By Alex Rendon
By Monica McGivern
By Michele Eve Sandberg
By Alex Rendon
By Monica McGivern
By Ian Witlen
By Christina Mendenhall
By Michele Eve Sandberg
Even crack journalists like New Timesí own Ashley Harrell harbor secret crushes. Her decade-long infatuation with Michael Ian Black started back in the ī90s when he first crossed her televisionís screen in the sketch comedy masterpiece The State; It has remained tucked away in her heartís locket well into adulthood. So when word got out that MIB is heading to BPB, we sent her on a mission: Interview and flirt shamelessly with this stand-up dude, and document the whole blush-inducing ordeal in a Q&A for you loyal NT readers.
Michael Ian BlackĖ comedian, writer, actor, and Sierra Mist spokeshottie Ė is touring the country doing stand-up with fellow The State cast member, Michael Showalter. Itís tough going, what with Showalter demanding they stop for cigarettes, Starbucks, and taking a dump every half hour. And then thereís the debilitating all-night poker playing. But the two alternative comedy heroes deserve a break. Theyíve both released new stand-up albums and Black recently co-wrote the movie Run, Fatboy, Run, a comedy directed by David Schwimmer premiering in March. Showalter and Black are soon reuniting with the other nine cast members of The State to make a movie for Comedy Central, which Black admits heís freaking out about. He also discloses his love of Taco Bell, his secret dreams of becoming an ice cream entrepreneur, and his fondness for tympani.
NT: New Times, this is Ashley.
MIB: Hi Ashley, Itís Michael Ian black calling.
NT: Oh, youíre the guy from those Sierra Mist commercials, right?
MIB: Thatís right. Thatís right. I understand Iím supposed to talk to you.
NT: Okay. I want to tell you Iíve been a huge fan of yours since seventh grade.
MIB: So you were making a little joke about Sierra Mist.
NT:Yeah, yeah, was it funny?
MIB: Well, no, because I thought you were serious.
MIB: Well yeah.
NT: Oh no. Thatís horrible. This is getting off to a terrible start.
MIB: Well, so many people say to that me. And then I say, ďyes I am.Ē
NT: So how are you feeling today?
MIB: Iím a little sleepy. Well I was out last night playing poker with my friend Michael Showalter.
NT: You do a lot of that, huh?
MIB: Yeah. I do. (sighs). I really do.
NT: So this is the perfect time for an interview?
MIB: Iíve been up for a few hours now because I had to do some radio. But man. Iím fading. Iím fading, Ashley.
NT: Oh, Iím sorry to hear that.
MIB: Well, itís not your fault.
NT: Well, can you step it up?
MIB: (Laughs). I will try.
NT: Okay. I appreciate that. Where are you right now?
MIB: Iím in San Francisco. You know that town right? Earthquakes.
NT: Pretty buildings.
MIB: Lots of pretty buildingsÖall waiting to collapse.
NT: So I got your new album in the mail, ďI am a Wonderful Man.Ē Then I noticed that your McSweenyís column is called ďI am a famous celebrity.Ē Iím wondering whatís up with the self promotion.
MIB: Itís all about branding these days. All about creating a marketable brand and then selling the shit out of it. Thatís what Iím doing. I figure if I keep saying Iím a celebrity than eventually it will be trueÖ.So far it hasnít worked.
NT: So you seem to have a character that you play on stage. This kind of narcissistic metrosexual thatís totally lacking in self awareness. Iím wondering how you developed this persona.
MIB: Jeez. Is it a persona? Iím a little concerned now about who I am. A self-aggrandizing metrosexual. Oh dear. Who has no self-awareness.
NT: Itís very funnyÖ
MIB: Itís meant to be more self deprecating than anything else. I say for example, I have the body of a 12 year old girl. That my nickname was faggot. These kind of things. Theyíre intended to be self-deprecating. Even the self-aggrandizing is supposed to be laced with self-deprecation. In that respect thereís tremendous self-awareness. One might even say self loathing. If one were inclined to say that.
