Michael Ian Black is a comedian known for his sharp and irreverent wit. Not only known for his work on such shows as "The State," "Ed," and "Stella," Black is certainly not afraid to comment on the goings-on in the political arena via his hilarious Twitter account, but he's taken that interest one step further. In "America, You Sexy Bitch," a new book out from De Capo Press now, Black and Meghan McCain, daughter of 2008 Republican Presidential hopeful John McCain, hop into an RV and travel across the nation, speaking to average people (and Yakov Smirnoff) in an attempt to paint a picture of the "real" America, our similarities and differences.
The book is a refreshing ride, one full of honesty and chocked-full of laughs. In an exclusive interview for Yahoo! TV, Black opens up about what went into the book, why he's interested in politics as a comedian, and what he learned during this whole experience.
I love the way you and Meghan set the book up in the introduction, and you wound up telling a pretty great and funny story of putting aside political ideologies in pursuit of unity and answers. Is that what you two wanted the book to be, a primer on modern civil discourse?
Michael Ian Black: We wanted to show that it's possible to discuss politics in a way that isn't combative and to have a good time doing it. But let's be honest, we didn't always succeed. There were plenty of times throughout our trip and to this day when we bitched and carped at each other over political disagreements, musical disagreements, food disagreements, relationship disagreements, and disagreements about the nature of our disagreements. Suffice to say, over 90 percent of the time, I was right, and she was wrong.
You and Meghan have a really great chemistry that shows through even in the pages of the book; you can tell that you two got along. What was your exit strategy if the two of you hated each other?
MIB: From my point of view, it was kind of win/win. Either we got along and had a great time doing the trip and writing the book, or we hated each other, which would be miserable for the trip but would probably make an even better book. As it happens, the book may have suffered because we got on as well as we did, but my life is immeasurably better.
In the intro you mention your friends Joe and Ben. As a mega-nerd fan of "The State," I have to ask, is that Joe Lo Truglio and Ben Garant you're talking about?
What surprised you most -- or least -- about working with Meghan?
MIB: I talk a little about this in the book, but what surprised me the most about Meghan is how open-minded she is. As she says, if it's not about the Second Amendment, she's willing to listen. (And honestly, she's pretty open to listening to differing opinions on the Second Amendment, too.) Somebody like her, somebody brought up in a highly political atmosphere should be much less willing to listen and consider other people's opinions. To me, the fact that she does listen, that she constantly is challenging her own belief system, was an inspiration. If somebody like her, a potential first daughter, can be sympathetic to points of view other than those espoused by her political party, we all should be.
I love the "he said, she said" dynamic of the book. How much insight do you have into what each other was writing for each city/chapter?
MIB: We showed each other our chapters as we wrote them, but I think we both tried to let the other person tell their story the way they saw fit. The one thing she got pissed at me about was when I said she was texting all the time. She strongly disputed that. Maybe because I'm ancient compared to her, but to me, she was texting all the time. Now she's going to be mad at me all over again for even bringing this up.
Are there any stops on the tour you did that you didn't include in the book?
MIB: We spent the night at a llama farm. It was a quaint old farmhouse in the middle of Pennsylvania. There wasn't much to say about it other than to point out the fact that llamas are hideous creatures.
Who are some of your political heroes, if you have any?
MIB: Political heroes are tough to come by because politicians can be so scummy. Even if they do a hundred things right legislatively, they do a hundred things wrong, and so many of their personal lives were a disaster. Modern politicians are so scrutinized that it's almost impossible to hold them in high regard. I will say that I was very impressed with Dennis Kucinich. Not because of his policies, but because he is a man who seems to vote his conscience. Also, his wife is hot.
Are there any political beliefs that you held before the trip that maybe have changed or softened since? Did the trip and the people you met along the way change how you feel or view any issues?
MIB: If anything surprised me it's this: Americans are much better informed than I gave them credit for before leaving on the trip. Wherever we went, people were thoughtful, opinionated, and passionate about their country. Once we got them talking, they revealed great reservoirs of concern for their country. This cut across the entire political spectrum. People care, and they want leadership. Also, they have an enormous capacity to wear over-sized T-shirts.
How do your comedic sensibilities color, if at all, your political views?
MIB: I am not, by nature, a political comedian, as evidenced by my answers to these questions. My interest in politics is separate from my interest in comedy, and I don't think my politics inform my comedy as much as my general approach to life informs both. My general approach to life, in case you're wondering, basically comes down to, "Please don't bother me." Now you can say that such a philosophy should dovetail with classic Republican dogma, which I would agree with, except that modern Republican philosophy wants to get all up in my shit when it comes to social issues. Also, inherent in my "please don't bother me" philosophy is the assumption that we should all do our part to help out other people through taxation. That taxation buys me the right to be left alone the rest of the time.
Are there any comedians you think would have made or would make great politicians?
MIB: No comedian would make a great politician because a comedian's job is to tell the truth.
Any plans for a follow up, maybe after the November elections, to take the pulse of the nation again?
MIB: Let's see how this one sells. The thought of spending another month in a stinky RV does not appeal to me at the moment.
Would you ever consider hosting a "Crossfire" kind of show with Meghan?
MIB: Sure. For two reasons. One, I like Meghan. Two, I like money.
Who is your favorite president? Do you have one?
MIB: It's hard not to love Lincoln.
Obama and Romney were looking for campaign slogans recently. Obama's team came up with "Forward," and I'm not actually sure what Romney's is. Care to write a campaign slogan for him?
MIB: Romney: Robots are people, my friend.
"America, You Sexy Bitch" is available now from De Capo Press.
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