Michael Showalter & Michael Ian Black | 10.11.06

If you say "Nazi Party" in a B-52's "Love Shack" kind of way and say "Yay!" afterwards, it's less bad?

 

Black Cat, Washington, D.C.

I first watched the film Wet Hot American Summer, written by Stella alums Michael Showalter and David Wain, while taking a break from my senior thesis. I borrowed the DVD from the sweet, stoner first-years on my floor who kept insisting that I had to watch it while also on mispronouncing the lyrics to Musical Youth's "Pass the Dutchie"—typical New England liberal arts women's college. Meanwhile, friends kept asking me if I had ever seen The State, the sketch show featuring Showalter and Michael Ian Black on MTV in the late '90s. Well, I was still living in a farmhouse in Belgium with one TV station at the time…so, no. And yet over the last couple years, between seeing the loaned movie, several episodes of Celebrity Poker Showdown, and a sentimental screening of The Baxter, I have come to know the Michaels Showalter and Black quite well, and apparently, we all hated high school.

In their latest incarnation, Showalter and Black have adopted a stand-up format, which includes revelations that Showalter washes his hands after going to the bathroom and Black is not a racist. These, among other deeply personal, public admissions, were made to the sold-out, "overwhelmingly white audience" at the Black Cat on Wednesday night. As one of four black people in that audience—my sister being black person #2, and "sister" as in blood relation, not in the way that the African Diaspora uses it—we laughed hysterically, not so much at Black making outrageously ironic comments about race, but at just how uncomfortable, yet abundant the laughter was coming from the "overwhelmingly white audience." The liberal test for Washington, D.C.'s indie set just got a tad trickier.

That "morality is tricky" was one of Black's main points of the evening: if you say "Yay!" and wave your hands around after saying "White Power" or a word like "tuberculosis," then bad things become far less bad…theoretically. And if one were to suggest that such comments from the Jewish Black might make one suspicious of buying Sierra Mist or watching him dissect the Rubik's Cube on I Love the '80s, he is sufficiently self-deprecating to acknowledge that possibility as well as to admit his inability to throw a football or tan at the beach. Coordination and skin cancer are also tricky, but if you say "Nazi Party" in a B-52's "Love Shack" kind of way and say "Yay!" afterwards, it's less bad? A Soylent Green approach to creating lampshades? "Yay?"

Although Showalter might agree on the trickiness of morality, he was more preoccupied with exploring his teenage angst in an old copy of his high school lit mag The Cheshire Cat, and in launching a "shitty music revolution." As he performed a reading from the lit mag of his poem, "The Apartment Building," I couldn't help cringing at the awfulness still floating around in my old lit mag, Inklings; though unlike Showalter, I was not writing about apartment buildings, whores or, well—whores. And, knowing my own secret penchant for Kylie Minogue's concertos and minuets, Showalter's "Shitty Music Revolution" held guilty-pleasure appeal, even though it was exceedingly painful to listen to. On Showalter's iPod, Journey is hidden beneath the veil of Sufjan Stevens, and Sheryl Crow under Cat Power, but he wants to live in hiding no longer. Christina Aguilera is making him more beautiful, and if he wants to rock out to the Dave Matthews Band while wearing a necklace with a shark's tooth pendant, he should feel no shame. However, Showalter's interest in the anatomy of Smurfs and the optimal location of hoagies are best left to his onstage PowerPoint presentation.

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