NT: Iíve noticed that you take a lot of cracks on your family life. Do you think thatís psychologically damaging to them?
MIB: Only because I play it at very loud volumes in the house. I play tracks on the CD at very loud volume in the house and I have my kids listen to that and I say, ďdo you hear that?Ē ďDo you hear that?Ē ďDo you hear what youíre doing to daddy?Ē
NT: Whatís it like touring with Michael Showalter?
MIB: Itís great because heís one of my best friends. But itís horrible because heís an eccentric freak.
NT: Can you say more about that?
MIB: Itís a lot of stopping every 25 to 30 minutes for whatever his particular needs are at that moment. Be they Starbucks. Be they cigarettes. Be they, taking a dump. Be they, whatever they may be. Maybe he left his cell phone at the place where he took the dump, kinda thing.
NT: It sounds awful.
MIB: Iím used to it. It is awful. But itís my awful. Itís an awful Iíve chosen for myself.
NT: Is there any competition between the two of you?
MIB: Not at all. I think any competition that there may have been in the past, itís now clear that I won.
NT: And heís aware of this?
MIB: Oh yeah.
NT: Do you guys stay together, like in the same hotel room?
MIB: Um, what you think, if you had to guess?
NT: Iím not qualified to guess at that.
MIB: Weíre men in our 30s who arenít dirt poor. So yes, we do.
NT: Have there been any special moments between the two of you?
MIB: Like what do you mean by special moments?
NT: I guess Iím wondering what you would think of as a special moment, so I donít necessarily want to define it.
MIB: I told him his haircut was nice.
NT: Did you mean it?
MIB: I did. He got a nice haircut. He needs that kind of stroking, though. You need to tell him his haircut looks nice.
NT: Have you ever been down to South Florida?
MIB: My mom lives in Plantation.
NT: Youíre going to see her when youíre down here, I take it?
MIB: Not if I can help it. Yes, I will.
NT: Are you aware that there are a lot of Jewish people and how are you going to handle that?
MIB: In South Florida, there are Jewish people? I had no idea.
NT: How did you choose the last name ďIan Black?Ē
MIB: Well my middle name is Ian. Were it my last name, it would be hyphenated. It would be Ian-hyphen-Black. My last name is Black. It used to be Schwartz.
NT: Right. Which you changed because you were ashamed of being Jewish.
MIB: Exactly right.
NT: So you co-wrote a movie with Simon Pegg, Run Fat boy Run, and itís premiering in the U.S. October 26.
MIB: Nah, they moved it to March.
NT: Oh. Thatís what you get for trusting Wikipedia. Well, can you tell our readers a little bit about the movie and the writing of it?
MIB: Fat guy runs a marathon. Hilarity ensues.
NT: Do you have any writing rituals? Where and when do you do your best writing?
MIB: No. No. I really donít. Writing is so hard that I just try to just write whenever Iím able to, which isnít often. Itís hard to just sit down and write. So, when that happens, thatís fantastic. But it doesnít happen enough.
NT: So you have to wait for it to happen to you?
MIB: No, you sort of have to force it.
NT: Are you a procrastinator?
MB: Iím not really a procrastinator, but writing is hard. Itís something that doesnít come naturally to many people, myself included, so you really just have to struggle with it.
NT: Do you think youíre more of a natural actor or comedian?
MIB: I donít know what I am. Iím just sort of a dude. Just sort of a really cool dude.
NT: Was it hard to work with someone with a last name like Schwimmer? (Run Fat Boy Run was directed by David Schwimmer).
MIB: Well I didnít really work with him. He just went off and directed; I stopped by and said ďhi.Ē That was the extent of our working together.
NT: Did you feel he bastardized your screenplay at all?
MIB: No, he actually did a great job with it.
NT: What kind of responses are you expecting from audiences in the U.S.?
MIB: Laughter. Applause. Cash money.
