by John Wenzel on October 16, 2009
“Michael and Michael Have Issues” is the latest Comedy Central vehicle for longtime cohorts and “The State” veterans Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black, whose testy, absurdist wit works well in their meta-sitcom format. The pair have toured their stand-up together in Denver before at the Gothic Theatre (see our review), and Showalter has performed with Eugene Mirman at the Bluebird Theater, but this is their most collaborative stage effort yet.
Since the pair isn’t exactly credited with influencing the larger comedy world of the past decade, expect lots of hardcore fans and indie rock kids at the show. Although, both have also had success at non-traditional comedy venues in the past, so this venue isn’t a stretch for either of them.
We chatted via e-mail with the Michaels in advance of the show about their working relationship, their fans and the future of their Comedy Central sitcom.
You toured your stand-up sets together nationally in the fall of 2007. How much of what became “Michael and Michael Have Issues” came about through ideas kicked around then? Or were a lot of those elements already worked out (or, alternately, not-yet-worked out) at that point?
Michael Showalter: In a sense a lot of it did arise from touring mostly by dint of spending so much time together. The differences between us sort of became fairly magnified. Mike’s kind of uptight and I’m a slob who’s constantly losing everything.
Michael Ian Black: It was definitely an evolution in terms of knowing the basic idea of what we wanted to do (play ourselves but also do sketches), and turning that into a structure that worked as magnificently as it did.
What’s this current tour like in terms of format and material? Will you appear on stage together much?
MS: On the last tour Mike and I were on stage separately. This time we’ve been sharing the stage almost the entire time. It’s sort of becoming a “conversation” with Mike and Mike. It’s a work in progress but we’re having fun.
MIB: Yeah, we’re sharing the stage for the whole hour which is really fun. It’s a good opportunity for us to fool around, tell stories, and rag on each other.
You’ve been working together on and off for about 20 years. What have you learned about each other that no one else knows?
MS: I’ve learned that Mike is an avid boatsman and a terrible driver.
MIB: I prefer the term “coxswain” to describe my boating. Showalter is a worse driver than I am. By far.
What’s the future of “Michael and Michael Have Issues”? Is there another season in the works?
MS: Comedy Central has ordered the writing of new scripts but no official word yet on a second season.
MIB: Showalter doesn’t know this yet, but we’re replacing him.
“The State” was always sort of proud of (and seemingly a little obsessed with) the critical reception it got, even if it was overwhelmingly negative. Did that stance inform the way you deal with criticism regarding “Michael and Michael,” which has also weathered some negative reviews among the positive ones?
MIB: The reviews for “Michael & Michael” were probably the best reviews we’ve ever received for anything. That said, I think we’ve both learned over the years not to take reviews too seriously. Yes, the bad ones hurt, but if you believe in your work you just have to accept the fact that not everybody is going to like what you do. Conversely you can’t take good reviews too seriously either, even though they’re a little easier to digest.
Do you like getting out on the road for part of the year, even if it’s only for a few dates?
MS: It’s always fun to travel around the country performing. America’s a great country!
MIB: We always have a great time on the road, mostly because it gives us an excuse to eat McDonalds.
You guys have both seemed pretty connected to your fan base online. What are the best and worst things about that?
MIB: The Internet has been a fantastic boon for people looking to develop and maintain a fan base. I try to devote a certain amount of time each day to staying in touch with those people through Twittering or blogging. I can’t really think of a downside other than it takes a lot of time, time which could be spent napping.
For more information on the Saturday show, visit ogdentheatre.net.
John Wenzel is the editor of Get Real Denver, co-editor of the Reverb music blog and an arts and entertainment reporter for The Denver Post. His book “Mock Stars: Indie Comedy and the Dangerously Funny” was recently published by Speck Press. He also maintains a Twitter feed of absurdist song titles.