Michael Ian Black’s career has been pretty damn diverse. He’s appeared onscreen in numerous films, television shows, and web series, including The State, Ed, Stella, and the upcoming Netflix series Wet Hot American Summer, based on the beloved film of the same name. He’s an actor, producer, director, screenwriter, author, and stand-up comedian. He also lives in a magically beautiful abode in the New England woods with his wife and kids. I traveled there, bearing bagels and smoked salmon from Brooklyn, to put him under the laser-like scrutiny of Playboy’s Lucky 7. But before we get to that bit, let’s warm up with a few pertinent seasonal questions.
Have you heard the new D'Angelo album yet?
Not yet. I’m going to use it instead of Viagra.
What role does music play in your life? Do you ever use it to help you write, or do you find it distracting?
I go back and forth with music. There are times when I can’t bear to hear any of it, and times when I can’t live without it. When I write, I tend to put on instrumental music very quietly, usually some form of classical. Something kind of quiet and melancholy. Maybe that doesn’t lend itself naturally to comedy writing, but it works for me.
How was the lead-up to the holidays in your household? Do you go all out with decorations or is it a minimalist approach?
It’s pretty chill. My wife and daughter tend to get more involved in the decorating than my son and myself. Frankly, I don’t like Christmas at all and would prefer to do away with it altogether. I derive no great joy from the holiday, feel no connection to it, and would rather we just had a second Thanksgiving. To me, Thanksgiving is the best holiday because there’s no gift-giving, no TV specials other than the parade, no weeks of stress. It’s just a meal with family and the expression of gratitude. I’m down with both.
What was your first encounter with Playboy?
I believe my uncle was a subscriber in the ’70s. And he was a kind of hip bachelor type. And he may have even had a Playboy pinball machine. He had a pinball machine, and I’m 90 percent sure it was Playboy. … I remember being in his apartment probably at the age of maybe six or seven, looking at Playboy magazines. Just looking at the different covers, and feeling pretty good about them.
What movie scared you most as a kid?
The movie that scared me the most I never even saw, I was so scared of it. When I was in middle school, everybody was talking about Faces of Death, parts like one through three. And they were like, “It’s people dying and it’s real, and there’s nothing fake in it. People are getting shot and stabbed and their heads are getting cut off.” And the idea scared me so much that I never watched it.
What’s your pop culture blind spot?
Well, I don’t know horror as a genre because I think the Faces of Death thing scared me so much — I don’t like the idea of being scared on purpose. So I am ignorant as to the genre of horror altogether. A lot of sports stuff I don’t really know about. I don’t know much about professional football. All I know is I keep hearing the name Cam Newton. The name Cam Newton seems to come up a lot. He’s a football player. Certain football player names seem to just come up all the time. RG3, Cam Newton, Deuce Bigalow.
Let’s pretend you’re on death row — what’s your last meal?
I’ve thought about this. And for me, there is no question. It would be — I’m trying to pick a number now. Well, let’s just say as many Taco Bell Taco Supremes as I want, coupled with as much Dr. Pepper as I care for.
What’s the first song you knew all the words to?
“Mr. Roboto,” by Styx���probably. Oh, actually, probably before that “Rhinestone Cowboy” by Glen Campbell. I think.
What was your first car?
A 1985 Hyundai Excel. It was either white or silver. I can’t remember which. But I bought it from my brother, who bought it new, because they were pretty cheap. It was like the Yugo. And when he went to college I bought it from him. And it lasted about a year and then it just died. It just totally died right in front of my friend’s driveway. And it sat there for about three weeks until they yelled at us to get it towed away.
What is the biggest lie you’ve ever told?
The biggest lie. I mean, the most horrifying lie, I was working as a receptionist at some sort of Jewish center. And I got an acting job. I had just started there. And so I felt bad about quitting. So I didn’t go in one day and didn’t call on purpose. Then the next day I called and said, “I’m so sorry, my sister just got diagnosed with breast cancer. I’m calling you from Arizona where she lives.” I do not have a sister who lives in Arizona. “I flew out there immediately. I didn’t even think about calling in, I was so freaked out and worried. I don’t know when I’ll be back, so I’m just going to have to let this go.” [Laughter] Truly horrific.
Sara Benincasa is a comedian and the author of Great and Agorafabulous!: Dispatches From My Bedroom. She tweets @sarajbenincasa and is currently on tour: dates are at SaraBenincasa.com/shows.