In the lobby of WYNC’s offices on Varick Street, Michael Ian Black is chatting with Meghan McCain. It seems as though they are old friends catching up between sips of iced coffee. They’re not. Actually, they only met in person less than a year ago, but in this short time they have toured the nation together and learned valuable lessons from one another, though they are of very different political thinking. Black, a Democrat, and McCain, a Republican, prove that friendship and admiration can cross party lines.
Clutching the book they have penned together, America, You Sexy Bitch, I go over to greet them after their interview with Brian Lehrer. Black and I walk to the nearest Starbucks, where we speak about his book, Washington Square Park, and the first trip he took across the United States—dressed as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
In the beginning of your book, you said that Ambien and Twitter were instrumental in getting Meghan to sign on to this project. Is that really true?
Yes, I was on Twitter. I had taken Ambien. And the next morning, I woke up and went, “Did I just propose writing a book to Meghan McCain? I think so and I think she said yes. I think that’s what happened last night.” I had only met her once before, via satellite. I had been a fan of hers for years. I liked the way she spoke about the Republican party, and that that she wasn’t afraid to go against party orthodoxy. She seemed like someone who spoke her mind, which I respond to.
Did she meet your expectations?
She exceeded them in a lot of ways. She’s a lot braver than I would have given her credit for. In politics, it’s very hard to forge your own path, because the way the political system works, you’re either in one camp or the other. Meghan is a Republican, but the Republican establishment that exists rejects her because she does not toe the party line. As a result, she doesn’t have a home politically. It’s a shame, because for that party to succeed, it needs to have more Meghan McCains.
You said that her mother, Cindy, was the first person who made you start to think you may have had the wrong impression of some Republicans. How so?
I had an impression of Cindy McCain based on what I knew from the media: She was rich, cold and aloof. None of that was true—except for the part about her being rich. She is really rich. [Laughs] But she was warm and hospitable and open with me in a way that surprised me because they’re a guarded family—as anybody would be in that position. To welcome a stranger into your home whose motivations probably seemed very unclear, I think, was really generous.
In the book, you explain your worry that your two children will not get to experience the American Dream as you did. What do you mean by that?
Every parent worries about the opportunities their children are going to have. My fear for them is that they won’t even see the opportunities that my generation and all previous generations saw. The American Dream is a promise that one generation gives to the other and right now, it’s hard to give my kids that promise. It’s a scary time. That being said, my children are in a much better position than 80-90 percent of other kids in this country because I make a good living. They have a lot of advantages that others don’t, and yet I’m still frightened for my socioeconomically blessed children. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for people living from paycheck to paycheck.
You studied acting at NYU. What is your favorite place in the city?
I will always have a very soft spot in my heart for Washington Square Park. It’s where I came when I was a kid on my first trip to NY. We saw street performers there. NYU is there; I spent innumerable mornings walking across that park and really feeling like a part of the city for the first time.
Do people recognize you here?
I’m not out there going, “Look at me—I was on cable.” People recognize me and are usually really nice and respectful.
The first time you traveled around the country you were 19 and dressed as Raphael, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. What was that for?
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were doing a live tour—like Disney on Ice, but with turtles and no ice. They needed people to travel ahead and promote the show. So that’s what I did; I dropped out of college to go be a turtle. It was an opportunity to see the country and make good money. It was so weird and crazy that I thought, “I should do this.”
Do you keep in touch with your fellow castmates from Wet Hot American Summer?
That movie was populated almost entirely with friends or people who became friends. There are very few people I don’t see from that movie. The only one I don’t really see is Bradley Cooper, but that’s just because he’s in L.A. and is an A-list movie star. I’m actually shooting a movie in July called They Came Together with a lot of the same Wet Hot American Summer people.
How have your political views changed since touring the country with America, You Sexy Bitch?
My own political philosophy hasn’t changed—in a lot of ways, it was reinforced. I think my mind is a little more open than it was before about the conservative philosophy and lifestyle. I’m a liberal—will probably always be a liberal—but I feel like I at least caught a glimpse of what American conservatism is supposed to be about. And that there’s a lot to admire about it.
Are you going to work on this year’s presidential campaign? They’re going to want you to now, since you wrote this political book.
Oh no, I’m not going to do anything for the campaign. I’m not posting yard signs anywhere. I’m not stuffing envelopes.
Those are all the questions I had. But if you want to add anything…
Just that New York City is the greatest city in the world. Is that pandering enough?
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