Today we speak with comedian/actor/writer/director Michael Ian Black. Black's hilarious credits include MTV's The State, Comedy Central's Stella, and the cult classic Wet Hot American Summer. He's probably best known to the general public as being the standout quipper on VH1's "I Love the (Insert Decade Here)" specials. Black's latest project is Run Fatboy Run. He wrote the original screenplay for the film, which was directed by David Schwimmer and stars Simon Pegg, Hank Azaria, and Thandie Newton.
Cinematical: Would you tell our readers a bit about Run Fatboy Run?
Michael Ian Black: Sure. It's a lovely and funny romantic comedy about a guy who has never finished anything in his life who decides to run a marathon.
Cinematical: What inspired you to write the film?
MIB: I wanted to write something a little more mainstream than what I am normally known for. I had just written two screenplays that were more left of center and I wanted to challenge myself to try to write something that I thought would be a little more accessible.
Cinematical: Are you a marathon man? Why do people do this to themselves?
MIB: I've never run further than a couple miles. I have no idea why somebody would subject themselves to the agony of running for twenty-six miles. Particularly if they've got a car.
Cinematical: You're co-credited on the screenplay with Simon Pegg. Did you guys work together or was it separate drafts? How does that process work?
MIB: Separate drafts. I wrote it, then he came in and reset the thing in London. He also changed small bits here and there, mostly for the better, I think. He's a very talented writer.
Cinematical: How did David Schwimmer come on board as director? It's his feature debut, were you a little nervous having a first-timer tackle your material?
MIB: David came on board fairly early in the process. I can't say I was nervous exactly, but because I didn't know him or his directing work, nor was I entirely confident. In the end, I thought he did a fantastic job.
Cinematical: What's the funniest line you ever wrote?
MIB: I honestly have no idea.
Cinematical: What is your writing process, from initial idea to completed script?
MIB: It depends on what I'm doing - sometimes I have a fully fleshed out idea, sometimes I just have a fragment. How you start doesn't really matter. The important part is plugging away once you begin.
Cinematical: Could I ask you to make a lame, obvious analogy comparing writing a screenplay to running a marathon?
MIB: Both require excellent footwear.
Cinematical: Thank you. Who are some performers you find really funny?
MIB: I like Jim Gaffigan, Louis C.K., Will Ferrell...others.
Cinematical: What are some of your favorite comedy screenplays?
MIB: Rushmore, Flirting with Disaster, Animal House.
Cinematical: Few movies make me laugh harder than Wet Hot American Summer. Did you know you had gold when you were on the set?
MIB: We all felt like we were making something special, but that a lot of people just wouldn't get it. The response it has gotten over the years was exactly what I was expecting: terrible initial reaction, followed by a long afterlife.
Cinematical: What's going on with The State DVDs? Will they contain the entire series? Any special features? Any word on a release date?
MIB: Yes, there is a State DVD in MTV's vaults. There is commentary on it, it includes the entire series...and I have no idea when they will release it.
Cinematical: Do you have any pieces of advice for aspiring comedy writers?
MIB: Stay true to yourself. If you think it's funny, somebody else probably will, too. Successful comedy rests on having unique points of view. When something gets too watered down, it loses its bite.
Cinematical: What's next for Michael Ian Black (You)?
MIB: I just wrote a book called My Custom Van, that comes out in July. It's a collection of humorous essays. Also, a children's book called Chicken Cheeks, that comes out in January. And I continue to work on television projects.
Cinematical Reader TLJ asks: "If nature decides that you can't be both dashingly handsome and a comedy genius, which would you give up - the pretty or the talent?"
MIB: Thank God I'm blessed with both so I never have to choose.
Run Fatboy Run opens this Friday.