Stock

Micheal -
I've been a fan of your comedy for years, especially Stella.
Recently I have shifted my position into the light, just like I think you and many others have.

I just finished watching Stella Episode 10 - Amusement Park, for the first time since I've perceived the universe as it truly is.

Bravo, Sir.


Well, bear in mind that "the totality of Andrew Breitbart's humanity" and Andrew Breitbart as husband/father/friend are empty, ideological projections. Not that he wasn't literally a "human being," but your casting him in roles one is meant to be sympathetic with just has no basis in anything. Breitbart had some kids. He was married. Who cares? It doesnn't make him any less racist or hateful.

When it comes to humor, what you're asking is who's a fair target, and what makes them fair targets. Anyway, target the powerful, and target anyone targeting the powerless, is my humble suggestion.

Steve Newman

Late last year on twitter Breitbart posted a close-up photo of his wrist sporting a bracelet he received from fawning fans. One tweeter presciently observed that judging from his mottled skin Andrew did not look well for his age. And I, inspired by the photo's odd cropping of his skinny wrist encircled by a gayish bracelet tweeted, "Nice cock ring!" Breitbart retweeted my jibe, probably as another example of the hate-spewing despicable Left. Or maybe, just maybe, he thought it was amusing.


I agree. We do not know Hitler the man, only his public persona. And we all know private works erase public failings.

For all we know - perhaps in his private life - Hitler sponsored a poor Jewish child in America, swaddling the child in luxury and paying for only the finest, privat-est institutions of learning. But because Hitler was so modest (undisputed), he let the child grow up thinking the wealthy spinster Mrs. Havisham was the child's sponsor, never revealing himself as the true benefactor, and the mensch he was.

We will never know.

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Wow, this is amazing. You have great sense of humor.


You are professional Michael, being a comedian is not an easy task and you need to consider a lot thing like not to explicit unnecessary words for the sake of the audience because every people has its own thinking may be to others it will work but for other dont.

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