Carving out a comedy career with Michael Ian Black
While many people recognize Michael Ian Black from his breakout role as Phil Stubbs on the cult classic “Ed,” or his work on MTV’s “The State,” the gifted comedian has been a regular on TV for almost 20 years.
He’s also considered something of a wordsmith by friends, having penned 11 books, including his latest best seller, “A Child’s First Book of Trump.”
On May 26, the comedian will be performing at the Fairfield Theatre Company and Keith Loria caught up with him prior to the show.
Keith Loria: What’s a stand-up routine from Michael Ian Black like in 2018?
Michael Ian Black: I’ll mostly be telling funny jokes, but I also tell stories about my life and the larger world, and I hope that it’s a little bit thoughtful as well. I don’t really concern myself too much with what I can and can’t talk about; rather, it’s do I feel I have something new to say about any particular topic. If I do, am I saying it in a way that’s unique to me.
KL: How did you first get interested in doing stand-up?
MIB: I wasn’t focused on comedy necessarily until I got into college and helped found the comedy troupe The State, and we ended up with our own show on MTV, and from that point on I was locked into pursuing comedy. It’s not because I felt like it’s the only contribution I could make, but because that’s what I was known for and it’s what people expect from me.
KL: A lot of people know you from playing the kooky Phil Stubbs on “Ed.” What was that experience like?
MIB: For those of us who were involved in “Ed,” what set it apart was there were a lot of good friendships born out of that experience, not only between cast, but cast and crew. It was a family show and had a real family vibe off-screen as well. Let’s face it, it’s fun to go to work in a bowling alley.
KL: There was such a magic to that show. Although it wasn’t a ratings juggernaut, it had a rabid fan base. What was the secret?
MIB: So much of comedy is about timing, and to have that comedic rhythm, you need a shared language, and you develop that shorthand and understanding with people you work with. We had that on the show. And also, we just liked each other and it’s a great thing. I think funny people are just attracted to other funny people.
KL: In addition to “Ed,” you’ve done a lot of TV, with regular gigs on “The Jim Gaffigan Show,” Netflix’s “Wet Hot American Summer” and Comedy Central’s “Another Period.” Is this something you still want to pursue?
MIB: My dream role is to play a computer hacker on a cop show where I just get to sit at a desk and pretends to type all day, but that’s not what people are hiring me for.
KL: What else is in store for you in 2018?
MIB: I just finished shooting a series called “Insatiable,” which is slated to air on Netflix this summer, and I’ll be shooting a pilot for a new game show and continuing to tour.
KL: If any of these pan out, will we see less of you on the stand-up circuit?
MIB: Stand-up is important to me, but I’m not always doing it because of the time commitment — I have kids at home. But I do get burnt out on it. It requires a lot from me. If I don’t feel like I can give it everything, I take a break, but I always miss it when I do. I’m basically just waiting until I get that computer hacking job.