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Black’s book

Ubiquitous comic Michael Ian Black casts himself as an even more post-modern Steve Martin in new book of comedic essays.

The 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 cast-myself-as-the-jerk mold.

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 this book.

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.





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