Ubiquitous comic Michael Ian Black casts himself as an even more
post-modern Steve Martin in new book of comedic essays.
brief comic essays in ubiquitous TV personality and former member of The
State and Stella (see review) Michael
Ian Black’s new book “My Custom Van: And 50 Other Mind-Blowing Essays that Will Blow Your Mind All Over Your Face” are very much in the Steve Martin
Black is able to put his personality on the page, so much so that you
can almost hear and see him from reading many of the pieces. Even
without such a picture in your head, you will be either laughing out
loud or stifling inappropriate laughter in public places when reading
Many of Black’s pieces are cinematic in their humor and easily could be
the basis for filmed sketches, as in “Chapter 19 of My Science Fiction
Epic…,” a parody of both science fiction and product placement; and
“Icky,” a tale of an eccentric millionaire’s favorite free things to do
(they include groping co-eds at the free library).
Black sets the tone right off the bat in the foreword, playing the role
of Abraham Lincoln as if a jerky version of the man would kick off
Black’s book, making remarks like, “after I had my way with Mary Todd,”
and “I knew his merrymaking would cheer my cabinet and officer as much
as it had cheered me. A good Union man, even a Jewy one, would surely do
his part for the American cause.”
Transubstantiation continues as Black also plays the part of Billy Joel
as forever sentenced to playing “Piano Man” at holiday parties. But most
of the pieces are in the heads of characters who are wild, crazy or
otherwise deranged yet still think they are better than everyone else
around -- the clueless college applicant who strings together newly
acquired basic facts that seem lifted right out of Wikipedia for their
application essay; the party host going ballistic about guests farting
in his pool even after serving them tacos; and of course the titular
custom van owner.
A few other diversions in Black’s book include “A Series of Letters to
the First Girl I Ever Fingered,” which really requires no further
elaboration -- why might one write to her in the first place? -- and
little pseudo-erotic vignettes that take unexpected dark turns.
It’s difficult to define exactly why a show, movie or book might have
the quality of being as funny or funnier with successive viewing, but
whatever the reason is, “My Custom Van,” possibly for any or all of the
above traits, is exactly that.
The theatrical production of Michael Ian Black’s “My Custom Van” will
run numerous dates in April at the Drilling Company Theatre, 236 W. 78th
St., New York City: April
3, 5, 8, 9, 10, 12, 15, 16, 17, 19, 22, 23, 24, 2010.