HAPPY PILLS — Michael Ian Black with Meghan McCain at WORD
1. There was goldfish instead of booze. I did my best to control myself. 2. Faithful MIB fans gettin’ rowdy.
Michael Ian Black hates his wife. Kidding! Sort of. Last night Greenpoint’s WORD hosted the launch party for Black’s new book, You’re Not Doing it Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death and Other Humiliations. The book sees Black taking an honest look at his marriage, sex, mortality, and memories of adolescence where his punk rock style cues came from “Duckie in Pretty in Pink.” Black invited Meghan McCain to join him on stage for a conversation that was promised to him to be full of “awkward questions.” The event was one of the funniest and most vulgar book-related events I’ve been to, and I’m glad Mr. Black was as honest on stage as he is in the book, admitting things like that he is scared of “large tits.”
In addition to being a performer, Black is also an established author. Besides his TV and film work, he’s an essayist, children’s author, and McSweeney’s contributor. Black also co-hosts Mike and Tom Eat Snacks, a podcast he produces with his Ed co-star Tom Cavanagh, where they eat snacks and discuss the finer points of America’s favorite candies and snacks. When I checked WORD’s calendar for details on the event, I gasped at the sight of McCain’s name on the bill, mainly because I’ve never seen McCain’s name associated with any comedic or literary circle. But after Black informed us that the two were co-writing a book titled America, You Sexy Bitch: A Love Letter to Freedom, in which they toured the country to research, it made sense. As a comedian, Black has flirted with mainstream comedy peripherally, and McCain is most famous for sexing up the Republican Party with this and unabashedly defying her father in public. Black and McCain make sense in that they don’t make sense to popular receptions of both comedy and conservatism.
1. Meghan McCain’s introduction to Michael Ian Black was this video (SFW), to which he asked Meghan: “Is this porn?” 2. Black’s friend baked him this cake. He thinks he’s soooo coool.
Because of Black and McCain’s collective popularity, last night’s event required the purchase of the book which a) guaranteed you a seat and b) inclusion in an exclusive signing before the public’s, which opened up around 8:15 PM. Every seat was filled, with only myself, another blogger and three comedians standing in the back. Black was announced, and then thanked us for coming and paused to address the back of the room. For a moment, I thought he was going to sling mud at the two of us with notepads and pens. I was relieved when he started making fun of my hair. “I want to say it looks good on you…but I just can’t. I know there’s so much more that you could be doing with your time.”
Black’s actual reading was short and picked by the audience, based on which chapter titles sounded the best. Our options included but were not limited to: “Meredith Wants to Give You a Blowjob,” “Fuck You, Alan Alda,” “Pills and Booze,” “I Hate my Baby,” and “I Am a Demographic.” “Pills and Booze” had the loudest cheer, and is mainly about “How much [Black] hates everybody, mostly just [his] wife and kids.” Black’s writing is much like his comedy: lighthearted but deadpan, with punchlines that exaggerate our experiential reality but unmask the core of Black’s lampoon. For example: “Most of the time I’m happy, because I’m on pills.” And from the next chapter, “I Am a Demographic,” where he recounts the two cliques at his high school in New Jersey. “My school had two cliques. Burnouts and Fags.” Black was a “Fag” solely based on that he didn’t know how to change a tire, didn’t take Shop, and listened to bands like the Dead Kennedys and Circle Jerks. “All I know is that it involves something called a lugnut, which I’ve only remembered because it is really fun to say. Lugnut.”
1. Elizabeth Mann, a project manager and blogger, with Nikki Hislop and Paul Pakler, both actors. 2. Brooke Baldeschwiler, a Rare Books Librarian at Columbia and bookstore basement enthusiast, with Dan Redding, a designer and podcaster.
Meghan McCain, who, “to all our shame, is a Republican,” was invited to the stage to converse, or in some instances interrogate, Mr. Black on the genesis of his book. “Are you worried about confessing too much? I mean you talk about thinking about getting a divorce.” “Well, you know,” Black said, “it’s all in good fun.”
This was truer than expected: Black admitted he thought an honest appraisal of his experience in domesticity would be more interesting than his work in comedy. And despite all of the woes of married life, and McCain’s accusation of Black “constantly talking shit on [his] wife on Twitter,” he ultimately considers the book to be a love letter to his wife, Martha, who has been “unbelievably cool” with it. The only thing she wanted changed was over who ate a banana-nutella crepe in Amsterdam. It was, in fact, Black who ate the banana-nutella crepe and not his wife, because “that’s what children eat.” Apparently, Black also turned into a panda after getting stoned.
The whole evening was Black in his comedic element, momentarily stepping out to say he does love married life, kissing his children good night, and suburban Connecticut. Comedy writing, especially stand-up, seems as frightening as writing fiction in either short or long forms. Both comedy and literature are trying to break reality’s skin and explore the veins of it, always trying to show us what people are really thinking but keep wrapped up in order to maintain “polite” and “civil” society. There is no doubt that marriage and raising children is hard and frustrating, and capable of driving two people away from each other, but they are also “the most rewarding,” Black said, because “for the first time in my life there are people I think about before me.”
You’re Not Doing it Right is available for purchase at WORD and other bookstores. Look for America, You Sexy Bitch in July. To end, here is my favorite Black-McCain exchange of the evening:
McCain: You’re always saying you’d be an amazing political strategist.
Black: Fuck you, McCain! Who came to you with an idea about a book about politics? Me. To you. On Ambien. On Twitter.