If you saw Michael Ian Black
walking down the street or shopping in the store, you'd recognize his face from "Stella," "The State," "I Love The Series," or all those Sierra Mist ads he's done. But take away his face and what have you got? Ideas.
And it's those ideas that have made him a favorite of comedy stages and television sets nationwide. In this Starpulse Q and A, Black discusses his ideas and where they're taking him next, including some new territory in children's literature.
You've got the movie "Run, Fat Boy, Run," which you made with Simon Pegg, David Schwimmer, and Dylan Moran. How did this partnership come to be?
Well, it was less a partnership and more I wrote the script and they made the movie. It was kind of two separate entities.
Did they inject British sensibilities into this project?
Simon did. It was written to be an American film. Simon sort of Anglicized it, to make it more British, so he did a rewrite of it, which made it more British.
How do you feel about the British sensibility compared to the American sensibility?
Well, it sounds nicer. It certainly sounds a lot smarter. The word tube is funnier than the word subway, no question.
Did you guys work on it in the same location?
I was in America and Simon was in England. He wrote his thing in England, and we didn't communicate. He put in some British-isms, but not a lot. The script is pretty similar to what I wrote.
The movie's about a guy training for and then running a marathon in order to win back his love. Do you have any experience with running marathons?
No, oh hell, no.
How health conscious are you?
I would say I'm very conscious of health, but being conscious of something and actively doing something to improve it are two very different things.
Are you taking any steps to keep healthy?
I definitely think a lot about eating right and exercising. I think about that all the time.
What stops you from taking it from a thought to an action?
Laziness and an addiction to salt.
There's a lot of talk of a fattening going on in America. Is this something you've noticed in your travels?
I think it's a slower process than I've been able to observe. I think it takes place over probably years.
Have you, over the years, noticed this gradual shift?
In myself I have. As I get older I'm starting to gain weight. If you saw me on the stage I probably weighed a hundred and thirty-five/forty pounds. I'm up to 320 now.
You're also delving into children's literature. What inspired this move?
Kids; my kids specifically.
Are the stories that are going to be published, are these stories that you've told your children in the past?
Well, one of them is not really a story. It's just a long list of animal butts; they're pictures. The other, "The Purple Kangeroo," one is kind of a story and kind of a joke at the same time. Neither of them are really stories in the traditional sense.
Is there anything you can reveal about your book "The Purple Kangeroo?"
No, I mean, the book itself requires reading; were I to reveal the secret of "The Purple Kangaroo," you wouldn't need to buy the book. It's a lot like The Sixth Sense
How do you feel about celebrities delving into children's literature?
Well, I guess I should be fine with it. But when I was writing them, I wasn't thinking of myself as a celebrity writing a children's book; I was just writing children's books. It didn't occur to me that anybody in the publishing world would think, "Oh! That's a celebrity." I just assumed they would know who I was.
Did you check out the genre of children's literature?
No, I don't read. And I don't read to my kids.
So, this was kind of an entirely foreign arena to you.
Yeah, well I've seen pictures before, so I was like, I'll just write some words and somebody will make the pictures and that will be that and I'll get paid. You know?
How does not being a reader affect your writing?
It makes it much, much harder to the point where I just hired some guy to write a couple of books for me.
What are these books that you hired someone to write?
There the children's books that I quote/unquote "wrote."
Oh, OK. Where did you find this writer?
I just put an ad in the Penny Saver.
What sort of response did you get to that outside of the legitimate guy?
It was mostly like nannies, like Mexican ladies who thought I was asking for childcare.
This other book, "Michael Ian Black is a Celebrity." Did you write that?
It's in the process of being written.
Oh, no. No. No. No. No. I don't know; some guy.
This other project you've got; this "Michael Ian Black Doesn't Understand." What should people expect of that?
Not much. Comedy Central decided not to pick it up.
Oh, was the pilot filmed?
Oh, yeah. We shot the pilot.
And what is it that America and the world is missing out on?
I guess specifically that show.
Are you not at liberty to reveal the details?
There's nothing to reveal. It's dead. I don't live in the past, man. What's dead is dead. For example, not once in this conversation, and to this point, had we mention Calvin Coolidge. Why? He's dead.
In addition to the stand up, writing, and movies, you're keeping busy with "I Love The Series." Has it given you any insight into the human psyche?
No, not at all.
What has it provided?
Income. It's provided income.
With all these projects you've got going on, how is it that you find the time to relax and spend time with your family?
You'd be surprised how little I work.
How would you rate Michael Ian Black, the father?
Absent. Absentee father.
So, if America came to you for parenting advice, what would you have to offer?
I'd say this: If you've got babies, don't shake the baby too hard.
How do you know how hard to shake the baby?
Trial and error.
Is that the sort of approach you apply to other endeavors in your life?
I guess so, yeah. You want to shake it, not break it.
Are you ever tempted to bring your children on the road with you?
No. They wouldn't enjoy it. No kid wants to watch daddy fucking groupies. You know what I mean?
What would you do if your children decided to become entertainers?
I guess I would discourage it.
Why is that?
It's very, very difficult.
You don't think your children are up to that challenge?
They're not that smart.
Where do you foresee your children in the future?
Hopefully in a tree house with an elevator and a popcorn machine.
So you will be providing for them financially then, for a while?
No. No, I'm saying that's probably where they'll live.
So, in the future, if your children came to you asking for money, what sort of stance are you going to take?
Probably just a traditional upright stance.
What sort of expectations do you have for the future?
Just that it's there. I feel pretty confident that it's going to be there.
Interview by Ben Kharakh
Starpulse.com contributing writer
Photo Credit: Jeff Neira courtesy Comedy Central