An Evening with Michael Ian Black
Dec. 18, 7:30 p.m., $30, $35, The Mark Twain House & Museum, 351 Farmington Ave., Hartford, (860) 280-3130, marktwainhouse.org.
One night, not too long ago, comedian and actor Michael Ian Black got high on Ambien, scarfed a bunch of Tostitos and tweeted this proposal to Meghan McCain, conservative MSNBC contributor, Daily Beast columnist and the daughter of Arizona Sen. John McCain: "We should write a book together."
Big mistake, right? Not so much: the unlikely pair wound up crossing the country in an RV, hell-bent on "seeing America." Black and McCain partied, argued, Vegas-ed and shot guns, big ones. "This whole idea is a hot mess," Black writes at the outset of America, You Sexy Bitch: A Love Letter to Freedom, a collaborative tour diary, written as an entertaining back-and-forth.
Black, the married father of two and a Connecticut resident for the last 10 years, co-founded the State, an influential sketch comedy troupe, back when he was still a college student. He went on to write and star in a bunch of hysterical films (Wet Hot American Summer, anyone?) and other projects, including Viva Variety and Stella for Comedy Central and VH1's "I Love the..." series. He'll be at the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford on Dec. 18.
Black spoke to the Advocate by phone about his adventures.
Q: First of all, just have to say: 1.8 million Twitter followers. How does it feel to have all those notifications rolling in? Is it like watching one of those national debt counters?
A: I have that turned off. It has slowed down considerably, unlike the national debt clock. I can't say it has enhanced my life in any way, shape or form.
Q: Now that the election's over, do you think democrats and republicans will simply get back to hating each other all over again?
A: Well, yeah, their job is to hate each other. That's the vibrancy of America: to have people at each other's throats, all the time. That's what makes it so great.
Q: When you and Meghan McCain were writing this book together, was there any cross-reading of each other's sections as you went along?
A: Oh, yeah, we showed each other what we were doing as we were doing it, just to keep each other informed. It wasn't like I had veto power over what she said or she had veto power over what I said. But just so that there was a consistent narrative going on and that, when appropriate, we could respond to each other in our own sections.
Q: You had a fight early on in a bar — you had your take on it, she had hers. Did you read her stuff and say, "Wow, that's not what I thought happened at all?"
A: There were times, you know, I think any experience is going to have a Rashomon-like quality to it, where what you perceive is not what the other person perceives. It's odd sometimes to see that in writing and to see your own actions reflected back at you through somebody else's perceptions. There were definitely things that she wrote about me that I didn't recognize, you know, as myself, and I know that was true for her too. She said I wasn't chivalrous, which really cut to the quick. I make such a point of, like, opening doors for the ladies, and being kind to the ladies, and helping her with her goddamn suitcase, which was like 85 lbs. For her to turn around and say that I'm not chivalrous... It wasn't right at all.
Q: When you are out on the gun range, Meghan is obsessed with your linen pants and your Crocs, but she's pretty impressed with how natural you are with guns. Is there any part of you, would you say, that always wanted to shoot a gun?
A: No, I strenuously avoided firearms of all types for years, not that people were throwing them in my direction necessarily, but I never sought out armaments other than nunchucks, because they're so cool.
Q: And those Chinese stars...
A: Oh, yeah, they're the best. But no, I never had any real desire to shoot guns, but when the opportunity presented itself, I thought, "I should probably do that. That seems badass."
Q: It sounds like there was some pretty heavy artillery there.
A: It seemed like it was exclusively heavy artillery. Even the littlest little gun: that'll kill ya. I don't know how to differentiate between heavy artillery and light artillery. Small arms, as far as my body is concerned, seem roughly equivalent to big arms. They're both going to do a number on you.
Q: Now you're back home in Connecticut. You're back with all of us liberals again. Do you look around and see things differently, now that you've spent time out in Arizona?
A: What I've noticed is that I have a lot less tolerance for liberals, even though I am one. I have a lot less tolerance for liberal talking points, liberal blind ideology, if only because it just seems weak to me. I feel like you want to muster your arguments better than whatever it is you are saying to me, which I generally find annoying. I have more tolerance for conservatives, I think, if only because... It's like being a self-hating Jew, which I am that, too. When you're a self-hating liberal, it's like, you just recognize all your own foibles among your liberal pals. You're like, "Enough. Shut up."
Q: You mention that you fell in love with America when you dropped out of school and crisscrossed the country as Raphael, in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle traveling show. I imagine that would make you either love it or really, really hate it.
A: I don't know anybody who has traveled the country extensively, particularly by automobile — and in fact, I don't think this is true if you travel by plane — I don't know that it's possible to do that without falling in love with the country. ... There are five or six different countries wrapped into one there. Like most people all over the world, Americans are gracious and welcoming. I think it would be hard to do that and not walk away feeling patriotic.