Fade to Black

If you only recognize Michael Ian Black as the talking head on VH1 or the guy hawking Sierra Mist between first downs, than you have truly been missing out. And you're an idiot. Because although those appearances are certainly smirk-inducing, Black is a bona fide alternative-comedy superhero, dishing out some of the most cerebral comedy this side of 1990. An original member of the legendary sketch-comedy troupe The State as well as one of three brains behind the short-lived Comedy Central series Stella, Black has also appeared in such cult films as Wet Hot American Summer (think guy in short shorts) and this summer's The Ten. And he ain't too shabby at standup, either.

"I had always admired standup and wanted to do it," Black says from his home in Redding, Connecticut. "But what I didn't want was to pay my dues. I didn't want to be the guy showing up at two in the morning and doing an open mike for three drunk guys."

So after establishing his comedy street cred with The State, the live Stella show was born, and from there Black moved on to taking the stage alone, fast becoming a favorite in the NYC indie comedy scene.

Tonight's show at the Gothic Theatre, 3263 South Broadway in Englewood, marks the first date of a 25-city tour for Black (who's touring with his supremely talented State/Stella buddy Michael Showalter), and to hear him tell it, that's the only way it could have been.

"They were like, 'Don't you want to play Madison Square Garden? Don't you want to play Wembley?' And I was like, 'No. I want to play a tiny club in Denver or I'm not doing it.'"

The man stands by his word tonight at 7 p.m. Tickets, $20, are available at www.gothictheatre.com.
Sun., Oct. 7, 7 p.m., 2007

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Adam Cayton-Holland