Michael Ian Black at Turner Hall
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If by some chance you’re unfamiliar with Michael Ian Black, you’d no doubt recognize him from at least one project in his wide-ranging body of criminally underrated work. But as the ’80s-loving comedian, children’s author, director, soft drink pitchman, and snack podcaster told an obnoxious fan who referenced his long-dead sketch troupe The State during Saturday’s performance at Turner Hall, Black wasn’t there to talk about his résumé. Instead, he came to treat a jam-packed crowd to 90-plus minutes of hilarious, off-color anecdotes—beginning and ending on the topic of poop.
After preempting his set by boldly insulting cheese curds and Vince Lombardi, and then giving a gift bag full of snacks, tea, and toilet paper to a Twitter follower who’d skipped a wedding to be there, Black set a lasting lowbrow tone with a tale of an overflowing hotel toilet. From there, he drifted into a physical bit about being “upside-down pussy-fucked” by an elderly stripper, and gave a few examples of “opportunities to be hilarious” in his everyday life that fell flat.
Throughout the ambling stories of ejaculation, drug use, Creed, and his urge to shake a baby, Black sustained his patented smarmy voice and eloquent phrasing. The difference between topic and tone served the set well, and provided unexpected support during carefully crafted, long-form jokes, some of which lasted upwards of 10 minutes. Between sips of Dr. Pepper, he calmly touched on fatherhood, women, “purposeful fucking,” and hallucinating that he was a panda the first time he got high—somehow holding the crowd’s silent attention throughout.
Black’s flare for storytelling was garnished with a few well-placed one-liners and his affinity for physical comedy. Unafraid to sprawl out on the stage, suggestively bend over a stool, or pantomime giving hand jobs, the extras served as rest stops for the handful of comic causeways Black walked the audience down before he—a man of his word—finished his set with a second poop joke.
In lieu of an encore, the Renaissance man read a selection entitled “Taco Party” from his book of essays, My Custom Van, before sending the audience on its merry way. Though a far more accommodating setting than the airport and pizzeria exemplars he’d provided in his set, Turner Hall Ballroom gave Michael Ian Black an opportunity to be hilarious Saturday night. Judging by the abundance of laughs, he didn’t blow it.