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Man In Black

By Yash Egami on Apr 15, 2016

Actor, writer and comedian Michael Ian Black knows a thing or two about advertising. Over the past several years he’s done work for Expedia and Sierra Mist and other notable brands. Aside from regularly appearing in movies and TV, his latest projects include a memoir called Navel Gazing: True Tales of Bodies, Mostly Mine (But Also My Mom's, Which I Know Sounds Weird) and a children’s book. We spoke with Black who will be hosting The One Show on Wednesday, May 11.

You’ve done a few commercials over the past several years. What has your experience been?
I’ve done lots of commercials. I find commercials tend to have the best catering.

Depends on the budget though. If it’s a local hardware store, probably not so much…
I’m not doing a local hardware store. My first question is always about the catering and how good it is.

So what was your best experience on a shoot?
Might have been the Sierra Mist commercials just because I was with a lot of funny people like Jim Gaffigan and Kathy Griffin and Tracy Morgan. There was just a ton of funny people and it was fun hanging out with them. And they were largely improvisational so they moved quickly, which I’m always a fan of. And we shot a lot and it was well received, so it was the perfect combination.

You ever turn down work based on the client, like if it was a brand you didn’t support?
You obviously don’t know me at all.

So I guess the answer is no?
(Laughs) I mean, I can imagine there would be circumstances where that would be possible but I suspect that brands who would be interested in me are aware enough about who I am to have a sense of the kinds of things I would and wouldn’t do. But it hasn’t been an issue yet.

Do you have any favorite commercials from the past?
I remember really being struck by the Mean Joe Green Coke commercial, and I don’t even know why. I didn’t know anything about football or who he was, but the kid I thought was very brave because the man was named “Mean Joe Green” and I thought, how brave of this heroic little boy to approach Mean Joe Green when clearly, he was very mean. Turns out he was a real sweetheart but we didn’t know that at the beginning of the commercial. I was always scared for that little boy.

Do you have any affinity to certain brands?
I try to be agnostic about it because I don’t want to feel like a sucker. But going back to childhood the brand I probably had the most affinity to is Apple. In terms of footwear I’m increasingly loyal to Puma. I like a Puma sneaker, I think they do a good job. Twizzlers over Red Vines. Ever have Red Vines? They’re disgusting.

I hear you’re working on a new TV show, tell me more about it.
It’s called The Jim Gaffigan Show. Funny guy, talks about food, has five kids and he employs me.

This is our second season so I’ll probably be doing more of what I did in the first, which is to make fun of Jim Gaffigan. Most of my job on the show is to make fun of Jim Gaffigan, which I am more than happy to do.

You’ve had a pretty long career. What’s your secret?
Umm, I say yes to everything…that’s not entirely true, I say yes to a lot of things. The past couple of years is when I’ve felt like I can finally say no to things, which is an enormous relief. But I say yes to a lot of things and I do a lot of things. I write, I do podcasts, I do standup, I write books and I act, so I think that I’m lucky and I’m also a hustler. And I think you need a little of both.

A lot has changed since the early 1990s when you were first on air. How is TV different today?
The main thing is—and I’m sure you’re aware—is that the barrier to entry has been obliterated. So anybody starting out can literally create their own channel, which is good and bad. It’s good in the sense that the barrier is lower but bad in the sense that there’s something to be said for honing your craft in obscurity before the world at large becomes aware of you. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of people laboring in obscurity. But there are plenty of more opportunities for anybody in the entertainment industry no matter what you do, so it’s 80 percent good. It has become more democratized.

The 20 percent bad has to do with the fact that it has become a lot harder to make a living. It’s easier to make a bad or mediocre living but it’s hard to make a good living.

Who would be your dream client to work for in an ad?
See, that’s a loaded question. Is that a single, one off commercial, or do I have an open-ended thing? I was pitching myself hard to become a spokesperson for Taco Bell. This was at a time when Taco Bell wasn’t even looking for a spokesperson but I had a Twitter account and a lot of hours to fill. So I was really trying to pitch myself, but they didn’t even go for it a little bit. You would think they would, right? A guy like me? They didn’t need my services.

So in terms of products, I am a fan of Taco Bell. I don’t eat it a lot because I want to live, but I do love it.

I heard you’re working on a children’s book based on Donald Trump.
Yes, there’s a children’s book on Trump coming out in July called A Child’s First Book of Trump.

Does this give him any more credence than he deserves?
Oh no, it doesn’t give him any credence at all. But it’s not a takedown either. It’s sort of a silly book about The Trump and presents it as, what would you do if you happen to run into one of these creatures? You need to know how to recognize one, you need to know what to do, it describes The Trump and gives you advice on how to deal with The Trump.


You can see Michael Ian Black at The One Show on Wednesday, May 11 at Gotham Hall. To purchase tickets or tables or a Creative Week pass, please visit our tickets page here: TICKETS.

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