Comedy fans recognize “The State,” the mid-90s MTV sketch show, as one of the foundational blocks of modern humor. As an alum of the show, Michael Ian Black is a prolific comedic artist, boasting a large acting, podcasting, writing and directing résumé, and you may be seeing (or hearing) him everywhere this summer.
Black’s latest podcast, “How to Be Amazing,” is available exclusively on Audible. He will appear on “The Jim Gaffigan Show,” set to debut on TV Land in July. “Wet Hot American Summer,” the 2001 cult comedy that Black starred in along with Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler and many of his other “State” partners, will return as a Netflix series next month. You can also see Black perform stand-up here Thursday through Saturday in Helium Comedy Club.
Question: What can fans expect from the “Wet Hot American Summer” series on Netflix?
Answer: “Wet Hot American Summer” was about summer campers on the last day of camp. Now the new series has all the same people in it but on the first day of camp of that same summer. So we’re all 15 years older playing three months younger.
Q: You had your breakthrough with sketch comedy, and later you transitioned to stand-up comedy. What was it like going from a team concept to working by yourself for an hour straight?
A: There’s a lot of freedom that comes with stand-up, unlike any other form. You can go up on stage and largely do what you want, when you want. Most comedians have an act that you can rely on, but at any given moment, you’re not beholden to that act and you can veer off it, engage the audience or muse with whatever’s on your mind. At the same time, there are challenges. You need something to say for an hour on stage, which is obviously not easy. You also can’t rely on anybody else, so if something goes wrong, you have nobody else to blame.
Q: With the “I Love the …” series, the “Michael Ian Black” persona – a self-involved, snarky guy – came out. I was trying to think of a question about it, but it occurs to me that with social media, everybody has that public persona that doesn’t necessarily reflect who they are in reality. Do you find that similar to this persona that you put on, versus who you are in real life?
A: I think that’s true to a certain extent. As a comedian, it would be helpful to kind of laugh at this almost character that you play, but it can also be limiting. You have to be careful that you don’t define yourself entirely in any one way. I know that it’s been true for me that I’ve had to figure out different ways to trust myself beyond that one note, over and over again. I’ve gotten into writing books that are a little bit more sincere, this podcast “How to Be Amazing” is a lot more sincere, and my stand-up has changed too. It’s evolved and broadened what I do and how I do it.
Q: Anything else you wanted to add before we sign off?
A: Just that Buffalo is the greatest city in the history of cities.
Who: Michael Ian Black
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, 7:30 and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: Helium Comedy Club, 30 Mississippi St.