Most widely recognized as the snarky talking head from VH1's "I Love the 70s/80s/90s" series and member of the Stella trio, Michael Ian Black's witticism is getting closer to conquering every medium.
The self-proclaimed "very famous" Black already has a comedy album out, has a new book of humor essays climbing the NY Times Best Seller list, hosts a new show on Comedy Central, and has an additional one in the works alongside another well-known Michael. He recently took some time to tell me about his very public feud with Tucker Max, how to score with smart girls, and his new book "My Custom Van And 50 Other Mind-Blowing Essays That Will Blow Your Mind All Over Your Face."
What is the best thing about your career right now?
Probably the best thing is that I've gotten to a point in my career where people are seeking me out to do interesting and dynamic work. On the other hand, I was offered an opportunity to be on "Circus with the Stars," which doesn't exactly fall into that category. It's great to be in a place where I am known enough that I don't have to always jump through hoops to get things done. Usually, but not always.
You've been in show business for a while now. Why have you just now decided to write a book?
I've always wanted to write a book. So much of my job is writing anyway, and so writing a book is just a natural extension of what I already do. The question in my mind was always: what kind of book am I going to write? I answered that question by simply writing the awesome kind of book.
Did you write all of the short essays specifically for this book or are you simply recycling pieces from throughout your career?
Most of the essays were specifically written for the book, although a couple were originally published on McSweeney's, which is a fantastic literary site that publishes stuff every day. They were the first ones to give me a break in the world of prose. Which was cool. Also, cute literary geek chicks read that site which is an excellent way to get to second base with them.
I actually read your Billy Joel piece a long time ago on McSweeney's and remember wishing there was a book filled with similar material available. How did you come up with ideas for all of the essays? Do you sit down and force something out or do these absurd titles just fall into your lap?
Both. Sometimes the title starts the idea and sometimes it's the other way around. It's a weird question to answer because I don't know where ideas come from. When I write something like "Why I Used a Day-Glo Magic Marker to Color My Dick Yellow," I assume the inspiration comes directly from God.
What is the premise for your new show, "Reality Bites Back"?
Basically each episode we parody a different reality show. So one week we might make fun of "Big Brother." The next might be "Rock of Love." What makes it more than a parody show is that there are ten comedians who are actually competing to win fifty thousand dollars. So it's both a parody of reality shows and a real reality show. I know, it's fucking confusing. Anyway, I host the thing and if the critics are to be believed, I'm excellent.
What would you say is the best and worst thing about releasing your first standup comedy album in your mid 30s?
It was great. Nothing bad about it at all. I started doing stand-up later in my career because, although it's something I always wanted to try, but I didn't have the time to make a go of it. A couple years ago, I had some time off and decided to devote myself to creating an hour of stand-up. So that's what I did. I toured the country with my friend Michael Showalter doing stand-up and at the end of that period of time I made a comedy album to document the work. I'm proud of the album, and hope to make another.
What is it about Tucker Max that makes you want to smash his face in, besides all of the free publicity that the whole ordeal is giving your new book?
I have nothing personal against Tucker Max. It's just that his book is outselling mine and so I decided to challenge him to a fistfight. I had no idea that he would actually accept my challenge, which put me into a little bit of a pickle because apparently once you challenge somebody to a fight and they accept, you're supposed to go and fight that person. I didn't know that and it's put me in an awkward position because there's no doubt in either his mind or mine what the outcome of that fight would be: he will kick my ass. Because I don't want to get my ass kicked, we have yet to fight. But yeah, the publicity was great.
You have written, acted, directed, authored, and stood up. Which is your favorite to do and why?
I like all of it for different reason. The thing is, even though the job titles are different, they essentially are all the same job, which is to create something out of nothing. That's a good job to have.
Would you recommend this strategy of starting feuds with popular writers in order to boost their careers?
It worked for Norman Mailer.
I checked and it is actually illegal to interview a member of The State or Stella without asking about the future of both. Are there any more reunion plans for either group?
Both groups continue to exist in the sense that neither ever officially broke up. There are currently plans to do a State reunion special for Comedy Central sometime soon, and Stella continues to talk about touring sometime later this year, although with everybody's schedule it's hard to get anything organized. Also because we're lazy. And because we all hate each other.
You've done stuff for Sierra Mist and Pets.com in the past. What do you say to people who rag on comedians for appearing in commercials?
I would say those people don't have mortgages.
For the people who aren't impressed with the new TV show, the recently released standup comedy CD, and a best-selling book, do you have any other projects coming out anytime soon?
Isn't it enough that I give and give and give? How much more can I possibly give? But to answer your question, yes. Michael Showalter and myself are currently working on a television pilot entitled "Michael and Michael Have Issues." Hopefully that will be on the air sometime towards the end of this year or beginning of next. If not, you can probably find me working as a barista at a Starbucks near you.
And finally, what's the most inconvenient thing about being "very famous"?
Honestly the only inconvenient thing is when I am trying to get through security at the airport and the screener wants to talk about some random thing I said on VH1. At that point, I would prefer that nobody knows who I am.