The film Wet Hot American Summer was a failure both critically, and at the box office earning only a 30% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and grossing only $292,102 but quotes from this 2001 project nevertheless pepper the conversation of JYAs, who consider the film an under-appreciated masterpiece. One of the more oft quoted lines from the film is McKinley’s irritated outburst: “Well, no, why don’t we say 9:30, and then make it your beeswax to be here by 9:30? I mean, we’ll all be in our late 20s by then. I just don’t see any reason why we can’t be places on time.” In or near their late twenties, many JYAs still find it difficult to be places on time.
While Wet Hot American Summer may be the example par excellence, it was hardly most JYAs first experience with Michael Ian Black, who played the character McKinley. Many JYAs report feeling like they were the only people watching The State back in 1993, in which Michael Ian Black purchased $240 worth of pudding and instructed cheese that it could not dial a phone.
Black is himself Jewish (born Michael Schwartz). He frequently appeared on VH1’s I Love the (Fill in the Decade of Your Choice) and was featured in Ed, and in the short-lived series Stella. Recently he has directed another JYA favorite, Isla Fisher, in the little seen film Wedding Daze.
Black’s success at poker is also enviable. He is consistently chosen as a favorite in his appearances on Celebrity Poker Showdown, and in fact has appeared as a guest more often than any other celebrity. Online he maintains a self-deprecating blog and contributes to McSweeney’s, each of these—McSweeney’s and self-deprecation, being notable beloved in the tribe.
The perception of Black’s success as still under the radar (which is seemingly contradicted by his many successful projects) may lead to him being seen as one’s personal celebrity despite sharing this seemingly intimate bond with virtually 100% of Jewish youth. But his qualities as a JYA role model—famous, rich, lucky, photographed with Isla Fisher—are undeniable.