Jack Black is best known for his infectious comedic presence on the screen and on the stage as the lead singer of band Tenacious D.
But there’s plenty more to this energetic, attention-getting funny-man than just slapstick routines and an over-the-top hyper-hip persona. He’s also a dad, a quiet champion for the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation, and most recently, a lazy hunter/gatherer in the comedy, Year One.
Do you feel you embody Cosmic Shame (the lyrics in this Jack Black, Kyle Glass compilation urge listeners to “follow your heart/even when your heart cuts like a fart”)?
Exactly. Nice reference.
Other than the animated films you’ve been in, what is your favorite animated film?
Well, my favorite performance in an animated film is probably Robin Williams in Aladdin. I thought he was so awesome as the Genie. That was like one of my favorite things he’s ever done for sure. And when I was a kid I really loved Fantasia and this other movie called Allegro non troppo [a Bruno Bozzetto animated parody]. I was a big animation buff as a kid. I wanted to be an animator for a while.
Part of your comedy lies in what you’ve referred to as your eyebrow technique. Does this technique come into play when you’re doing voice work, too?
There’s plenty of that eyebrow workout happening, yes. I burn a lot of eyebrow calories.
Do you find that it helps with your comedic routine?
My eyebrows? Of course. I should insure them with Llloyds of London. Powerful brows.
What was your secret desire as a kid?
You know, I wanted to be in the arts. I didn’t have a secret about it. Everybody I knew wanted to be a painter, or an actor, a musician or something but I just liked having attention, and I think that’s why I ended up going into acting because it felt like that was where the most attention was. So maybe that was my secret. I was desperate to be the center of attention.
Has being a dad changed the way you look at your career? Do you find yourself drawn to different types of roles?
I guess I definitely feel more comfortable doing movies that are, you know, strictly for like a family-oriented audience. I don’t feel insecure about that at all anymore. Like I might’ve before gone, oh no, that’s going to hurt my indie cred in the rock world. I don’t really care about that now.
When you did The School of Rock it involved nothing but hanging around with kids all day. At the time, it was probably a pain. Now that you’re a parent, do you think that it was a good experience?
Yes, it was good because I definitely got over my fears of kids when I did that movie. Going into it I was like, oh no, what if they don’t like me? What if they think I’m boring or uncool? And now I realize that you don’t have to have all those insecurities. Just be yourself. And kids are people too.
They were probably worried about the same things in terms of hanging out with you.
Yes. Maybe. So at the end of that movie I didn’t go oh, never again, at all. On the contrary. I was like, that was the best cast I’ve ever worked with and I’ll definitely work with kids again. And yes, it was all positive.
On to fatherhood part two. Congratulations on said part two by the way.
Thank you. My personal family sequel.
What is the most surprising or unexpected thing Samuel’s taught you? My other half wants to know if you eat his leftovers.
I do eat his leftovers, now that you mention it.
I eat my own son’s leftovers, too! Well, what his dad doesn’t get dibs on first.
Well, yes, he doesn’t eat all of his broccoli. I’ll help him out with that as well as the mac and cheese that there’s on his plate uneaten, and well, you know, as for unexpectedness, I didn’t know how musical he was going to be.
Physically musical or is he a chatterbox?
He’s not playing instruments so much , but he’s good with a percussion obviously.
I hear that.
He likes to sing and dance a lot. And I’ve been doing a lot more dancing than I thought I would be as a dad.
It’s like a mini School of Rock…
Yes, it is a School of Rock. He’ll be dancing and then he’ll come over and grab my hand and pull me up to dance with him. So, yes, that. I’m going to say that.
Tell me about your involvement with the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation. Why did you choose that particular cause?
Someone close to my family is afflicted with mitochondrial disease [symptoms include loss of motor control, muscle weakness and pain, gastrointestinal disorders and swallowing difficulties, poor growth, cardiac disease, liver disease, diabetes, respiratory complications, seizures, visual/hearing problems, lactic acidosis, developmental delays and susceptibility to infection], so I got involved early on and continued to be involved to gain awareness and you know, try to get support for it and get a cure for it someday.
Convonista says: Jack Black and I chatted in late 2007. This interview was originally released in early 2008.