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Capone With Michael Ian Black About RUN FATBOY RUN, WEDDING DAZE, KIDS IN AMERICA, And Something You Do With Your Hands!!

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here, continuing the lovefest for RUN FATBOY RUN. I think my co-conspirator Quint will agree that the true lovefest regarding this film is for the talent involved in putting it together. And when someone floats names like Simon Pegg or David Schwimmer in front of you, it's hard to resist. Last year, I did a couple of interviews having to do with the release of the comedy THE TEN, which featured every member of the old MTV sketch comedy show "The State" (some more than others, but they are all in that movie somewhere). One of the players on that show was Michael Ian Black, who has probably had the most diverse career of any of his fellow "State" buddies. He's maintained his working relationships with the other troop members in such shows as "Viva Variety" and "Stella," and movies like WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER and THE BAXTER, while keeping up a busy career as an actor (as a cast member on "Ed" and most recently in episodes of "Reaper"). He made a name for himself offering up commentary on pop culture on the last 30 or so years on VH-1's "I Love…" ("I Love the 80s," "I Love the 70s," etc.) series, and even found time to be a pitch man for Sierra Mist. He's also a gifted writer; check out his not-so-regular column in McSweeney's online or his own blog for examples of that. Now the self-proclaimed "very famous" celebrity has a little screenplay he's written called RUN FATBOY RUN, which has the potential to get him a great deal of recognition as a screenwriter on top of everything else. Normally I don't interview screenwriters (mainly because such interviews aren't offered to me), but since I'm keen to interview anyone from "The State," I was excited to talk to Black about the craft of writing and what it means to him to be so damn famous. We had a limited amount of time, so I just decided to have fun with it. Read on…

