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Black Comedy

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas of 1968, it would seem, Tom and Judy Black, two real rocket scientists married and living on the western edge of Southern California, made sweet, sweet love until a cartoon stork flew over their Hermosa Beach home and dropped the freshly swaddled infant Jack gently through the roof and into his waiting crib. It was the end of 1969’s August, and young Black was welcomed with regular feedings, shelterings and affections. De-swaddled at just the right time, Black was then educated in various ways in and around the public schools of Culver City and Santa Monica’s Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences. And it was soon thereafter, as a member of the Actors’ Gang, that he befriended co-Gangster Kyle Gass and formed Satan’s own humanist satire band, Tenacious D.

Tenacious D, the band, the way of life; Tenacious D: The Greatest Band on Earth, the short-lived 1999 HBO series; the phrase made vaguely unanonymous by rugged sportscaster Marv Albert. The elements of Black’s Tenacious D persona — the churning, wistful confidence; the evangelical whiskey roars and meta-pious crooning; the Nigel Tufnel of Motown athleticism; the intricate eyebrow play (“You must never underestimate the power of the eyebrow,” he has advised) — have been co-opted, often to great effect, by Black’s motion-picture directors. And after all these years of watching Black the actor garner international acclaim for such intense and heroic characterizations as Roger Davis, Billy Glen Norris, Gay Guy, Moviegoer, Jeepers Creepers, Expert, Voice of God/Farmer/Satan, Barry (especially Barry), Georgie, Dewey Finn, Lance Brumder and Carl Denham in movies like Bob Roberts, Mars Attacks!, Mr. Show With Bob and David, High Fidelity, Jesus’ Son, School of Rock, Orange County and King Kong, it may well prove to be Black the artificial rock star — and, of course, Gass, and, by extension, society as a whole — who will benefit from the monetary riches of Black the actor’s fame. Evidence:

Kyle’s fingers be silverJack’s voice then be goldBut lest you think we’re vain,We know it’s open-mike night —We don’t care!Tenacious D, we reign!We reign! Supreme!O, God! Burrito Supreme!And a Chicken Supreme!And a Nacho Supreme!We reign supreme!

—from “The History of Tenacious D”

If you’d like to receive more information about the origins of the world’s first heavy metal satire-folk (mostly) acoustic band, start saving up now: Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny, a chronicle of their rise to various powers and supremacies and so on (directed by Liam Lynch and written by Black, Gass, Lynch and Bob Odenkirk), will appear this fall at an overpriced theater or drive-in near you. Sooner (early June, big release), you can catch Black as Norwegian-Mexican priest/lucha libre wrestler Ignacio, a.k.a. Nacho, in the Jared Hess–directed Nacho Libre, loosely based on the life of an actual Mexican priest/luchador who lived (loosely) just such a double life through thousands of bouts for more than two decades. More Tenacious D typecasting.


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