NT: Okay, letís talk about the best sketch comedy show of all time Ė The State. What was it like to be part of the state?
MIB: It was pretty good. Howís that?
MIB: We were all friends. The State and our friendships evolved simultaneously. It was fantastic. We were all terrific friends. We went to college together and then we found ourselves with our own television show and there was a lot of terrificness about that. It was also very difficult because in a professional environment, itís hard to know where to prioritize your friendship versus your job and sometimes that conflicted.
NT: Did you wind up having fall outs with anybody?
MIB: Not at all. Weíre all still great friends. In a weird way, the fact that The State just sort of imploded because of low ratings on CBS was good in terms of our friendship. We never got to the point where we hated each other. We just ended up just hating our entire careers.
NT: Will there ever be a revival?
MIB: Yeah. In fact, weíre doing one.
NT: What?! Like everyoneís getting back together and doing more skits?
MIB: Yeah. Weíre getting back together and doing a movie for Comedy Central.
NT: Oh my God. Thatís the most exciting thing Iíve heard all month.
MIB: I know Iím freaking out about it.
NT: Will it just be a bunch of skits?
MIB: I donít know. We havenít written it yet. Weíre going to start writing it this Saturday.
NT: That is such good news. I havenít seen that announced anywhere. I am I going to be the first?
MIB: Iíve talked to a few people about it, so you do not have an exclusive. Youíre among the first that Iíve told.
NT: The DVD is coming out, soon, according to David Wain.
MIB: Yeah, heís wrong. Itís supposed to come out soon. Like next month. But theyíre going to hold it now until we do the movie. Theyíll release everything together.
NT: I guess thatís a good strategic plan. Is everybody in the movie? All 11?
MIB: Itís everybodyÖYouíre having a little cum over this.
NT: I am. You have no idea. Is it going to be all new stuff? Or references to older skits?
MIB: I know we wonít do any old skits. Whether or not we refer to anything, I donít know.
NT: Do you have a favorite skit?
MIB: Thereís a lot of them Iím partial to. I like Taco Man, of the ones I was involved in. Porcupine Race Track. I like the one, Iím not in it, itís called Cutlery Barn.
NT: Spaghetti fried bumblebees?
MIB: Thatís the one.
NT: I like that one, too. Itís a really bizarre one. Do you have a favorite other cast member?
MIB: Yeah, I like Kevin. Kevin Allison. Heís so totally gayed up.
NT: I havenít seen much of him lately.
MIB: He kinda dropped out of show biz for a while. He was writing and he was, mostly writing. Now heís sort of getting back into it.
NT: Do you have a least favorite cast member?
MIB: Iím not partial to Ken Marino. I just donít like his sensibility, as a person.
NT: So heís kind of a dickhead?
MIB: Kind of a dickhead. Thatís not really true by the way.
NT: Do you have any favorite comedians outside the group?
MIB: I like that fat kid on Two and a Half Men. Heís good.
NT: I havenít seen that.
MIB: I havenít either.
NT: What do you think about the comedy scene right now?
MIB: Overall Iíd say the comedy scene very good right now. Thereís a lot of talented people doing a lot of good work in all different mediums. Itís a great time to be a comedian. People are supporting comedy. Theyíre coming to see it. They enjoy it.
NT: Do you prefer stand up or sketch comedy or what?
MIB: Well I like all of it, but standup is fun because itís immediate. Youíre out there on a stage. You do a stage for an hour or so and then youíre done for the day. When you donít have a good work ethic, thatís a very good job.
NT: Now comes the personal part of the interview.
MIB: Are you going to hit on me?
NT: Probably. Whatís something about you that nobody knows?
MIB: If I told you than people would know. Youíve really put me in a quandary here.
NT: Okay. And Iím not letting you out.
MIB: Okay. Dollar for dollar, my favorite restaurant is Taco Bell. I get the number 3. Three taco supremes and a soft drink. Sometimes I will get a fourth taco.
