Some actors have a recognizable name or face, but when the general public is asked to identify them in a significant role in a movie or TV show, they can’t do it. Michael Ian Black has carved his way through show business for the better part of the last two decades in such a manner and will appear tonight at the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase.
Michael Ian Black
Tonight at 8 p.m.
Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase
Exploring a number of roles in a range of media, Black has been a regular on VH1’s “I Love the … ” series and “Best Week Ever” as a pop culture pundit, a frequent spokesperson for advertising campaigns and a dominating force in the Celebrity Poker world. Despite the variety of hats he’s worn in the past, Black has a healthy dose of self-deprecation when talking about his fame — or lack thereof.
“One of the nice things about being my level of celebrity is that it’s hardly celebrity at all,” he said in an interview with The Michigan Daily. “If there’s a way to have a lower-case ‘c,’ and then make a lower-case ‘c’ after that … that would describe my level of celebrity.”
Black’s latest endeavor is in the world of stand-up comedy. Contrasting the trend of most of his industry peers, Black is embarking on solo performances in front of a live audience in the later part of his career, rather than at the beginning.
“I didn’t want to go the traditional stand-up comedy route, which involved a lot of staying awake until two in the morning, waiting to do an open-mic night in front of 15 drunk assholes,” he said.
“So I thought to myself, ‘Let me try to get famous before I start doing stand-up comedy, and that way it will provide an audience for people to come and see me without actually having to work for it.’
“I didn’t want to pay my dues, basically,” he added.
Though his snarky answer might sound like slacking, most comedians do have a long road to the top, and even some established actors can’t book a cross-country, headlining comedy tour. Black managed to achieve this by first joining a comedy troupe called The State, which would later be given its own MTV show. With sketch comedy standing opposite to stand-up comedy on the progression of his career, Black doesn’t necessarily favor one over the other — with the exception of one seemingly minor detail.
“One thing that’s nice about stand-up comedy is that it requires far fewer costume changes,” he said. “I’d rather just get dressed once during the day, and have that be it — until it’s time to put on my pajamas. So, two times. I’m willing to get dressed two times during the day.”
In addition to stand-up, Black has been busy writing, releasing a total of four children’s books and two collections of humorous essays in the last four years — including the upcoming release of “You’re Not Doing It Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations.”
But his motivation for this undertaking differs from that of most authors.
“About eight years ago, I bought a house,” he explained. “The house had some built-in bookcases, and what am I going to do with those bookcases? There’s only so many statues of Buddha I can put on those bookshelves.”
His own kids inspired his unconventional decision to expand into the children’s genre, but not in the manner one might think.
“I have a couple kids myself, so when you have kids, you think to yourself, ‘What’s a good way to exploit these children monetarily?’ ” he said. “Writing children’s books seemed like the most natural way to do that.”
Celebrity or not, Michael Ian Black has and will continue to make a unique impression on Hollywood. His observational humor — visible on paper, the big screen and the small screen — will be on display in person tonight.