Monday, November 30, 2009

Michael Ian Black - My Custom Van ***

You probably know Michael Ian Black from any of the numerous "I Love the [Something's]" shows on VH1, or as an integral part of comedy troupes The State and Stella. I didn't, however, know him as a stand-up comic on his own (his album, I Am A Wonderful Man, is quite fantastic), or an essayist. Well... "essayist" might be a rather misleading term. Yes, his book, My Custom Van, is filled with essays, but it won't be found on shelves anywhere near the works of John Gardner or Noam Chomsky.

Not that I'm complaining. I wouldn't have bought a book from Black expecting him to expound on theories of libertarian socialist philosophy. I bought his book to laugh my ass off, and that is exactly what I did. Each of his brief essays reads more like a set from his stand-up routine, and it isn't hard in the slightest to hear him reading them in his own voice, to a crowded little college town comedy club.

However, as fun as it is to have Michael Ian Black run loose (and I mean, really loose) in your hands, as you page through all 50+ of his essays, I don't suggest doing it all in one sitting as I did. The book is a quick read, and you'll blaze through it if you want to, but it is definitely the kind of thing that would be best taken in small doses. By the time I finished, some of the essays were beginning to run together. Those in the back of the book are just as hilarious as those in the front of the book, but taking it all in at once is almost overwhelming, and I found my brain going numb to the hilarity. And that's just not fair to the genius that Black is. Even if he does repeatedly insist upon that genius. Humility is overrated.

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