Black Jack Gambles on Funnyman Superstardom

Right now, Jack Black is everywhere--and that's not a fat joke. Currently appearing in Orange County, the mildly obese actor has eaten up screen time since his popular debut as a self-righteous, bloated record-store clerk in High Fidelity. Since that breakthrough comedic role, Black has seen his band (Tenacious D) achieve critical and commercial success and has also made a debut as a leading man alongside Gwyneth Paltrow in Shallow Hal.

Like John Belushi before him (whom Black takes honor in being compared to), Black is at a crossroads in his career. Will he take the Belushi-Chris Farley way-out--a life of self-indulgence and arrogance resulting in an untimely demise? Or will Black fare better in the role of Hollywood's portly funnyman?

To his credit, Black is sometimes surprisingly humble, even when talking about the dual success of his band and film career. "Most actor-singers are doing it as like a vanity project.... It's all just like straight-up singing, like trying to be a regular, legit band. Our band--there's like more theatrical elements, we use some of our acting chops to make up for a lack of musical talent,"Black said.

Other times, Black comes across as arrogant, admitting that he often changes the lines of his onscreen characters. "I always do a little change with words that don't sound right coming out of my mouth."

He doesn't expect to win an Academy Award (not that any of his work has yet deserved that kind of merit). "There's never any love for the comedian.... You have to squeeze out some tears or be disabled in some way--if you can pull that off then you get the prizes." Actually, Jack, funnymen have won their fair share of awards--but none of them has done it with films as tragically contrived as Shallow Hal or Saving Silverman. Running around in underwear (like Black does in Orange County) is good for one laugh, not 90 minutes worth.

Black does know that history is against him. He may be charming to interview and good for movie trailers, but he also needs to avoid what is commonly known as "Pauly Shore syndrome"--a disease that can kill a career more quickly than Ebola in a hurricane. "Pauly Shore haunts me," Black said. "I probably won't avoid it."

--Martin Barna


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