Michael Ian Black lost his temper with an idiot and like a lot of people might do these days, he blogged about it. Black, however, is a founding member of influential comedy troop The State, an actor, author, stand-up comedian and commercial pitchman with well over a million followers on Twitter. Add to that Black’s wry, deadpan and seemingly laid-back public persona and you might understand why his experience with an anti-Obama heckler during his stand-up routine in Ohio over the weekend drew so much interest once it received notice from sites like Gawker TV.
In his Tumblr post, Black outlined the exchange with the audience member:
Last night, as I was talking about how much I love the president (because I do), somebody yelled out “Heil Hitler.”
My immediate reaction was to crumple to the floor, which I did. I don’t know why, except that it seemed to me in that moment that the show had now gone south very quickly, and if bottles were going to be thrown, I didn’t want to get hit.
Black questioned the heckler as to why he’d said what he did. The man explained, “Because when you say you like Obama, that’s the same thing to me as saying ‘Heil Hitler.’”
Shortly after that, wrote Black, he lost it:
I just started screaming at the guy. Screaming. I don’t even know what I was screaming, although the gist was, “How dare you compare Hitler to this president or any president? How dare you equate what he did with Obama is doing? Do you have any idea how insulting that is? Do you know anything about history? Do you have any idea what Hitler did? He killed six million of my people, which is six million more than Obama has killed. You’re a fucking idiot. You’re a fucking moron. You’re the fucking problem with this country. You and your reflexive retardation. You’re a fucking this-and-that…” and then I just basically started yelling “fuck” a lot at the guy. Fuck fuck fuck fuck.
Then he stood up and left.
It felt really, really great.
Black explained in his blog post that he felt bad about losing it, but his was “a purely emotional response, the kind that I get upset at other people for making when talking about the mosque they want to build or gay marriage or gun violence or any issue that people use to piss each other off.”
We wanted to know a little more, so we reached out to Black via email. His answers to our questions were thoughtful, blunt and–as you might expect–pretty funny.
How did the audience react after you cut loose?
The audience loved it, the way you would enjoy watching anybody go on a rampage. If I was at the show I would have loved it too. Same reason people love NASCAR- for the fiery wrecks. People losing their shit is always entertaining to watch, unless you’re at the supermarket and it’s a mom with her kid. Then it’s just uncomfortable. But also entertaining.
How did you recover your act, get it back into the groove?
It wasn’t hard because I was talking about Obama anyway. So it was easy to keep talking about Obama afterwards. To their credit, they stayed with me and it ended up being a good show. As a fan of comedy, I always enjoy watching things go off the rails, so if I had been there I probably would have thought it was great and I think it would have been rooting for the comic to get back on track, which I think they were. Had it been the other way around and I was the one screaming “Heil Hitler,” it might not have been as easy to get them back.
Is there maybe an undertone of surprise in your blog post, a sense of ‘I can’t believe I did that?’
More embarrassment at my own actions. More of “I was pretty close to wading into the crowd with fists flying.” If I wasn’t such a total and complete pussy, I might have done it. This is one occasion where I am glad I am so hopelessly physically inept. No, that’s probably true. I don’t think I ever would have instigated a fight over something like that, but I was close to being out of control for a few moments, which is embarrassing to me. Also, it was my show, which is sort of like being the host at a party. Generally hosts don’t call their guests “fucking morons,” even if they take a dump in the pool.
Are you surprised this is getting so much attention?
I am surprised it’s getting any attention at all. This is just something I was feeling bad about and felt the need to get off my chest, so I wrote a blog post. I get the sense that a lot of the support I’ve been getting about this comes from Obama supporters. I am also a huge Obama supporter (I kind of thought I was the only one left) but my point wasn’t about Obama at all; it applied to all presidents. But more than that, it was about how reflexively we’ve been shouting at each other since Clinton was in office. Maybe it was before, but that’s the first time I became aware of it. I just feel like we’re turning into a country filled with shitty people and I don’t want to be part of that. By screaming at that guy for yelling out his stupid buzz word, that’s exactly what I became.
Here’s the thing: I honestly believe that the vast majority of Americans want the same things; peace, opportunity, a fair shake, and the freedom to pursue their version of happiness. Democrats want that. Republicans want that. Oprah wants that. Ted Nugent wants that. Everybody. The arguments arise about how we get there. I just think we’d all be better served if we gave each other the benefit of the doubt instead of automatically demonizing the other guy. Here’s the thing I am trying to keep in mind: the other guy isn’t automatically the asshole. Whenever I start to think that he is, I have to remind myself, “The asshole, perhaps, is I.”
Who should be more afraid? The next person who compares Obama to Hitler in front of you or the next fan who says they loved you as a member of Kids In The Hall? (Black was in The State but has joked about people confusing him for a member of the Canadian comedy group).
Nobody need be afraid of me. I am a meek little kitten who just wants his ears scratched.
Was this a Howard Beale moment? Are you mad as hell and not going to take it any more?
Now that I’ve got two kids, I can use that old dad line. “I’m not mad, I’m disappointed.”