Michael Ian Black: Somewhat 'Famous'

Cult-comedian talks stand-up, Dr. Dre and his book with Meghan McCain

  • Michael Ian Black performs at The Ottobar.
Michael Ian Black performs at The Ottobar. (Handout photo, Handout…)
November 07, 2011|By Wesley Case, The Baltimore Sun

Michael Ian Black facetiously named his stand-up special "Very Famous" — but it's true, depending on whom you ask.

Black, the snarky comedian best known for his pop-culture takedowns on VH1, is a cult-hero for his work on MTV's '90s sketch-comedy show "The State," playing McKinley in "Wet Hot American Summer" and as a strange bowling alley manager on the NBC show "Ed."

He's currently headlining his "Black is White" comedy tour (which stops by the Ottobar Saturday), co-hosting a popular podcast about junk food and working on a political satire book, due next year, with Meghan McCain. Black is even a mean poker player. Clearly, he has plenty to talk about.

You have a bit about your kids disappointing you with unimaginative Halloween costumes. How'd they do this year?

Not well, but mostly because Halloween was canceled in my town. There was no Halloween. No one had power. Kids would have been walking around in the dark. In my mind, that only enhances the Halloween experience but the town did not agree. We just stayed in our home, shivering.

That's a bummer.

It's OK. I don't like trick or treating with those stupid kids.

The "Very Famous" CD cover is an homage to Dr. Dre's "The Chronic." Does that album hold a special place in your heart?

I just felt like Dr. Dre is one of the godfathers of hip-hop. I am also one of the godfathers of hip-hop. So it just felt important for the hip-hop community to see my place in pantheon of hip-hop. I've been very good about letting Dre have the spotlight. It was time for me to reclaim the throne.

What's the latest on your book, "Stupid for America," with Meghan McCain?

We are in the process of writing it right now. I would say "as we speak" but we're not writing it as we speak because I'm talking to you. But we are currently writing it. It's a political, goofball, odd-couple book about two people traveling the country together in search of America. And finding it, incidentally, because we never leave the borders.

What was it about Meghan that made you say, "I want to collaborate with her?"

She holds deep convictions about her political beliefs and her country, and the way things ought to be. And they're not necessarily how I think things ought to be but I liked that about her. It was a case of opposites attract.

This summer marked the 10-year anniversary of "Wet Hot American Summer." What has surprised you most about the film's lasting legacy?

I suppose that people still care about a tiny, micro-budget movie that nobody saw when it came out. The fact that people even know the film 10 years later is astounding to me. It's very surprising.

Obviously you've had a lot of success, but there have been projects that didn't last long. You've kept a sense of humor about the failures — is there a show that had the plug pulled you thought really deserved a chance to stick around?

The last show I did, "Michael and Michael Have Issues." I thought it was very smart and very funny. I thought it deserved better than it received. It was just a good show. And the network disagreed.

That was Comedy Central. I take it things are OK if you did your stand-up special with them.

It's a complicated relationship because I continue to have people I like a lot over there. It's sometimes difficult to separate the professional from the personal. So I may disagree with their decisions, but that doesn't mean we won't work together again. It's like any abusive relationship.

Do you and "The State" members kick around the idea of reuniting for a series or a show?

It does come up occasionally and I think we'd all like to do it. It's all really a question of logistics and finances. It's hard to make things. It's hard to get someone to write you a check. It's hard for 11 people to get their schedules together. I can't say I'm optimistic that anything will happen in the near future. But I do think it'd be great, and I think everyone would be on board.

You're an accomplished poker player. What's your advice to the people watching the World Series of Poker at home and thinking they want to give it a try?

I would encourage everybody to do that. You won't win probably, but that's OK. If you're contemplating becoming a professional poker player, don't do that. That's not a good lifestyle decision. You will end up bankrupt more than once. [You'll be] self-loathing, pale, out of shape and most likely dead from a coronary before age 40.

Most importantly, what's the most underrated snack of all time?

Candy corn. It has a terrible reputation but I think they're little drops of magic on my tongue.

If you go

Michael Ian Black performs Saturday at the Ottobar, 2549 N. Howard St. Doors open at 8 p.m. 18+. $20. Call 410-662-0069 or go to theottobar.com.

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