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The Fame Monster

Not-so-well-known State and Stella alumnus Michael Ian Black crafts conceptual stand-up on "Very Famous"

 

By Michael Shashoua / Jester editor-in-chief

 

Michael Ian Black continues his high-concept stand-up persona on a new CD released August 9, entitled “Very Famous.” His Steve Martin influences (see book review, 7/12/08) are still in evidence, as he comments on audiences’ own perceptions of him as a jerk of a different sort in pieces on the album like “Strangers Don’t Find Me Funny.”

 

In this one, Black notes, self-deprecatingly, that he’s the star of shows such as “Comedy Central Presents: Cancelled” and “Two and a Half Episodes.” He builds on this with a tour-de-force of a story of a reaction to a nonsensical comment made by a stranger while they’re waiting at an airport gate for a flight. This leads up to a peak on the album, “Banana Noises,” where Black plays up his jerky persona in a tale of one might do to mess with fellow passengers on a flight.

 

Many other pieces on the album also work along these same lines. “Skydiving” paints a picture of how Black doesn’t want to be perceived as “wimpy,” and wants to make the best possible impression, but of course still messes up in embarrassing fashion. “No-Kill Animal Shelter” adds a nuance of giving his jerky persona an edge of malevolence, while in the piece “Blood In My Stool,” Black lets the joke be on him.

 

As Black acknowledges early on the album, recorded in one live performance in Philadelphia, his persona isn’t for everyone, but for old fans of his going back to the 1990s sketch group “The State,” this CD is a right-on development of his persona as previously seen and heard in the book “My Custom Van” and his 2007 album “I Am A Wonderful Man.” It took four years to get this latest CD, and it will be interesting to see if Black builds on this sooner or turns to more TV projects (see review of “Stella,” 9/18/06).

 

 

 

   

     

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