By Patrick Schumacker
If you watch Comedy Central, like, at all, chances are you’ve seen promos for this new series, "Michael & Michael Have Issues." You know the ones I’m talking about. They sort of look like the Mac vs PC ads, but with a black background instead of a white one and with the show’s titular stars Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter instead of Justin Long and the PC guy. (His name escapes me, but he’s a PC, so who cares really?) There’s also a sign that reads "Michael & Michael" in the promo for "Michael & Michael Have Issues," so I guess that’s something else to maybe jog your memory.
This photo might help:
Anyhoo, I myself have been following Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter – their careers, not them literally because that never gets you anywhere except jail or, as in my case with Sandra Bullock, bed* – since their days on MTV’s "The State. Back in high school, I used to watch it ad nauseam in the basement of my Dad’s house. It proved a great respite from communicating with my family above ground (and was a mainstay in my daily 8-hour "Fall Excommunication TV Lineup: The Teen Years"). I thought the show was pretty darn funny, too.
And throughout the years, we’ve seen members of "The State" go on to do some pretty fantastic stuff. There’s of course "Reno 911!" with Thomas Lennon, Ben Garant, and Kerri Kenney; there was the cult film fave Wet Hot American Summer with several ex-"State" members. Except for a couple, the members of that NYU comedy troupe have all gone on to do some very notable followup projects, occasionally working on solo stuff, or in small splinter cells of "State" expats, which sounds very covert and illegal when phrased like that.
Then there was 2005’s "Stella," which featured the trio of Michael Ian Black, Showalter and David Wain. The series lasted a season, and the man known as "Waino" went on to create the web series "Wainy Days" and direct some small indie film called Role Models with Tony-Nominee Paul Rudd, Stifler from American Pie, McLovin’ and Bobb’e J. Thompson, that precocious funnykid whose parents must be so, so glad they forced their child into acting because he’s about twelve now and has already pulled in enough acting residuals to qualify as a "f*ckload."
Above: A horrible example for misguided wannabe stage parents.
Anyway, without Wain, there was no "Stella." (Some might say "without audiences, there was n Stella," but I was there week in and week out so that can’t be right.)
So where did that leave Michael & Michael?
It left them to make "Michael & Michael Have Issues," which is quite possibly the greatest, funniest show to ever play following act to "South Park" aside from a rerun of "South Park." I’m calling it right now and I’m not taking it back.
Speaking of calling (and really good segues), I wanted to call Michael and Michael and do a phone interview about the show for Screenjunkies. A friend on the show got me in touch with Stephie Grob, who apparently does everything for Michael and Michael including running a pretty in-depth official blog about their show, and tweeting the sh*t out of it, to boot. Long story short, Stephie worked it out so that I could actually VISIT the set, and on the very last day of filming – an episode called "Frogbox," co-starring comedian Jon Benjamin and Human Giant’s Rob Huebel. It was like the perfect storm, if that perfect storm used comedy instead of weather, and took place in a modestly sized studio on Manhattan’s West Side.
Above: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, John C. Reilly & Diane Lane
So I flew to New York, and had a powwow with Michael and Michael in Black’s dressing room. It wasn’t a "New York dressing room powwow" like in the ’80s, which would have had copious amounts of cocaine, ABBA music and rim jobs. But it was eye opening, nonetheless. Here’s video proof. If you’re wondering why Black is wearing that stupid floppy hat and Showalter has a ski mask on, it’s because they were wearing them in the scene they had just been shooting, and are method actors.
And the tension between the two guys is ultimately what the show is about. Anyone who’s been working with someone for a long time and in close collaboration like these two have, for the better part of twenty years, is bound to feel some tension. So who has more control on the show? How do they work together and not kill each other?
According to the very articulate press release, the plot is this: a new twist on narrative and sketch comedies that features the long-time comedic partners as the hosts of their own fictitious sketch show. Sketches will be interspersed throughout the narrative thread of each episode.
None of this is a lie. I have seen both the pilot entitled, "Greg the Intern," and the follow-up episode called, "Biederman’s Birthday," and can assure you both have a fictitious show, sketches within the fictitious show, and both feature long-time comedic partners hosting. It’s enough to wonder why they didn’t just call the show "That’s So Meta." (Answer: Because Raven Simone jokes are so 2003). Speaking of meta – and even greater segues – how different are the real Michael and Michael from their on screen dramatis personae? Maybe this clip will help answer that.
I don’t fancy myself a "tastemaker." It’s not like I’m some authority on what’s cool, or what you should watch on TV this evening (that post comes at 2pm Pacific every day on Screenjunkies.com). I’m not going to give you my thoughts on the show, especially since I can’t say anything about it that hasn’t already been said by Brianna Snyder of The Hartford Advocate:
"The genius of this comedy is that there are lots of layers, and you don’t necessarily need to get into those layers to laugh. It’s both simple and complex. With "Michael and Michael Have Issues," they’ve made arguably perfect comedy for the Comedy Central audience, which is basically everyone."
I mean, I guess I could tell you that the pilot has a pretty awesome sketch about a "Frankenstein monster" of terrible words, or that it has a scene in which both Michaels shadow fight each other shirtless on the lawn of Black’s house as their significant others try to maintain self-respect by complimenting each other on their wardrobe. Or I could give you a link to the pilot’s Farting Butterfly sketch, which should be an internet meme by now.
I suppose I could also say that the second episode features a hilarious plot about buying weed, and that it gives us our first glimpse at recurring characters, Kumail and Marla, played by actual show writers Kumail Nanjani and Jessi Klein (pictured).
Above: Michael & Michael & Kumail & Jessi Have Script Issues
I suppose I could go all "iTunes Essentials Deep Cuts" on you and say that in this very same episode, you can see both actor Josh Pais (very underrated) portraying producer Jim Biederman, and the real Jim Biederman (who really produces the show) portraying a medieval guard.
Actually, I take it back. I can say a lot of things about the show that Brianna Snyder of The Hartford Advocate didn’t say. Suck on that, Hartford’s #1 Weekly Alternative Newspaper.
The way I see it, you should watch the show. Even if you weren’t a fan of "Stella," or laughing "isn’t your thing", or you’ve just given up on life entirely, "Michael & Michael Have Issues" is going to have something of interest to you. Check out what’s in store for the show after it gets picked up for more episodes:
Well, I can’t help but feel like I’v taken a hard shot to the funny bone. Or Perhaps "raped in my funny hole" is a more appropriate description. Either way, I feel funny, but in a really good way. And so will you if you watch this show.
Before signing out… here’s an outtake from the interview for the true fans, who might appreciate seeing Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter breaking character. From a completely sincere point of view, I think it’s awesome that two guys who’ve been working together for so long can still crack each other up:
Thank you to Michael and Michael for agreeing to waste 20 minutes of their lunch with me. I could have been a psycho super fan stalker in the guise of a mild-mannered writer. And super special thanks to Marie and Christine from Comedy Central, and Stephie Grob for being consummate hosts during my set visit.
Here’s to seeing the show all the way through to Season 40, like the creators intended.
Above: The MMHI sign from the promos and the show, ready to be broken down and sold off in pieces at various JC Penney outlets if the show gets cancelled.
*Not True At All About Sandra Bullock, Happily Married to Jesse James