After cutting his teeth with the seminal sketch comedy group The State, whose television program ran on MTV for four seasons in the early ‘90s, he’s starred in the if-you-haven’t-seen-this-go-see-it-right-now comedy “Wet Hot American Summer” and Comedy Central shows “Viva Variety,” “Stella and Michael” and “Michael Have Issues.” Most likely, though, he is known as one of the talking heads on VH1’s “I Love the [insert random decade or year].” His snarky delivery and unbelievably dry wit have made him a staple to the comedy community for the past twenty years.
So it is somewhat surprising that this is only the second year he’s tried his hand at stand-up. I had the pleasure of being present for the recording of Black’s first comedy special, “Very Famous,” back in March and was thoroughly impressed. But I will admit I was a little nervous about seeing him again a short eight months later at the same venue, the Trocadero Theatre in Philadelphia. The reason for this being that it’s a general rule in the world of stand-up that it usually takes about one year to write and perfect enough material for an hour long performance. While I enjoyed the first show, it is available on CD/DVD, and didn’t really want to sit through an hour of the same jokes.
Luckily, this was not the case at all. Black’s performance couldn’t have been anything further away from his previous (well, I suppose that’s not exactly true, he could have come out covered in molasses and read aloud from Jane Austin novels, but you know what I mean). While his first show was immensely enjoyable, you could tell he was a bit nervous, staying in mostly one spot for the duration of the show and not interacting with the crowd very much.
He also wore his trademark suit, possibly as something of a security blanket. This past performance, on the other hand, showcased Black in jeans, a T-shirt and brown hoodie.
Often keeping one hand in his pocket, Black sheepishly paced back and forth across the stage, taking time out of the show to address several audience members, often for no reason whatsoever but always with hilarious results.
What is precarious about writing a review of Black’s performance is that I simply cannot quote any of his material. That is not to say I have forgotten it all as it was beyond funny and memorable and I actually took copious notes in hopes that I would get a chance to do what I’m doing right now. Rather, his jokes are far too, let’s say, risqué for a college publication. For instance, since the show was the second week of November, the Penn State scandal was still fresh news and Black took every opportunity to remind the audience that we lived in the state of Pennsylvania in the most vulgar ways possible. If anything, it was a testament to Black’s improvisational skills as almost every one of his long form stories would be peppered with another unplanned jab which would crack him up almost as much as everyone in the audience.
Black’s topics ranged from his inability to keep a television show on the air, he and his wife’s trip to Amsterdam with his children, whom he enjoys verbally berating every chance he gets (and who wouldn’t?) My only qualm, and it’s a small one, with the whole show came at the end as Black chose to close his set with a reading of an essay from his hilarious book, “My Custom Van.” Having read the book, this was exactly what I feared, hearing old material. But, to his credit, Black’s inflection and intonation had me crying and demanding an audio version of said book.
I highly recommend Black. He can currently be heard eating and commenting on snacks in his podcast with Yogi Bear’s Tom Cavanagh, “Mike and Tom Eat Snacks,” available at www.matescast.com.
Patrick McFadden is a student minoring in journalism. He can be reached at PM623279@wcupa.edu.