Capone: This is a busy day for you. Tonight’s the L.A. premiere, right? Michael Ian Black: Tonight is the premier [pronounce prem-er]. C: I was looking at your web site. Have you figured out yet what you’re going to wear? MB: I’m probably just going to go with a tux and swim fins. I mean, that’s what people expect. C: As long as they’re black swim fins, I don’t think anyone’s going to care. MB: Exactly. It’s always a classy move…to wear the tux and black swim fins. C: I saw RUN FATBOY RUN in September, and the question that has dogged me ever since then has to do with punctuation: Is there a comma on either side of FATBOY? And, is Fatboy one word or two, because I’ve seen it both ways, even on your web site. MB: Because I’m conforming to their spelling. But, they don’t put a comma, right? C: No, I haven’t seen it. Your web site is the first…But, there should be, you’re right. There should be. MB: It never occurred to me to not put the comma, but I acceded to their Fatboy spelling, even though I feel it should be two words. But, they’re the marketing geniuses. C: I’m a fan of yours from way back. “The State” was a great show, I watched it when it was new and, just last year, when THE TEN came out, I talked to Ken [Marino], I talked to David [Wain] and Paul Rudd, whom you’ve worked with before, too. And I told those guys, too--I love the way that you guys find each other and try to work together. Why is that so important to all of you? MB: I think primarily because we’re friends first, and it’s fun to work with your friends. We trust each other, we like each other, we make each other laugh, and we share a sensibility, because we essentially grew up together. So, I mean, it’s common, I think, in comedy to just have cliques where people just seek each other out and tend to work with the same people again and again.
C: Does being part of a group of people, even if it’s sort of a condensed version like in “Stella" where there’s just the three of you…Do you like that better? You’ve been doing a lot more stand up lately. Do you prefer the ensemble work? MB: Well, they’re a different dynamic. I love them both. I mean, it’s fantastic to have the freedom when you’re on your own and to prowl the stage by yourself and to just owe nobody nothing in terms of having to deliver a line at a certain time, or hit a mark or whatever, or even in terms of writing, in terms of collaborating. I don’t write my stand up when I don’t feel like it, and nobody’s telling me to. On the other hand, I tour with Michael Showalter. We hang out on the road constantly. But collaborating is also really fun. Creatively, I think most comedy writers get more from collaborating, because it opens your world in a bigger way, and so you end up hitting jokes from more unexpected places than if you were left to your own devices. At least that’s true for me.
C: Speaking of collaborating, to the uninformed, the credits of RUN FATBOY RUN would lead us to believe that you and Simon [Pegg] wrote this together. Is that entirely the case? MB: That is not the case, even a little bit.
C: Right, because I spoke to David Schwimmer in Austin a couple weeks ago, and he made it seem like Simon kind of went through the script and tailored it to his style of comedy. MB: Yeah, that’s exactly right. I mean, he anglicized it, he changed a few things, but no, we didn’t work together on it at all.
C: Is that okay with you, to have somebody kind of go through and change your words? Do you get precious about your writing? MB: Honestly, I thought he improved it. I thought he really changed some things for the better. I can’t think of anything that he changed for the worse. It was a pretty shitty script.
C: [Laughs] Okay, as long as you’re admitting that, then Simon had nowhere to go but up. MB: I really thought he did a really great job transferring it to London, one, and then writing it for his voice, two, and then fixing a few things that probably needed addressing, three.
C: So, obviously, you didn’t write this with him in mind, but once you realized he was in this film, and your name’s there does that kind of turn up the burners a little bit in terms of the pressure and the expectations of his fan base, because, obviously, he has a history with someone else in terms of writing? MB: It does, but that’s not my problem. My job isn’t to satisfy Simon Pegg’s fan base. His job is. can’t speak for him at all in terms of this. I have no idea at all what his expectations were. My job was really just to write the best screenplay that I could and hope that it got executed well. And, I did, and I thought David did.
C: Were you worried about…? MB: If anything, Simon Pegg gives me more street cred.
C: Well, that’s true, yeah, yeah. Were you at all worried about alienating your female audience by having his character walk out on a pregnant wife in the first few minutes…Or, was that his addition? MB: Oh, no, that was always there.
C: Okay. Was that a concern that you’ll piss off all the women now? MB: Nah, nah…because ultimately, he’s a redeeming character, he’s a redemptive character.
C: In terms of inspiration for this particular story, did the national epidemic of obesity inspire you to write this film? MB: I wish I paid enough attention to the news to be inspired by anything that occurs outside of my own little world, but I don’t.
C: So, what happened then? MB: It was me sitting down and thinking I need to write a screenplay, how about: Fat guy runs a marathon"? Okay!
C: It wasn’t that you knocked up some woman when you were younger and left her at the altar, and that was your jumping off point? MB: There’s been more than one of those, but I didn’t draw on my own experience. I didn’t jump out a window. I jumped on a train. Totally different.
C: Getting on to some of the other things that people probably know you from, how did VH-1 discover that you have this sort of gift for commenting on popular culture, because that’s certainly where I kind of rediscovered you after “The State”? MB: Well, I don’t think either of us knew that that was a gift that I had. I certainly didn’t. I think when they first started doing it, they were just basically going through their phone list of every single actor/comedian in the Tri-State area and asking them to come in. And, I had nothing better to do, so I was, like, “Sure.”
C: Did they at least give you bus fare to the studio? MB: No, I don’t think they even paid me back for my parking.
