Last week, a unique opportunity was presented to yours truly as I rocked out tirelessly in the Campus Times office – Jack Black, actor and rock star extraordinaire, was conducting a live teleconference with college journalists to promote his new film, “School of Rock.” Immediately, I – possessing a vested interest in Black, college journalism, films, school and rock – leapt at the chance.
Thus, two days later, on Friday, Sept. 26, I gathered around my speakerphone and, with the support of a murder of onlooking chums, prepared to ask Jack one of the scintillating questions I had devised. Now, let me tell you a quick somethin’-somethin’ about teleconference interviews – you need to be on the ball with those bastards.
Just moments after dialing into the interview, a moderator hastily informed me that I needed to press “*1” so as to queue up in the telephone line to interview ol’ Jack. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that since the instant messenging revolution has begun, my number pad adroitness has suffered a noticeable decline, and subsequently, I found the “1” key just slightly too late. Alas, I wasn’t queued high enough to ask a question, and following this realization, disappointment washed over me in an awesome wave.
Fortunately my journalistic instincts engaged, and I regained my composure in time to be a discerning listener. What follows are the most select sides of beef from the half-hour interview, during which Jack discussed his movie, his influences, and a number of other topics that I missed when a Shakira music video came onto TV. Jack Black at his best, folks.
Coordinator: Okay. [This] question comes from Jason Rencher.
JR: What are some of your feelings about music today?
JB: Why is music sucky and shitty nowadays? Is that the question?
JB: I don’t think it’s sucky and shitty as much as it’s just there are no real gods of rock anymore – right now, anyway. I think it might be because the world seems like it’s about to end, and there seems like bigger fish to fry than worshipping musicians. Do you know what I mean?
JB: Like music has to take a backseat when the world is about to explode because of religion and all these horrible things that are happening.
JR: So when is the D going to be back to save it?
JB: The D will ride in on its shiny white horse. Hopefully, by the end of 2004 we’re coming in with our new movie, “Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny.”
Coordinator: Your next question comes from Olav Rankney.
OR: Hi there, sir. I was wondering, in an actual battle of the bands between Tenacious D and Keanu Reeves’ band, Dogstar, who would win and why?
JB: Wait. Tenacious D versus Dogstar?
OR: Dogstar, Keanu’s band.
JB: Yes. Dogstar would win, unfortunately, because Keanu has the power to dodge bullets. I shoot mind bullets with my mind, with my hard rock energy, but he can dodge them apparently, because he’s in a “Matrix” mode. But thank you for the question. That was an excellent question.
Coordinator: The next question comes from John Hoy.
JH: What are your comedic influences?
JB: I’ll go with Chris Farley, Jim Carrey, and I’m going to go old school. I’m going to go Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder.
JH: How about John Belushi?
JH: No? No way, no go?
JB: Only just the eyebrows. I only stole everything just from eyebrows up.
Coordinator: Your next question comes from Lisa Benzerello.
LB: Did you feel that there was a connection, like more of a connection, with this movie than some of your others?
JB: Yes. You know, it’s like Mike wrote this script, and if the script was a car, it’s like he pulled it up in a Ferrari that was built for me. So I mean I got in it and I was like, “I know how to drive this thing. I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to take it over some bunny hops, and I’m going to floor it, and push the nitro button that you didn’t even know about under the dash.”
Coordinator: Your next question comes from Jesse Stantrak.
JS: Your acting involves a lot of physical comedy and a lot of high-voltage acting, but you’ve also done a lot of voice work, like Crank Yankers, Ice Age, and stuff like that…Is it harder to be Jack Black when they can’t see you?
JB: Yes. When they can’t see my eyebrows, I always tell them just make sure you get the eyebrows right in the cartoon. No, it’s easier. It’s a thousand times easier. That’s why they don’t pay you any money, because you go into a recording booth, you scream and sing, but you do it like five hours, and then you’re done for like five months. Then you come back five months later and do it again. It takes like four or five years to do one of those, it’s insane. The amount of work that goes into those cartoons, you know? But the actor has the easiest job of all the people in the process, for sure.
Coordinator: The next [caller is] James Hassan.
JB: Who’s the greatest rocker of all time?
JH: I don’t know. Should I give you the canned answer or …
JB: Give me the canned answer.
JH: Jack Black, how about that?
JB: Not that answer.
JH: Man, that was canned. I don’t know. Ozzy is sort of awesome. He rocks.
JB: Who? Ozzy?
JB: I got news for you, buddy.
JH: Oh, man.
JB: Two inches, fully erect. I’ve seen it … I wish I had a smaller dick so I could rock even harder than I do. Mine is small, but not small enough.
JH: To rock that hard?
Coordinator: The next question comes from Sean Byron.
SB: How did you and Kyle deal with your groupies?
JB: Kyle is single so he puts them all in a cage. Then he puts the cage in his compound ranch, and he lets them out one at a time and he feeds them, I don’t know. We don’t really have groupies. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Tenacious D? It’s mostly sausage in the audience. We’re heroes to all fat dudes everywhere, and that’s about it. There’s not a lot of sex appeal. Although we just sing about our sexual prowess, it’s a joke.
And so concluded the roughly 40 minutes of Jack Blackian hilarity which, ironically, was far funnier than the actual film it was promoting. “School of Rock” – which I viddied during a sneak preview the night before the interview – further illustrated a fact that “Shallow Hal” had first suggested – namely, that Black just can’t carry a film.
Though he achieved varying levels of comedic success in “Orange County” and the venerable “High Fidelity,” his character’s antics in “School” remain one-sided and repetitive throughout the film.
His physical humor may elicit a chuckle the first time it appears, but after an hour and a half of spasms without strong writing to support them, Black just becomes tiresome.
The film itself is endearing if not overly cheesy, with all the requisite school-age characters – the parentally repressed prodigy, the awkward dork and even the self-conscious fat chick – participating in Black’s scheme to form a rock band with his musically precocious students in an attempt to finally realize musical success.
The end may be goose-bump worthy, but it doesn’t change the fact that this isn’t a film rife with hysteria, as one might expect from a flick with Jack Black at the helm. Instead, it’s one that suggests that perhaps those expectations are a bit too high.
Janowitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.