Actor-comedian-writer Michael Ian Black is among the guest speakers at this year’s digital Detroit Jewish Book Fair.
If Michael Ian Black had not finished his latest book before the pandemic, he would have added a section on facemasks.
“I might use [not wearing them] as an example of what I think is destructive behavior among men,” said the actor-comedian-writer, 49, who will be among the guest speakers at this year’s digital Detroit Jewish Book Fair. “Thinking that masks are a projection of weakness is as if caring about your health or the health of your loved ones is somehow weak.”
Black’s latest book, A Better Man: A (Mostly Serious) Letter to My Son, enters into the program “Raising Better Men,” which can be seen live at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3, and videotaped for independent viewing. He will be joined by Meredith Jacobs, CEO of Jewish Women International (JWI), a nonprofit devoted to empowering women. She is co-author of the book Just Between Us: Mother & Son: A No-Stress, No-Rules Journal.
Black’s latest book, among about a dozen, was intended to hold a fare-thee-well message as his son, Elijah, left the family’s Connecticut home for the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia.
Any initiative toward carrying out the presented idea of self-determination was interrupted in Elijah’s freshman year on his way to a career in video game design. Elijah had to return home, isolating with mom and dad, during mandatory remote learning.
Black’s overriding message is that young men don’t have to be competitive and always strive for more. They should focus on realizing the fulfillment of their own gifts.
“I talk to him about a sense of obligation I feel he has built because he is a white kid coming out of a fairly privileged upbringing and also because of his Judaism,” said Black, whose wife is Catholic. “I think Jews have a special obligation to look out for those in need and to be considerate and helpful toward the oppressed or persecuted.
“It doesn’t mean he has to go out and fight every battle under the sun, but I think he has to help fight some. It’s up to him to pick what those are, but I do think that is intrinsically tied to the part of him that’s Jewish.”
When he has not been writing, Black has been featured through different media. His TV credits include The Jim Gaffigan Show, Another Period and Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later. Accustomed to appearing on stages across the country, he recalls Michigan stops at the Traverse City Film Festival and Ann Arbor’s The Blind Pig.
With the restrictions of the pandemic, Black is continuing with a podcast (patreon.com/MichaelIanBlack) that has him reading a classic book and interrupting with personal comments — funny and not-so-funny. The current selection is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
“I’ve learned from my son that however we think we’re going to be parenting when our babies are born turns out how we’re not going to be parenting,” he said. “Our children will tell us who they are, and whatever expectations we may have will inevitably be upended by their personalities and the persons that they are.”
Michael Ian Black’s original presentation for the Detroit Jewish Book Fair is at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3. For access to this and other original presentations Dec.1-9, as well as later viewings, go to culturalarts.jccdet.org/bookfair, where you can see the full lineup of authors and events.