I’ve been watching Michael Ian Black’s career for years now. I root for him. I want him to succeed more than I want most entertainers to succeed. Most of this has to do with my love for his show, Stella, which ran for 10 episodes before getting cancelled in 2005. It was one of those rare shows that presented a fully realized world and consistent tone right out of the gate, and I hold that it is one of the greatest silly shows that has ever been on TV. I’ve seen nothing like it before or since. Michael and Michael Have Issues had some great scenes too–all of them in the “real world,” never in the “sketches”–but never came close to Stella.
What was consistent in all his projects going all the way back to The State was his smarmy class clown persona. It worked for him and he was good at it, and then a couple of years ago he began to talk in interviews about how he was tired of it, wanted to make comedy while remaining himself. I was skeptical.
But now here’s You’re Not Doing It Right, a book of short comedic-depressive essays, schtick successfully dropped, about Black’s lifelong struggle ineptitude, the sense that he didn’t know how to do anything and never would. It’s a feeling I’m familiar with. The book is never better than when he’s writing about his relationship with his wife Martha, contrasting their sneaky sexy dating with together rearing colicky babies that turn into often-boring children. Black’s candid enough in here that you feel like you’re really getting the goods.
Liz read it too, and after we’d both finished we had a long frank talk about Ways Marriage Sucks, each emboldened by a guy who’s said it in harsher words than we even wanted to, and came away happy to have said some of the uglier things we’d been thinking. (We’re much more forthcoming with the nicer things we have to say.)
It occurs to me that this is a thing boring couples do: Read a feelings book and talk about it. But for the record, I’d have never done it if I wasn’t tricked into it by such a funny man.