As a massive fan of Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black's work since their early days on "The State" (which is now finally available on DVD!), it's been rough seeing their former "State" castmates find such great success on "Reno 911!" while the two Mikes dwell on the fringe of recognition. After a semi-successful run with their comedy trio "Stella," Black and Showalter return to television as the Michaels of “Michael & Michael Have Issues,” a new situation-sketch comedy that premieres tonight on Comedy Central. And with any luck, it could put the two Mike's back on the map.
Much like the the show-within-the-show format of "30 Rock," while MMHI is packed with taped sketches and live comedy segments, the majority of the show is these two comedians working together behind-the-scenes to prepare the show. The two Michaels play self-absorbed, overly-competitive, assholish versions of themselves - such as when they engage in an increasingly ridiculous (and hysterical) feud over a profile that the staff intern is writing for his high school newspaper. The escalating altercation ends in a poor-man's shirtless, out-of-shape capoera fight on the front lawn. It's all par for the course on a show that's built on the partners' relentless drive to one-up each other.
Michael and Michael's constant bickering is essentially the centerpiece of the show, with their over-the-top passive/agressive hostility taking the wheel the majority of the time. The subtle broad-stroke joke to it all is the reason the characters don't ever seem to realize: they're too similar. They both want to be the Simon to the other's Garfunkel, the Lennon to the other's Ringo. Each has a burning need to be the dominant creative force in the duo's show, but neither seems to ever hold the upper hand for long.
The majority of the second episode centers on M&M's quest to score some weed for their co-worker, Biederman, a premise that finds Michael Black first arrested in the park for buying drugs ("I'm a comedian, it's okay!") and then beaten/mugged while he watches Showalter make another attempt to score - successfully this time. Interspersed with sketches including "The Quiet Weatherman" (A bit about a TV weatherman too quiet to hear, played by Showalter) and an unconvincing anti-drug PSA, the episode is far funnier - and more bizarre - than the pilot.
There are no other central characters besides the two Michaels, and the show will suffer among casual viewers as a result. But die-hards of "Stella" and "The State" should feel right at home. These two tremendously talented comedians are underexposed and underappreciated by the general public, and provided it lasts more than a season, MMHI could very well be a scaled triumph. Not quite as accessible as "Reno 911!," but not nearly as bombastic as "Stella". For a taste of what to expect, or simply a litmus test of your own sense of humor, check out the Farting Butterfly sketch:
Another interesting aside is that "Michael & Michael" will feature live commercials during six of its seven episodes, as Messrs. Black and Showalter humorously pimp an assortment of products including Unilever's Klondike, Dunkin' Donuts, Mike's Hard Lemonade and Palm Pre.
"Michael & Michael Have Issues" debuts on Comedy Central this Wednesday, July 15 at 10:30 P.M. ET/PT.
Check out the MMHI blog right here.