Last Night: Michael Ian Black at House of Blues

Michael Ian Black at Dallas' House of Blues Thursday night. (Angela Berg)
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Michael Ian Black House of Blues January 17, 2008

Better than: Tivo-ed American Idol premier featuring our proud Dallas wannabes.

He has one of those faces that makes you scratch your noggin and say, “I know that guy…what has he been in?”

The familiar, chiseled face of Michael Ian Black has appeared in numerous cameo television spots including Sierra Mist commercials, VH1’s I love the 80s and Best Week Ever and, last night, delivered subtle comic narrative at House of Blues with fellow funnyman Michael Showalter.

I enjoyed house of Blues more than ever last night. The crowd was thin but energetic, no long lines to acquire things and the folding-chair seating was intimate –- not confining. The venue, which I have certainly detested at times, was the perfect spot for stand-up comedy, and the massive, spotlighted stage illuminated with a classic theater warmth. Trust me, it looks different when there are no lasers and sweaty rock stars.

Showalter delivered list-y details of trivial to-dos with quirk and ease. He and Black both read from their laptops on stage, which I have never seen a comedian do. They would break into interludes of essay reading -– which, at first, I thought was cheating -– but the polished narratives were funny and dirty. I like dirty. Showalter is like your lovable buddy who regales party goers with hilarious recounts of tedious nothings.

Black’s hour-long comedy routine is not grandiose and vibrant like John Leguizamo or Eddie Murphy –- it’s more patient and muted like Mitch Hedberg. He stands in one place, lanky and handsome (with a short, mod haircut) and drops effortless laugh-bombs betwixt dinner-table banter. His lack of verve is likely part of his act and it works for him. He offers rhetoric with character. Candor with insight. Dick jokes with standards. Black’s innocent witticisms almost always ended with a surprise slap across the cheek and the audience was flushed and excited.

After the show, both comedians politely signed ticket stubs and CDs in the auditorium. I observed this odd celebrity duty with awe. The slobbering and smiling Dallas fans flocked around Black. He nodded and delivered one southpawed sharpie signature after another with a modest look of gratitude and annoyance. -- Krissi Reeves

Critic's Notebook Personal Bias: Stand-up comedy is my all-time favorite form of theater performance. It’s wildly audacious to stand alone on stage with nothing but your words and a microphone.

Random Detail: Both Showalter and Black are Mac addicts. That makes them iHunks.

By the Way: Try a comedy show at House of Boos. It’s not bad. Makes the corporate atmosphere somehow fade away with the laughter.

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