Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter at Turner Hall
The comics heckled the audience during a freewheeling set
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Through nearly every stage of their careers, comedians Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter have remained by each other’s side. Wednesday’s performance at Turner Hall was no different, as the duo took the stage for the third show of their Michael And Michael Have Issues tour. Despite failing to once mention the low-rated Comedy Central sitcom they were touring to promote—or anything from their previous collaborations—the longtime friends and on-stage enemies kept Milwaukee laughing through the entirety of a freewheeling 90-plus-minute set.
As evidenced by the absurd, bone-dry satire found in The State, Stella, Wet Hot American Summer, and The Baxter, Black and Showalter’s humor doesn’t fit comfortably in any template. The pair seemed to occupy half their time Wednesday constructing stream of consciousness jokes, playing off one another’s improvisations and reacting to the audience. After a short white man left his seat at one point, Showalter dubbed the guy “Prince Fielder.” When “Prince Fielder” returned with a beer and tried to start a mid-show conversation with the comics, Showalter gently requested the man “drink [his] PBR and have neon yellow shits and shut the fuck up.”
But the Michaels’ set offered more than swearing at misidentified audience members. Seemingly off-the-cuff bits were numerous, including Showalter bragging about his holiday sweater being popular with a “certifiable black guy” in a Detroit casino, Black being accused of having Asperger’s (hamburgers on his ass) by Showalter, and an impromptu story about the time Showalter pissed all over himself while rolling on Ecstasy.
The reckless meandering at times caused lulls in the show. But sturdy show scaffolding tied up most of the loose ends. Show pillars included footage of the pair’s hilariously awkward recent appearance on a Detroit morning news show and Showalter’s written response to PETCO after being denied two cats to adopt.
Only once, when baited to quote Stella by an audience member, did the Michaels acknowledge their rich comedic pasts. Maybe being on the wrong end of numerous shortsighted cancellations had them weary of filling a set with three-piece suits, mustache gags, and Captain Monterey Jack quotes. Maybe this free form collaboration is the pair proclaiming they won’t alter their stand up to better the chances of squeezing out a second season of the misunderstood and sparsely viewed Michael And Michael Have Issues. No matter what was behind Wednesday’s unorthodox performance, you couldn’t take issue with Michael and Michael—they were simply too funny.