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
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).