C: Do they at least validate it so you get some kind of… MB: No, there’s no validating in New York.
C: You were a part of…I know you did the 70s one. You started out with the 80s, then did the 70s… MB: The 80s, the 70s, the 90s, the 80s again, the 90s again, and the 70s again.
C: Do you think the 90s were truly necessary? MB: No, none of it’s truly necessary, but what do I care/
C: Along the same lines, how do you think Pepsico discovered you? MB: I think through those, actually. I suspect it was through those.
C: I mentioned before, in addition to the writing you’ve been doing, you’ve also spent a lot of time building up your stand up act. How do you rate yourself as a comedian versus a comic actor? MB: [In an anguished tone] I don’t know. I don’t think I’m particularly good at any of it.
C: Really? MB: Really. I’m just kind of showing up and hoping people disagree.
C: Disagree that you’re no good? MB: I didn’t say NO good; not particularly good.
C: Okay. In addition to that, you’ve had a fair number of successes as a member of the blogosphere… MB: Have I?
C: At least you keep up with it. To me, that’s to toughest part. MB: I try to.
C: Yeah, lately especially, because there’s been a fair amount of activity in your life. For years, people have been trying to get me to read McSweeney’s, and I can’t get into it--I don’t know why--but one of the supporting pieces of evidence that someone forwarded to me was the link to your “Idiot’s Guide to Meeting People More Famous than You,” which is basically my bible when I meet anyone famous. MB: Sure. …You didn’t start by saying “ahoy” to me.
C: No, I didn’t, you’re right. Well, we’re not face-to-face, because the guide was about how to handle meeting a celebrity face-to-face. MB: I guess so, yeah.
C: You’re obviously much more famous now than when you wrote that. Would there be anything you would add to the list from the experience you’ve gained since you wrote that? MB: Hand jobs.
C: Wow! Just like that? MB: Well, yeah. I mean, that’s the answer--hand jobs. I’m not sure giving or getting, but somewhere in there, hand jobs.
C: Well, you have to let someone know what’s expected of them, I guess. Is there anything that sort of bums you out about being a celebrity? MB: Well, what bums me out is that I’m just famous enough so that I know that I’m not at all famous, do you know what I mean? Like there’s guys, you know…most people are, like, well, I’m not famous, I don’t have to think about it. But, I’m just famous enough so that I know I’m not getting any of the perks that famous people get.
C: You can taste it. MB: Oh, it’s within reach. I can see it.
C: You can smell it. MB: Absolutely. But, I’m not experiencing it in any way, shape or form. So, it’s the worst of both worlds.
C: So, what needs to happen to push you over into the fun zone? MB: I don’t know. I’ve been making sex tapes and sort of distributing them online.
C: It’s worked for some people. MB: It has worked for people. Nobody has shown any interest in mine…Keep in mind I’m wearing an Ninja Turtle costume.
C: They’re back in fashion now. I can't believe that hasn't worked for you. MB: That’s what I thought!
C: Well, I'm guessing your sex acts aren't computer generated. MB: Right.
C: Speaking of things that bum you out--and if you don’t want to talk about this, I completely understand--I think it was last year, someone contacted me about interviewing Jason Biggs about a movie that you had written and directed, which at the time was called WEDDING DAZE. I had said “yes,” and then I never heard anything. The next thing I know, it pops up on DVD with another title. MB: Well, no, it went the other way around. WEDDING DAZE is the title that they unfortunately re-titled it.
C: Well, I know the title that you had written it under was THE PLEASURE OF YOUR COMPANY… MB: Right.
C: What happened there? MB: In short, MGM fucked me every which way they could fuck me. My ass is still sore form the fucking they gave me.
C: Give me a couple of examples of how they did that. MB: Well, there’s only one example, which is they bought the film, signed a contract saying ‘We’re going to put it in X number of theaters’ and then decided, ‘Yeah, we’re not going to honor that contract’. They just broke the contract. So, for me, that’s the sort of legal definition of being fucked in the ass.
C: So, I’m guessing this experience with Picturehouse has been sort of ‘night and day’. MB: Oh, Picturehouse has been fantastic. I mean, they delayed the release of the film so that they could put it in more theaters. That’s a good thing, when that happens. And, they’ve been really supportive of it and supportive of David and the project from the very beginning. They’ve been terrific.
C: So, maybe this will be the thing that pushes you into the true celebrity realm. MB: Nah, not a chance, not a chance. If I were in it, maybe, but my name’s just…
C: Why aren’t you in it? MB: Nobody asked! If they had asked, I would have said, “Sure, I’d love to be in it.” I mean, the only part I could have played would have been the best friend, and Dylan Moran does such a good job.
C: Those are my favorite scenes with the two of them. MB: Yeah, it would have been unfortunate had they cast me.
C: So, I’m assuming when you wrote it, you didn’t write it for London. MB: No, I wrote it for New York.
C: Yeah, that’s what I figured--a big city with a marathon. MB: Right, New York.
C: We were talking about the 80s before…Tell me about KIDS IN AMERICA. MB: It’s a film that Topher Grace and his partner, Gordon Kaywin, conceptualized, and it’s kind of like an AMERICAN GRAFFITI for the 80s. That’s how they describe it. And, I play Topher’s love interest's smarmy boss. Smarmy is something I do well.
C: Is Suzanne Somers in it? MB: Not that I’m aware of.
C: Okay, so it’s not that much like AMERICAN GRAFFITI. Is it wall-to-wall music? MB: I don’t know. I haven’t seen it yet. I’m just going off the press release that I read.
C: When is it supposed to be coming out? MB: Sometime this year, I’m sure, but I don’t know when.
C: Is yours a fairly sizable role in that? MB: Nah, I shot for, like, three or four days.
C: Okay, I just was curious, because it has a good cast. MB: It has a good cast, and there’s a chance it’s going to be a good movie, but, like I said, I haven’t seen it, so I really don’t know.
C: Well, Michael enjoy this evening, and don’t trip over your fins. MB: Nah, when you have as much experience walking the red carpet in swim fins as I do, you learn to lift your legs high.


