Michael Ian Black on 'Wet Hot American Summer' Prequel, 'I Love the '90s,' and Klondike Bars
Few settings have made for as consistently good entertainment as summer sleep-away camp. Between the bunk drama, food wars, and short-lived teen romances, it's no wonder films like Meatballs, Moonrise Kingdom, and The Parent Trap are so beloved. Yet few camp-set movies have had the staying power of Wet Hot American Summer , a 2001 comedy that, despite flopping at the box office and with critics, became a cult classic — and one of its stars thinks he knows why.
"Movies like that — that are low budget, very silly, kind of out-of-the-mainstream that way — they find their audience in the years that follow their initial release," Michael Ian Black, who played McKinley in the film tells Bustle. "They don’t typically take off immediately, because they’re a little bit niche, and they kind of require a certain sense of humor."
Nostalgia for the past few decades — particularly the '90s — is all the rage these days, but when the I Love The... specials aired, it was only at the beginning. Looking back, the comedian could be called a true pioneer of '90s nostalgia. "It’s a real feather in my cap. And in my flannel shirt," says Black.
Thirteen years after Summer's release, it's apparently being revived, in the form of a ten-episode prequel set to air on Netflix. Although Black won't confirm the announcement — "that's the rumor" is all he says when I bring it up — he did share what he'd like to see in the show if it does turn out to be a reality.
"Obviously, short shorts," he says. "And tube socks. And bad hair."
In an interview with CraveOnline, Summer's creators, Michael Showalter and David Wain, excited fans by revealing that all of the film's original cast members are eager to return. That bodes well for those, including Black, looking forward to seeing a revival of the romance between McKinley and Ben (Bradley Cooper, in his film debut).
"I mean, I hope so," Black says, before adding, "I don’t know if he [Cooper] hopes so. I don’t even know if he’ll show up."
Cooper's return may be unfortunately up in the air, but there's little doubt that some of Black's other co-stars will make their way back to the Summer set. Many of them have already reunited several times over the past decade, appearing on each other's TV shows, comedy skits, and indie movies — including June's They Came Together , a comedy directed by Wain, written by him and Showalter, and starring a cast that included Summer alums Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Christopher Meloni, and Black. According to the actor, the reunion was, um, very special.
"There was a lot of light petting and fondling," Black says in his trademark deadpan. "It was very gentle, very, very, gentle."
Making the film, in which he co-starred as the obnoxious, girlfriend-stealing co-worker of Paul Rudd's Joe, was a blast, Black says.
"It was very familiar and very comfortable," he says. "We had a great time. We always have fun working together, so it just made sense."
Black's particularly close with Showalter and Wain, with whom he founded the cult comedy group Stella. The trio formed in 1997 and rose to prominence in the early 2000s, thanks to a series of star-studded short films and a Comedy Central TV show, Stella ("I really love that show, and it pains me that America did not," he says of the short-lived series). Their busy workloads have kept them from releasing much new material in recent years, but Black hopes to reunite with the group before long.
"We keep talking about touring with Stella, but it’s hard to do with everybody’s schedule," he says. "If I had to guess, I’d like to think we’ll go on tour sometime next year."
One reunion we won't be seeing? Black and his fellow I Love the... VH1 panelists. For years, the comedian was a regular on the '70s, '80s, and '90s TV specials, but, as he recently told Parade, when invited to contribute to the '00s edition, he asked the network if he would be paid — and they said no. Still, he had only good memories of his time doing the specials, especially when it came to the actual filming.
As for how the show was produced, Black says he would receive a packet a few days before the show with what VH1 wanted him to cover, but that he "never looked at it." Instead, he tended to ad-lib, trying out line after line until the funniest one stuck.
"It was really fun," he says. "The nice thing about it was that there was no pressure. They just turn on the cameras and you just talk. It’s not like it’s live, so you can say nothing funny, nothing funny, nothing funny, something funny, and they use the something funny."
Nostalgia for the past few decades — particularly the '90s — is all the rage these days, but when the I Love The... specials aired, it was only at the beginning. Looking back, the comedian could be called a true pioneer of '90s nostalgia.
Said Black dryly, "it’s a real feather in my cap. And in my flannel shirt."
One show he does hope to return too, though, is Celebrity Poker Showdown , a five-season, high-rated show known for featuring A-list stars and teaching a generation of Bravo watchers how to play poker. Black, a fanatic for the game, was a regular during the series' run, and although it ended in 2006 ("the whole poker boom died down pretty quickly," he laments), he'd love to see it make a return — and, perhaps, reclaim some of his past poker victories.
"Oh my god, it’s my favorite thing in the world," he says. "Nothing would make me happier."
Still, "I can’t imagine any network would be terribly excited to re-air those," he adds. "Maybe it could be a Netflix show or something."
Really, though, who knows if Black would even have time to participate; he's currently set to star on The Gaffigan Show, a comedy created by the comedian Jim Gaffigan that features Black as the gay best friend of Jim's character's wife ("I’m only employable as an actor if I play a homosexual," he jokes). On Tuesday, it was announced that the long-waiting series had finally found a home on TV Land. Black also hopes to continue guest-starring on Inside Amy Schumer, which he's already appeared on twice, and, perhaps, do an arc on Girls ("that would be tremendous") or Veep. He's also working on a new book, a collection of "thematically linked essays" similar to his first, but as of now, it's "not even at the crappy first draft stage." And, of course, there's the ads he does for Klondike (below), a series of silly, dirty College Humor videos released over the last month.
"College Humor has... a reputation for making great, funny things that speak to young people," Black says. "I liked the idea of playing the idiot narrator who is on the one hand, self-centered, but on the other hand, really not at all clear about what he’s doing there and why he’s there."
Black doing ads for Humor is no surprise — as anyone who's even seen a few minutes of the comedian's material knows, he's a perfect fit for the funny, foul-mouthed site. Klondike, though, seems like a stranger choice, but according to Black, the reason for the partnership is simple.
"They like deliciousness, I like deliciousness," he says. "They like comedy, I like comedy. They are ice cream, and I consume ice cream."
All perfectly good reasons, but it also comes down to something a bit more important — well, somewhat.
"Lately for me, it’s entirely predicated on whether or not I think something will be fun, and if it’ll be fun, I’ll do it," Black says. "It’s not much more complicated than that. Or, on the flip side of that, if they will pay me a tremendous amount of money. So it can be either fun, or profitable, and ideally, it’s both."
Images: USA Films; Lionsgate; Comedy Central