Jack Black on ‘Bernie’

The comedian talks about romancing Shirley MacLaine and why The D must rise like a phoenix.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel


This week’s new Jack Black comedy is really a true crime story. Bernie Tiede (Black) wa a beloved assistant funeral director in Carthage, TX until he killed his platonic sugar mamma (Shirley MacLaine.) The film played at South by Southwest and Jack Black came to Austin for a roundtable with local journalists. We got to throw our questions in while visiting Austin, to ask about Bernie, long overdo Muppets questions and the new Tenacious D album, Rise of the Phoenix.


How does it feel to join the ranks of Jack Lemmon and Jack Nicholson who have romanced Shirley MacLaine in movies?

Jack Black: You know, that’s a lot of pressure. Those are some powerful Jacks. I definitely feel like third Jack on that list. I’m definitely the one eyed Jack.


And you gave her a foot massage. That’s even more intimate than a love scene according to Pulp Fiction rules.

Is that in Pulp Fiction? They say a foot massage is more intimate than intercourse? Yeah, and I didn’t just rub the feet. I also buffed and shined them. You saw, that was a full on pedicure.


How close did you get to Bernie’s voice?I think I nailed it but it’s not for me to say. Now all of a sudden I’m tooting my own horn but I did have the audiotape and the videotape and I studied hard.


Did The D need to rise like the phoenix?

I find nothing’s more compelling than a great comeback story. We embraced it. A lot of people, after having a lackluster sophomore effort, would have ignored it and just said, “Yeah, yeah, here, we’re back again. Here comes another great album.” We decided to embrace the fact that it was a critical and commercial failure and say a big f*** you. And say not only that, we’re back and better than before. Yeah, the rise of the phoenix is very dramatic.


Has The D ever played SXSW?

We did. We played here about 10 years ago at the Music Hall. It was great. I remember Modest Mouse was on the bill and so was Sebadoh, two of my favorites.


We loved you in The Muppets but why wouldn’t the real Jack Black volunteer to host the Muppet telethon?

Oh yeah, I know. Why’d they have to kidnap me? Because I think the real Jack Black had to be a horrible Hollywood *sshole. It was hard to do that. I didn’t want to be an *sshole. Then I was worried because I took my boys to see the premiere. Actually only one boy. The other one didn’t want to see my head shrunk. I had to warn them. I was like, “Look, I’m warning you guys. I’m going to take you to the premiere but Daddy’s head gets shrunk down really tiny and it might be a little scary.” And he said, “I’m not going. I don’t want your head to be shrunk.” So I took the other boy and he didn’t know why I was being so [uncooperative.] It’s weird. You don’t want to take your kids to see you in a movie. It does a number on their heads because then they’re all of a sudden sharing Daddy with a bunch of people in the theater.


What did they think little Lilliputians stuck in your butt?

That was also slightly disturbing but I warned them, once again. I’m real big on the warnings. “Now listen, you guys. There’s a little man that’s going to go in my butt. It doesn’t hurt and it’s not real.” So they’re prepared psychologically for the trauma.


That’s truly what Jonathan Swift originally intended.

I don’t want to get too much into the Gulliver’s Travels junket. I feel like I’m in a time warp now but Jonathan Swift was very scatological, even more so than we were. There was all kinds of weird, crazy, sexual sh*t happening in his stuff. We didn’t make up the pissing on the fire at the palace. That was in the book too.