Off Camera 45 | 10/28/15
Jack Black
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Thanks to movie posters and pull-quote "reviews", we've heard "electric" used to describe a performance so often that it barely registers as an adjective. But think back for a moment to the first time you saw High Fidelity. Now, think about the first moment Jack Black appeared on screen and jolted that film alive. It’s a great movie with a great cast, but let’s face it – his very presence flipped the switch. And that movie flipped the switch on Black’s film career, though it was a part he came within inches of turning down. But as the Guitar Pick of Fate would have it, he said yes, ending a 10-year struggle as a glorified extra that followed his first film role as a rabid political acolyte in Bob Roberts, where his real-life nerves turned out to be all the prep he needed to turn in another performance you must to go back and see. The good news about that flame-out decade is that he met a certain KG, and you know what rose from those ashes. But let’s flash-Black for a moment to our guest as a teenager who began auditioning for commercials because he so desperately wanted his friends to see him on TV, and even more desperately the acceptance and attention he figured would follow. A stint in Tim Robbins’ The Actors Gang followed, as did high school plays and musicals; and though he lost the girl (and wrote the requisite power ballad) he quite literally found his voice. Through music, The D, the hilarious Mr. Show and eventually film, he got the totally merited attention he wanted, if not the confidence he probably thought would come with it: “Man, I spend my life just trying to relax.” But he achieved at least some degree of artistic peace in figuring out that his way in to any role – or any song, for that matter – was with a chaser of comedy. If that covers up some vulnerability, well, as he puts it, "You can't hurt the clown." So back to the present, where under all the over-the-top antics and outrageousness it’s not hard to scent the sensitivity and empathy that no amount of good-humored depravity can disguise. It takes one very human clown to connect us immediately with otherwise improbable characters and films (for more must-see proof, we offer School of Rock and the truly excellent Bernie). As an artist Black says he doesn’t seek out challenges as much as he does resonance. In this high-minded and philosophical discussion, we will hit you with lessons on artistic angst and toehold moments, as well as true tales of Cannes-crashing, the fearsome warlock powers of Stephen Frears, and a fever-dream nightmare of an Elliott Smith tribute gone horribly wrong…then right. That, and a scholarly debate on the merits of Gene Krupa vs. Buddy Rich vs. Peter Criss – Sam and Jack hologram it out. By now, Jack Black knows who he is, and what he’s here for. So watch his work for the subtle or the shenanigans, but watch you will, because it’s impossible not to. He’s proof you can’t underestimate the power of a raised eyebrow, wait-for-it timing or an unexpected turn of phrase. In that regard, he ranks up there with Jack Benny and other masters of comedy who simply knew how to deliver a line. Ladies and gents, we give you the Bard of Off Camera.


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