Michael Ian Black visited New Orleans at precisely the best and worst time, depending why you're here and how long. Black, a veteran of sketch groups The State and Stella and their respective TV shows (and a member of that deep rolling David Wain posse, with credits from cult favorite Wet Hot American Summer to the recently released Wanderlust), was in New Orleans on Lundi Gras to promote HGTV's popular series House Hunters — specifically, a bingo game centered on the program (which you can download here). The game tests viewers on some common words and phrases falling from home buyers' and Realtors' mouths. Black (who also is an author, standup comedian and renaissance comedy man) is very much a fan of the show, so much so he devoted himself to the game in New Orleans amid Mardi Gras festivities.
Tonight at 9 p.m., House Hunters premieres its New Orleans episode, in which a couple with a young son and a baby on the way looks to "New Orleans suburbs." But, as per HGTV, "they're on different pages when it comes to their wish list. Will they be able to find a home that makes them both happy?"
Below, Black gives Gambit some bingo tips and tricks and lessons in comedy in the 21st century.
How did you become a self-described superfan?
One thing my wife and I are able to enjoy together is yelling, at the television, when people pick the wrong house on House Hunters, which they do every single time. I don’t know what’s wrong with these people.
So in coming to New Orleans to do a bingo show, you get to act out some of that rage?
One of the nice things about bingo is you can play it aggressively. You’ve got a stamper, and you can really go to town on a bingo board if you need to. Bingo doesn’t need to be passive. It doesn’t need to be grandma’s sport. It can be a down and dirty, bloody, sweaty endeavor.
It can be a young man’s game.
It can and should be a young man’s game.
You’re also promoting a book now...
It’s called You're Not Doing It Right ... It’s not about show business at all. It’s kind of about being married, and having kids, and my own incompetence at both.
What have you gleaned from that, now you’ve examined…
Thankfully it leaves me a perfect father and husband, which I’m so grateful for, I’m so grateful I’m now perfect at it.
Right, now that you’ve written it down.
I wrote down all my faults and everything I did wrong, now I got it.
And it’s your first memoir.
It is. I wrote another book, kind of a collection of essays, called My Custom Van. And that was really just like silly, you know, 50 silly essays, one after the other. It wasn’t a cohesive whole, and when I got done with that, I sort of knew I wasn’t satisfied as a writer and I needed to sort of take the next step. That’s what this book is.
Now you’re a memoirist.
Now I’m a memoirist, yes. ... Memoirist sounds more pretentious, so I’m going with that. It has a literary ring to it. And I’m already hearing great buzz about all kinds of literary awards I’m going to win. I don’t want to jinx that, but there is talk of Pulitzer. The talk originated just now, but there is talk.
Once that’s written down it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
As an alumnus of several successful sketch groups, do you have any advice for new performers?
Don’t be dickheads. Just do your shit. The dickheads part if probably irrelevant, but the do your shit part is relevant. Just do your thing, and good things will come. Or not, but you’ll be happy having done it. One of the nice things about comedy, as a business, is that it’s not a job you have to apply for, you can just start doing it, there’s no barrier to entry when you have access to YouTube, or a stage with a microphone, that’s all you need. If you really want to do it, there’s nothing preventing you from doing it.
Do you feel entering comedy with YouTube is a different environment from five, 10 years ago? There are so many voices now.
It’s better now. There’s so many, but if you’re really funny and you’re really good, it doesn’t matter. There’s always an audience for new, good work. It’s just that simple.
With your podcast ("Mike and Tom Eat Snacks"), are you finding that’s a whole new world to explore? Everyone has one these days.
Podcasts are just another avenue. It’s just endless. Endless ways for you to do comedy if that’s what you want to do. You can basically be a professional comedian on Twitter. Professional may be a relative word, but somebody like Rob Delaney, he’s getting really popular now and it’s all based on his Twitter feed.
It's a launching pad for writing careers.
Twitter has been amazing for comedy.
You use it often. Is it helping you sharpen?
It’s helping me with the craft of joke writing. The other thing, more subtly it does, when you pay attention to a lot of comedians as I do on Twitter, you start to see where everyone’s going with it, and what’s sort of becoming tired, and it forces you to move in other directions and adapt and hopefully become inventive with what you’re doing. That’s actually really good. … It forces you to continuously reinvent yourself comedically, and experiment.
Any parting advice for the HGTV crowd?
Pick house No. 1. House No. 1 is generally the best house, and they never pick it. They drive me crazy, these people.
Have you learned any lessons from the show?
Yeah, the next time I’m buying a house, whatever is the first house the real estate agent shows me, I’m just going to get that one.
Because you’ll only have three options.
I’ll only have three options, and I’ll only have half an hour to make a decision.