Readers Talkback
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  • March 26, 2008, 10:06 a.m. CST

    More Simon Pegg interviews please!

    by LordPorkington

    Everyone needs to buy Spaced on Region 1 in July... just do it you twats!

  • March 26, 2008, 10:09 a.m. CST

    Run, FATBOY, Run!

    by superduper3000

    Simon Pegg is one of the funniest guys that I've ever seen, and I'll be seeing Fatboy on day one. <BR> <BR> Also, just a comment that while he'd be entertaining (as he was in MI3), he's a terrible choice for Scotty!! Oh well, what are you gonna do? <BR> <BR> Favorite Japanese Import??<BR> <BR>

  • March 26, 2008, 10:42 a.m. CST

    Remember: RUN FATBOY RUN is NOT a remake!

    by CuervoJones

    What a shame!

  • March 26, 2008, 10:47 a.m. CST

    The State was the best thing that happened to MTV

    by Reel American Hero

    Since music videos. Even more so than Beavis and Butthead, though you can find that on dvd at least. Great interview Quint, I was already sold on Run Fatboy Run just on the fact that it had Simon Pegg and Dylan Moran in it, but to find out that it was written by Michael Ian Black, I'm sold. One last thing, Wedding Daze is woefully underrated. Just because it's direct to dvd and has Jason Biggs doesn't mean it sucks. ...Or maybe I just liked it cause the ubercute Isla Fisher is in the movie, I'm not sure which.

  • March 26, 2008, 11:03 a.m. CST

    wet hot american summer...

    by billyhitchcock the best film ever!!!!!! and the ten is pretty awesome too. i would love a black/rudd/rogen movie more than life itself :-)

  • March 26, 2008, 11:14 a.m. CST

    When are Barry and Levon coming to the big screen?

    by Garbageman33

    We had the 240, we had to have the pudding.

  • March 26, 2008, 11:20 a.m. CST

    Awwww Yeaaaahhh

    by Reel American Hero

  • March 26, 2008, 11:42 a.m. CST

    Indeed Billy Hitchcock,

    by norrinrad

    Wet Hot American Summer was one of the funniest things ever to happen.

  • March 26, 2008, 12:15 p.m. CST


    by slone13

    <p>Coming to VH1 in July. Starring Michael Ian Black and the rest of the usual gang of idiots. Set your DVRs. Or don't.</p> <p>Sorry for the shameless pimping.</p>

  • March 26, 2008, 12:30 p.m. CST

    What a smarmy, hipper-than-thou bastard.

    by rev_skarekroe

    I mean he's funny, don't get me wrong, but it looks like he's trying to make "professional amusing dickhead" his job description.

