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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Michael Ian Black cracks up Brandeis

Published: April 16, 2010
Section: Arts, Etc.

comedian at work: Michael Ian Black critiqued commercial corporations, horrible Halloween costumes and The Hoot during his standup at the kickoff of Bronstein week.
PHOTO BY Andrew Rauner/The Hoot

Comedian Michael Ian Black’s smart and hysterical standup made an enthusiastic crowd of Brandeis students laugh so hard that they were able to forget about impending finals.

Marking the beginning of Student Events’ Bronstein Week, Black’s performance started off things on the right foot. Known for his sarcastic, deadpan humor on VH1’s “I love the …” series and for his short-lived cult shows “The State” and “Stella,” Black did not disappoint the high expectations that preceded the event.

Black quickly won over the audience, which he called the “chosen people” with dry commentary on the beauty (or rather lack thereof) of Waltham. He also critiqued Hoot sex columnist Sophie Reise to amusing effect. His style was cool and confident and the audience responded with uproarious laughter.

Before the show, in an interview with The Hoot Black admitted that this confidence was hard-won over time.

“I was scared to do standup for a long time,” he said. “[It was] something I always wanted to do and eventually I had to work up the courage to do it. It was definitely a challenge, but now I’m blasé.”

Black’s career began while he was attending New York University and founded the comedy group “The State.” Black said he never thought of pursuing comedy as a vocation.

“I didn’t choose it, I fell into it. When I was in college and started doing State … It had probably more to do with friendships than anything else,” he said. “I didn’t anticipate doing comedy for a living and I’m still surprised that that’s what I do even though I’m hilarious.”

Black’s performance certainly was hilarious. He tore apart several companies’ advertising campaigns, revealing them as ridiculous or inappropriate. For instance, McDonald’s ethnic outreach program describes different minorities as “My inspirasian” and “Black 365.” If a customer clicks on the African American tab s/he is directed to a picture of an African savannah with a silhouetted baobab tree that has a poem inscribed on it. The poem ends with “like the baobab, McDonald’s and I will not be moved.” Black was scathing.

“Can you picture an ancient tribesman carving this poem into a baobab tree and dreaming of filet-o-fish?” he said.

In the interview Black described how he comes up with his material, “You draw from personal experiences but in my case it’s total bullshit. It doesn’t have much to do with me.”

However, one of his most hysterical and longest pieces seemed, at least, to come from a real-life experience. Black spoke about how every Halloween his children disappointed him with unoriginal costumes. One year, when his son went as a pirate and his daughter as a princess, a child dressed up as a cat’s tail appeared at his door.

“I hugged that kid, and no, I didn’t give him candy. I wrote him a $50 check,” he said.

What was surprising was the amount of physical comedy Black injected into his standup. His facial expressions and his outrageous actions complemented his smart jokes and made a scatological story even more gross and funny.

Prior to the show Black said, “I think most people’s comedic sensibility is frozen when they’re about 12, it doesn’t progress much past that.”

Black ended his routine as strongly as he began it. He read a poem with golden lines like “ball team wins/dolphins swims/separate freaky conjoined twin/I am not afraid to show emotions.” If the opportunity arises again, Black will be more than welcome back at Brandeis.

Black did not offer advice for aspiring comedians, describing the field as “one of those professions that there is nothing someone can tell you. You just have to find your way and do it.”