Michael Ian Black
The Stella and State comedian goes it alone.
Michael Ian Black’s résumé includes ’90s sketch comedy show The State, Wet Hot American Summer, a stand-up career (he hits the Park West Saturday 5) and a bunch of canceled Comedy Central shows. He’s also writing a book with a Republican. Read on.
You hosted Snark Week on Comedy Central awhile back.
It was nuts, just one snarky comment after the other.
This was all leading up to the premiere of your latest CD, Very Famous. It felt like Michael Ian Black week.
That would be the only week that it’s ever been Michael Ian Black week at Comedy Central. A couple times in the last few years they’ve had “cancel Michael Ian Black week,” which was a huge celebration network-wide.
So why do they keep you around?
Guilt. I honestly think they feel bad.
You’ve amassed an extensive comedy résumé. What is one thing you are most recognized for?
Probably my work with orphans. Yes, I do the comedy and the show business and all that, but running the orphanage here is really the most satisfying.
So money from comedy goes into the orphanage?
It’s not going into my pocket, believe me. I’m plowing it into my singing and dancing orphan academy. You’ve never seen a more adorable group of ragamuffin orphans than I’ve got here.
Even more adorable than Annie?
I really resent the comparison. They’re nothing like Annie. These little girls have a modern hip-hop take. They’re up-to-date, streamlined, aerodynamic orphans.
You launched your podcast, Mike and Tom Eat Snacks, on my birthday, by the way.
That was by design.
How is it going?
It’s great. I do it with my friend Tom Cavanagh, Ed from TV’s Ed, who is one of my dearest friends. Every week, we get together and talk about a snack. We eat, review and rate the snack. It’s one of the most fun things that I do.
Is this underwritten by the major snack food companies?
No, that would compromise our integrity. How am I going to take Combos to task if Combos is footing the bill? It’s purely underwritten by the Pietro Chemical Association.
You drove around the country last summer with Meghan McCain for a new book coming next July. How was that?
It was fantastic. We were on the road talking to people about politics. We met people from all walks of life, as the trite saying goes, and I was surprised by how informed people were and how opinionated and passionate they were about where they think the country is heading.
Did it expand your point of view?
It certainly did for me. I’m one of those elitist, liberal assholes who just doesn’t understand Republicans, so it was great for me to study them in their natural habitat and take an anthropological survey about what the modern Republican looks like. I liked them a lot.
You’ve collaborated with guys like Michael Showalter and David Wain for much of your career. What do you like about going it alone in stand-up?
I don’t have to have conversations about what I’m doing, I can just do it. When you work in a group, there’s many conversations that you need to have about everybody getting on the same page. The freedom of doing it all by yourself can’t be beat.
Do you not miss the way that camaraderie and antagonism pushes you to be a better comedian?
I don’t miss it because I still do it. I’m still working with those other guys and new collaborators too.
Can you hint at what you’ll bring to Chicago this week?
At this point as to what’s been written, it’s at zero percent. By the time I get to Chicago I’m expecting more than zero percent.
Michael Ian Black plays the Park West Theatre Saturday 5.