  • March 26, 2008, 12:33 p.m. CST

    The Ten was incredibly painful to watch

    by Garbageman33

    Especially for someone who used to love the State. "I'm Doug, Solamente Doug".

  • March 26, 2008, 12:40 p.m. CST

    Are you serious?

    by Reel American Hero

    At least the decade was (barely) over when they did the I Love The '90s. It's pointless being nostalgic over things that weren't that long ago. Although, the very start of the decade was Bush free, which I can be nostalgic about.

  • March 26, 2008, 12:46 p.m. CST

    Reel American Hero,

    by slone13

  • March 26, 2008, 12:50 p.m. CST

    Reel American Hero, I'm definitely serious

    by slone13

    If they can do Best Week Ever (which is really just "I LOVE LAST WEEK") we can certainly have some fun with the first 8 years of the 2000s. And we did. It's surprisingly amusing, too, if I do say so myself.

  • March 26, 2008, 1:08 p.m. CST

    Too bad "Fatboy" is a steaming pile...

    by JiveTalker

    Saw it yesterday, man what a disappointment. The cast is great, Pegg especially shines (natch) but overall the movie is horrifically predictable and formulaic. The little sitcom-y "poignant" moments, complete with sappy violin music, are cringe-worthy. Oh, and it sounds like Michael Ian Black is starting to take himself waaaay too seriously now. Comes off like he's too cool for school, but in reality I suspect he's *just* as desperate as every other LA schmuck to get super famous, but he coats that in a level of hipster irony so no one will suspect.

  • March 26, 2008, 1:08 p.m. CST

    Get the Richard Widmark tribute up

    by JackRabbitSlim

    My fave film - Pickup on South Street

  • March 26, 2008, 1:43 p.m. CST

    Run Fatboy Run is classic lipstick on a pig

    by Aloy

    What a shame. Will Hank Azeria ever get to hit a home run outside Comic Book Guy? He so deserves it.

  • March 26, 2008, 1:51 p.m. CST

    Stella was so fucking wonderful...

    by DanielKurland

    Shame it didn't find an audience. I love Michael Ian Black, and I saw Wedding Daze when it was going by its original title, but it's only an average film really.

  • March 26, 2008, 2:13 p.m. CST

    Yes, where *IS* the Widmark tribute AICN?

    by LordPorkington

    Maybe we have to wait for Harry, or someone else, to look him up on IMDB and then pretend they've seen all his movies first? By the way, back to the second poster on this Talkback... what the fuck is an 'UNOFFICIAL FIRST'? I absolutely hate people who feel the need to shout 'First!', but I may have discovered someone more stupid than your average tosser. The scary thing is, these people can breed and make more tossers. This should be tied into the Talkback that's currently discussing how bad the behavior in cinemas is these days. 'First' posters are the same daft twats who feel the need to kick the back of your seat or talk on mobiles. End of rant.

  • March 26, 2008, 2:33 p.m. CST

    "I like pain" "I like cookies."

    by imascooby1985

    Stella is quite simply the funniest show to ever grace a television set. Michael, Michael, and David work perfectly together. There are just so danged many lines in those ten episodes I cant even begin to think of them all. Wet Hot also kicks booty.

  • March 26, 2008, 2:41 p.m. CST

    Kids in America

    by Sir Loin

    I was an extra for that one and Michael seemed like a pretty cool dude. From what I saw filmed, it looks like it's going to be quite funny so we'll see...had a great time getting back into 80's clothes again, was like a timewarp.

  • March 26, 2008, 5:03 p.m. CST


    by cesaria

    Easily my favorite show ever. Seriously. I emailed David Wain about if there would be any more Stella and all I got back was "possible touring in spring." Not exactly what I want (movie, series) but I'll take it!

  • March 26, 2008, 11:14 p.m. CST

    VH1's I Love The series

    by Prossor

    funny guy on there. lots of funny ones there