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A Favorite Sub-lebrity

Of the many types of fame one can have, I appreciate the kind Michael Ian Black has best – the kind that just won’t stick.  It’s marginal fame, which is maybe oxymoronic, but sums up his decades long stay on the pop culture periphery, bouncing from one underperforming project to the next, as he is likely to do into perpetuity.  Or to put it another way, his star is shining from a constellation that includes the likes of Lisa Rinna and David Alan Grier.

I tend to remember Michael Ian Black as Johnny Bluejeans from Comedy Central’s short-lived faux European variety show Viva Variety.  But most people probably know him best as one of the talking heads from VH1’s I Love the [Decade].  He was also in the amazing cult classic Wet Hot American Summer and has done some well-regarded work with the comedy troupes Stella and The State (not to mention a slew of random commercials and hastily cancelled series – so you’ve definitely seen him around).

To top off his already impressive body of work as an actor/comedian, he has become a fairly prolific writer.  Over the past few years, he has published six books, including three nonfiction titles and three children’s picture books (one of the kid’s books, Chicken Cheeks, is particularly cute – it’s just a long list of names for animal hineys).   This month M.I.B. released a book he co-authored (inexplicably) with Meghan McCain.  It is elegantly titled: America You Sexy B****: A Love Letter to Freedom.  The premise is the two of them travel cross-country in an RV (the old odd-couple-in-a-confined-space bit) in an attempt to sort out the political divisiveness afflicting our nation.  I have my doubts that it worked.

Earlier this year, Black released a book of personal essays titled You’re Not Doing It Right:  Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other HumiliationsJust as the title suggests, it’s him musing on a broad swath of life’s big events.  The essays are certainly funny, but I was also impressed with his thoughtfulness as a writer.  I’ll leave you with a few of his sharp observations and maybe you’ll decide to get to know him better:

On attending his father’s funeral as a child:  “Inside, the place suffocates from wood and carpet.  A long hallway bisects the building leading to several viewing rooms, which, I think, is also what they call them in adult video stores.”

On the difficulty of marriage:  “It cannot be a coincidence that the word we most often use to describe marriage, institution, is also the word we use for the place we put crazy people.”

On the power of marketers:  “They know us because their only mission in life is to satisfy these deep American cravings that resonate across the vastness of our culture like whale songs.  They are the people who create the itch and scratch of American life.”

Ransom – Reference

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