NT: Whatís so good about it?
MIB: Itís, um, overall deliciousness, I would say.
NT: What are your secret dreams?
MIB: Secret dreams. Iíd like to be an ice cream entrepreneur. Iíd like to invent new ice creams.
NT: Do you have any ideas?
MIB: Um. Yeah. Like a green tea with uh, with fortune cookies and chocolate chips mixed in.
NT: That sounds delicious.
MIB: Yeah, thanks.
NT: What were you like as a young man?
MIB: How young?
NT: Five to ten.
MIB: Five to ten. Five to ten? I donít remember.
NT: What about in high school? Were you cool or were you a loser?
MIB: Was I cool? No. I was sort of, you know, middle of the pack. Thinks heís misunderstood but really isnít, kind of teenager. I think they all understood perfectly well.
NT: Did you think you were funny back then?
MIB: I thought I was funny. I donít know that other people agreed.
NT: Were you shy?
MIB: I wasnít shy, but I definitely was not outgoing.
NT: If you could kill one person, who would it be?
MIB: Kill? (Long pause). I canít think of anybody I would want to kill. Thatís a horrible thing to say.
NT: If you could be a musical instrument, what would you be?
MIB: Iíd be tympani.
MIB: I just think tympani are cool. Is the singular of tympani tympano? Or is tympani always tympani?
NT: I just donít know the answer to that.
MIB: You donít know what tympani is do you?
NT: I knowÖIíve heard of it. I know itís part of the orchestra.
MIB: Alright, but thereís a lot of instruments in the orchestra, Ashley.
NT: Whoís doing this interview?
MIB: Fine, but donít flaunt your own ignorance. I meanÖ
NT: Alright, Iím going to bring this to a close before you embarrass me more.
MIB: Youíre embarrassing yourself. I havenít done anything. Youíre a journalist. You know, your job is to know words.
NT: Alright this is getting very cruel. Iíve already told you that youíre my hero and now youíre just breaking me down. Iím gonna go cry.
MIB: No. no. I just, I just. You know, you gotta prepare for the interview. Youíve gotta be prepared for whatever I say. If I say tympani, boom, you gotta know what that is.
NT: Alright, well, itís been really nice talking to you.(Laughter)
NT: Um, hey do you want to play some poker down here?
MIB: It depends, is there good poker in South Florida?
NT: Oh yeah, Seminole Hard Rock. Anna Nicole died there, you know.
MIB: Hereís the problem with the Seminole Hard Rock. They donít have no limitÖitís a ridiculous system. So poker in South Florida, as far as I know, is not very good.
NT: Well, thatís true, but youíre an addict, right? You have to play, regardless.
MIB: Months will go by when I donít play. Iíve got a family and everything. I canít be playing poker.
NT: Do you miss it when youíre not playing?
MIB: Not particularly. When I start playing again, I want to play all the time. When I stop I donít even think about it.
NT: When you play too much does it get boring?
MIB: No, it just gets disgusting. It just gets a little bit nasty. Like youíre up till 3 a.m. like I was last night. That kind of thingÖOn [an Internet] tournament site, I just looked and Iím one of the top 10. Iím actually number one.
NT: Youíre proud of that arenít you?
MIB: Well, I donít even know what it means. I actually donít know what that means. But Iím number one. Iíve never been number one in anything.
NT: Youíve been number one in my book for a long time.
MIB: Thanks AshÖNow how old are you?
NT: Iím 26.
MIB: Youíre young. Youíre young.
NT: Itís true.
MIB: Although, if I get divorced. Typically, a second marriage, the women is 10 to 12 years younger than the man. So that would work out fine for us.
NT: Yeah, thatís kind of what Iím counting on.
MIB: Letís do that. Letís do that at some point.
NT: Definitely. So Iím coming to your show. Iíll come say hello. Get some rest, and Iíll see you in a few weeks.
MIB; Alright, Ashley.
NT: Take care.