"I've been working in this industry basically since I was 21 years old, almost without pause. It's just that you get to a certain point and you're sort of like, 'Okay, I've been this cult figure for the last 10, 15 years, I'd like to either get a slightly larger cult, or move more into the mainstream.' Just because that feels like the trajectory of a career, because you want to keep moving forward, I don't necessarily want to be this fringe guy for the rest of my life." Michael Ian Black
Comedian Michael Ian Black started out with the comedy group "The State," with whom he had a short run with the MTV show "The State" (1993. He also perform in the weekly comedy staging of "Stella" at the Fez in New York City from the late '90s to 2005 and was featured in the Internet live-action series "Stella."
The straight-faced, well-groomed comedian, who voiced the Pets.com sock puppet, became the main subject in the current Sierra Mist commercials (2005-2006) and hosted the first season of NBC's hidden-camera show “Spy TV” (2001). He also had a scene-stealing supporting role as Phil Stubbs (2000-2004) on the hit NBC series “Ed.” He now hosts Comedy Central's reality show that parodies various reality show formats, "Reality Bites Back," which premiered July 17, 2008.
This 5' 11" dark-haired performer has two children with his wife, Martha Hagen. He will next be seen in an upcoming drama/comedy film called "Kids in America" alongside Topher Grace and Anna Faris.
Childhood and Family:
Born in Chicago, Illinois, on August 12, 1971, to Robert Schwartz (died during neurological surgery following a mysterious assault in 1982) and Jill Schwartz (divorced from Robert Schwartz in 1976), Michael Schwartz grew up in Hillsborough, New Jersey. A middle child, Michael attended Hillsborough High School and New York University's Tisch School of the Arts but left before graduation. He also attended Stagedoor Manor Performing Arts Training Center in New York as a teenager.
"I think it’s hard for parents to be particularly supportive when their son or daughter says, ‘I’m going to go be in show biz.’ I don’t think that’s a career choice most parents would recommend to their children, and with good reason. It has a 98% unemployment rate. But subsequently, since I have been able to house and feed myself and my brood, they’ve certainly come around." Michael Ian Black
Michael, whose birth name is Schwartz, changed his name to Michael Ian Black because there was already a popular actor named Michael Schwartz.
In 1998, Michael married Martha Hagen. They have two children, son Elijah Black (born in January 2001) and daughter Ruth (born in 2003). Michael and his family live in Redding, Connecticut.
An amateur poker enthusiast, Michael is a regular player on the online poker website Hollywood Poker. He also has appeared on a number of episodes of “Celebrity Poker Showdown.”
While attending New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, Michael Ian Black met and joined the comedy group “The New Group,” which would later be renamed “The State: Full-Frontal Comedy” and eventually just “The State.” They had a short run with their own MTV show, "The State" (1993), before attempting a move to CBS in the mid-1990s.
After the unsuccessful CBS series, Black teamed up again with fellow members of the troupe on other edgy projects, including the weekly comedy staging of "Stella" at the Fez in New York City.
“They're all kind of equally boring to make, but I liked making the one in the woods with Paul Rudd because I got to use my son in it. He was six months old and had a bad cold, but that didn't stop from us stripping him naked and holding him upside down in forty degree weather. I'm an awesome dad.” Michael Ian Black (on making “Stella” short films)
Next, Black co-wrote the screenplay for the experimental short "I'm Your Man" (1992) as well as wrote, produced, and starred in sketches for the MTV series hosted by Jon Stewart, "You Wrote It, You Watch It" (1992). He was also spotted as a guest in a 1994 episode of ABC’s cop drama "NYPD Blue" and starred in the CBS special "The State's 43rd Annual Halloween Special" (1995).
In 1997, Black filmed the independent comedy feature "Big Helium Dog" and became a regular on Comedy Central’s "Viva Variety" (1997), starring alongside fellow "The State" veterans Kerri Kenney and Thomas Lennon. The following year, he appeared as a guest on an episode of ABC's "Spin City."
Entering the new millennium, Black began playing the quirky bowling alley employee Phil Stubbs in the NBC sitcom "Ed." The role was initially played by fellow "I Love the '80s" (2002) commentator Donal Logue in the first episode, but he backed out due to scheduling conflicts. Black would portray the character until the show's finale on February 6, 2004.
"Any time I am involved in something from conception to execution, that's obviously a lot more personal and I'm going to be more invested in it than something where I just show up for a couple days, shoot, and leave. 'Ed' was that way. I was a regular character on it, but I didn't feel proprietary toward it. You know, if someone said 'I like Ed,' my instinct would be to say, 'Yeah, they do a great job.' It didn't feel like mine." Michael Ian Black
During this time, Black also voiced the Pets.com sock dog puppet in a series of popular television commercials. In 2001, he appeared in the Sundance-screened comedy feature "Wet Hot American Summer," which was directed, scripted and co-starred fellow members of “The State,” hosted the NBC summer series "Spy TV," and was featured in the Internet live-action series "Stella." He also voiced Al Foster (2003) on Comedy Central's "Crank Yankers" and appeared in several episodes of Comedy Central's "Reno 911" (2003), starring Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant and Kerri Kenney.
"Comedy in New York right now is really good; it’s very fertile. What happened is once stand-up comedy died in the early 90’s, which was sort of when I started doing it, I recognized at that time, and I think I was right, that it was sort of the perfect time to be starting out in comedy. There was nothing going on and the scene was so dead that there was an opportunity to reinvent it. I think a lot of us recognized that and ran with it. Were we successful? Well, I’m on basic cable television sister, so you answer your own question there." Michael Ian Black
In 2004, Black became a guest host on CBS' "The Late Late Show," filling in for Craig Kilborn. In the following year, he starred in a TV commercial for Sierra Mist with Jim Gaffigan, Aries Spears, 'Nicole Sullivan' and Debra Wilson.
Black released his book, "My Custom Van" in 2008. He has also completed his upcoming film project, "Kids in America," which is directed by Michael Dowse and stars Topher Grace and Anna Faris.
Black now hosts Comedy Central's reality show that parodies various reality show formats, "Reality Bites Back," which premiered on July 17, 2008.
"They figured it all out and then I think went through the list of people who they didn't want to host it and then finally got to me. Once I was on board, they pretty much let me do what I wanted, which was to act like a smug a**hole, which is pretty much all I'm capable of doing. So I was playing to my wheelhouse." Michael Ian Black (on his involvement in "Reality Bites Back")