Last time The Late Late Show gig was up for grabs, Michael Ian Black fell just short of Craig Ferguson for the hosting role. Almost a decade later, Ferguson is relinquishing the reins, and Black is in the hosting conversation once again. Perhaps he was booked with an underlying ambition of grooming for the lucrative post, but nobody at Turner Hall seemed to care too much about his motivation for coming, as The State, Wet Hot American Summer, and Stella alumnus and accomplished author commanded the ballroom in his best Milwaukee performance to date.
After local product Johnny Beehner set the stage with a solid opening set rooted in domestic humor, a dressed-down Black came out to Hanson’s “MMMBop” and ample applause. While the audience was well aware of Black’s comedic credentials, he started his 70-minute return to the venue (after a near-three-year absence) in humble fashion. “I’ve been busy with my day job,” Black started, “which is getting television shows cancelled. I’m very good at it.”
He continued the cancellation theme, discussing his role as gay friend in the recently passed-upon pilot for a Jim Gaffigan vehicle. He then offered his own treatment for In The Lick Of Time, a proposed 10-part miniseries that was essentially about Black licking Doritos dust off Keri Russell’s fingers, as well as a reality show premise about his family (Those Awful Blacks).
Black’s family occupied a sizable portion of his stage time: from a tale of his son losing respect for him after a Tilt-a-Whirl ride, to his goal “not to be the kind of dad who inspires art” and a pair of fatherhood-oriented chapters from his book, You’re Not Doing It Right, regarding sobbing to a Creed song and throwing his baby, respectively.
It wasn’t all baby bits, though. In fact, some parts were quite the opposite. Black brought out material about abortion, and he poked holes in the idea of viability with pizza-themed arguments. “Obviously, I don’t think people should be having sex,” Black said, in his trademark smarm. “If you do have sex, stick to BJs and butt stuff. That will cut your risk of pregnancy in half!”
The last of Black’s airtight transitions found him tackling the topics of judgment and kindness, with him expressing his plan for his 60s free of concern. (For the record, it’s wearing a tuxedo, riding a unicycle, and telling everybody to fuck off.) Speaking of Twitter arguments, Black brought the set home with an elaborate, near-10-minute extended tweet explanation about a hypothetical hangout with Papa John (a Breath Savers-pounding lothario in this scenario) to go out on the biggest laugh of the night.
Wednesday’s show was Black’s third Milwaukee appearance in less than five years, and his best one by a mile. The longtime actor and comedy troupe member has really come into his own as a stand-up comic who can hold an audience’s attention for more than an hour. If this performance is any indication, it could easily translate into a nightly position.