Comedy CDs often see their creators unleash their id throughout the album, appealing to us through the comedian gleefully saying what we all think but remains unsaid. Not Michael Ian Black. Michael Ian Black, or MIB as no one calls him (yet), makes jokes based around the concept that nobody would ever possibly think about the stuff that he thinks about.
Michael Ian Black’s Very Famous is mainly concerned with how its creator goes out of his way to be a total asshole, or how everyone who encounters Michael Ian Black assumes that he is gay. It is also concerned with semen. There are five minutes devoted to the stuff, five minutes of your life that you will never get back, five unforgivable minutes can’t even hope to be redeemed by the funny way that Michael Ian Black says the word “ladies” halfway through his rant. Other topics covered: Michael Ian Black on drinking (he doesn’t do it), Michael Ian Black on Ambien (he likes to take it and see if he can do an activity before he passes out), Michael Ian Black on skydiving (it’s crazy and no one should do it).
Unlike his previous album, I Am A Wonderful Man, which included “(I Am A Wonderful Man)” as a suffixation to nearly every track, Very Famous is meant to be consumed as a complement to Black’s stand-up special of the same name, and the disc suffers from Black pantomiming stuff that the listener can’t see and getting the biggest laughs. This isn’t a problem throughout most of the disc, until “Skydiving” hits, when most of Black’s jokes revolve around decontextualizing the movements associated with skydiving and presenting those (ridiculous) movements on stage. Instead of being able to see these decontextualized movements, listeners to Very Famous get decontextualized silence followed by decontextualized laughter. The result is unintentionally Dadaist.
One aspect of Very Famous that is germane to the disc is the liner notes, in which Black claims that he has licked every single booklet that shipped with the album and that the buyer now has the legal right (nay, obligation) to clone Black so that his clone can be your manservant. It’s the funniest thing associated with the album, and it begs the question of why did Black record this? He’s a funnier writer than a stand-up (see his book My Custom Van…And 50 Other Mindblowing Essays That Will Blow Your Mind All Over Your Face and his column for McSweeneys, entitled “Michael Ian Black Is A Very Famous Celebrity), and as an actor he’s appeared in comedy classics such as Wet Hot American Summer, was a member of The State, and helped create the prematurely deaded Comedy Central series Stella.
Michael Ian Black is a very funny man. This is indubitable, and the above rating is not a condemnation of Black as a comedian. However, Very Famous is ultimately a misfire for Black—he’s got more funny in him, and hopefully he brings it next time around.