Interview: Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter

Put on your Barry and Levon wigs and practice your best “Doug” impression, Richmond. People still get “The State” references right? Right?

Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter are both instantly recognizable from the many projects that they’ve been involved with together – “The State,” “Stella,” or anything that involves any former member of the “The State” – and now they are approaching what could possibly be their finest creative achievement to date: performing stand up in Richmond.

Black, best known on his own as a commentator on VH-1 flashback shows, has written movies, including the recently released on DVD Wedding Daze and Run, Fatboy, Run, starring Simon Pegg. Run, Fatboy, Run comes out in March and is already a hit in England. Expect children’s books and a collection of essays to debut this summer. Black also has a comedy album, I am a Wonderful Man.

Showalter is writer/director/star of The Baxter, as well as co-writer and producer of Wet Hot American Summer. Showalter’s talk show, “The Michael Showalter Showalter,” in which he digs deep and gets ornery with some of his colleagues, can be seen on He has also released a comedy album, Sandwiches and Cats.

In order to help you get ready for the refreshing comedy break coming to town, Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter have answered a few questions for RVANews. Put on your Barry and Levon wigs and practice your best “Doug” impression, Richmond. Then leave all of that at home before you see the show.

Michael Ian Black

RVA: What should the audience expect at the show?
MIB: Mostly jokes. Some silly faces. Moustache rides. Drunk chicks.

RVA: In your experience is it easier to get projects made if you’re collaborating with someone else?
MIB: No. Projects are always hard to get made whether you’re working with somebody or you’re flying solo. It’s generally more fine to work with people, though.

RVA: You’ve written and performed for a variety of formats — movies, TV, books, internet, live comedy — is there a particular medium that you would like to get into or focus on?
MIB: Sports broadcasting, specifically covering the Tour de France.

RVA: How did Run Fatboy Run get turned into a British comedy?
MIB: It started out set in New York, but a British production company bought the property and moved the setting to London, which made it a lot classier. And I am nothing if not classy.

RVA: Is it difficult to stop writing for certain characters when you’re no longer performing as those characters?
MIB: No. Except for my famous character “Banana Jackson.” Banana was really toughto let go.

Michael Showalter

RVA: Wet Hot American Summer and The Baxter featured actors – Michelle Williams, Chris Meloni, and Paul Rudd — who at that time were not known for comic skills but ended up being very funny. Did you have a hand in the casting?
MS: Oh, definitely. Casting is a major role for the director or producer of any film. I had seen Michelle’s work and got it into my head that she’d be perfect for the part. Luckily for me she was living in my neighborhood at the time and I got a chance to meet with her and show her the script. Paul Rudd was someone that David Wain and I knew socially and had really wanted to work with. Chris Meloni was someone that we didn’t know. His comic skills are so amazing.

RVA: When you think of new stories or characters, you usually know how you’re going to develop them?
MS: I have some ideas about a direction I might want to go in but the creative process is fairly unpredictable: ideas change; characters change.

RVA: Why did you decide to do a comedy album and what was the process like?
MS: I had been doing a lot of stand-up comedy, touring the country, and I liked the idea of documenting the material. I really enjoyed making the record. In a sense it was easier than film or television because there’s less editing. With a stand-up album most of the material is recorded live and it’s just a question of what pieces you want to use.

RVA: How did “The Michael Showalter Showalter” get started, and what do you feel about producing content just for the Internet in general?
MS: I like working in every medium: film, television, live performance, Internet, live recording, written material. The guys from College Humor approached me about working with them and I had an idea for a “Charlie Rose” type talk show. It’s been really fun.

RVA: When I was in high school on a short trip with my family in New York City, my sister and I saw you in Central Park but were too shy to say anything or shake hands or whatever it is you do when you see people whose television shows you like. Can you please confirm that you would have been a huge jerk to us so I can stop regretting it?
MS: Sad to say: I doubt I’ve had been a huge jerk. I probably would have been quite polite and flattered.

Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter perform at Toad’s Place on February 1. For more information, visit Tickets are available online.

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Kelly Gerow

Kelly Gerow lives and writes in Richmond. She probably does other stuff in Richmond, too.

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