As Michael Ian Black gets ready for his first televised comedy special in four years Friday on Epix, he told Business Insider what he thinks is funny and who pulls it off well in stand-up these days.
For the longtime comedian of “The State” and “Wet Hot American Summer,” figuring out a joke isn’t that tough.
His new special, “Michael Ian Black: Noted Expert,” tackles his day-to-day, from his wife and kids to observations about how people interact.
“It’s just whatever is interesting to me at the moment,” Black told Business Insider. “Unfortunately, I’m not smart enough to just think of topics and start going. It needs to come from something, usually from my life or something that I’m railing about on Twitter or something that I’m upset about in some way, shape, or form.”
As for other comedians, the self-proclaimed “noted expert” knows what he likes.
“I’m drawn to comedians who are just kind of doing their own thing and expressing themselves the way only they can express themselves,” Black said. “That’s what I find interesting about stand-up comedy, is people sort of being the best distillation of themselves that they can be. So anybody with a unique point of view, anybody with a distinct voice, I really like.”
Here are four comedians Black told us are ruling stand-up at the moment:
1. Ron Funches
“So I remember when I first saw Ron Funches,” Black said. “I think he’s the only comedian I’ve ever seen who I called my agent immediately after, because he was just a local comic, and I said, ‘If you don’t know this guy I think you should sign him.’ And I think my agent ignored me, to his regret, because now Ron is doing really well and is on a lot of TV shows and booking a lot of movies and is a great comedian.”
Where you may have seen him: “Undateable” (NBC), “@midnight” (Comedy Central), and “Kroll Show” (Comedy Central)
2. Dave Hill
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“Dave Hill is a New York comedian and musician who’s always been very distinct and funny and flamboyant in a kind of foppish way, and very funny.”
Where you may have seen him: “@midnight” (Comedy Central) and “Inside Amy Schumer” (Comedy Central)
3. Jen Kirkman
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“Jen Kirkman has a very distinct point of view in particular about femininity, and being a woman and feminism and marriage and kids, and she’s just very strong. I mean, she’s just kind of got a spine of steel, and she expresses it very well. She’s not like an angry comic in that way, but she’s a very strong comic, and I just enjoy her a lot.”
Where you may have seen her: “Chelsea Lately” (E!), “After Lately” (E!), “Drunk History” (Comedy Central), and “@midnight” (Comedy Central)
4. Kumail Nanjiani
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“I love Kumail Nanjiani, who I’ve known for years, and he’s just sort of smart and silly and again, really distinct.”
Where you may have seen him: “Silicon Valley” (HBO), “Portlandia” (IFC), “Newsreaders” (Adult Swim)