Of all the rituals of ROSH HASHANAH – the blowing of the Shofar, festive meals with challah, the honey, the apples – internationally renowned comedian Michael Ian Black says there’s one ritual that he likes most of all: Tashlikh, a Rosh Hashanah ritual in which Jews throw bread into a purifying body of water to “cast away” the errors and mistakes of the past year.
But there’s one thing Black says he won’t be casting away this year -- or any other year, for that matter: His belief that many of The Amazing Kreskin’s predictions will still come true.
“My wife and I argue about this every year,” says Black, who along with fellow comedian Michael Showalter just wrapped up filming of a new pilot for Comedy Central called “Michael and Michael Have Issues,” in which they co-star. “But these Kreskin predictions, damn them. They are just things that, in my heart, I still think might come true.”
Irrational or not, Black says: “I just cannot cast them away.”
According to Black, among the predictions made by the 73-year-old Kreskin that he tries but fails to eject Tashlikh-ily each year are the following:
--Rudolph Giuliani will win the White House in 2008
--Action-movie star Vin Diesel will star in a musical.
--There will be a three- to six-month fad of people not wearing socks and shoes.
--A rage-like fad of popularity for peanut butter, not only with children and adults but with pets as well, will come upon us.
--A mass UFO warning of sorts will be picked up by people on their cell phones.
--Iran will be closed-off and physicists will estimate that almost a decade will pass before radioactivity will decrease to a safe level.
Along with thousands of other observant Jews, Black and his family go each year to one of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges on the first afternoon of Rosh Hashanah to cast bits of bread into the purifying water below as part of their annual Tashlikh ritual.
But Kreskin? He won’t, he can’t, he’s just “not ready yet.”
“It’s not that I even actually want any of these things to come true,” says Black, 37. “Because I really don’t. I do not. And in fact, I am probably the only person in the world who still believes these predictions will come true. I am like a one-man Kreskin filibuster on this issue.”
Black admits, too, that Kreskin’s predictions of massive “socklessness and shoelessness” sound “kinda creepy” – “almost like he is predicting a second Great Depression” -- and says he is totally aware that peanut butter is a staple at most local food banks.
“That’s what is particularly alarming given the recent crash of Wall Street,” notes Black.
As to predictions about a radioactive Iran, Black says: “I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. And ditto about having to watch Vin Diesel in a musical.”
But when confronted by objectors, Black pulls out the fact that Kreskin accurately guessed the unexpected result and final score of this year’s Super Bowl, and that on New Year's Day in 2001, Kreskin predicted on CNN there could be a disaster that September involving four airlines -- a statement ultimately proven true on Sept. 11 of that year.
Among others, Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon both believed Kreskin had an accuracy rating of 92 to 96 percent.
“So I try to block it,” says Black. “Why make waves on a holiday? Why ruin it for everybody else? Rosh Hashanah is a time for family. It's about looking back at all that's happened to us the past year. Mistakes I may have made – hooboy! – and things I hope to improve.”
And he does love the annual blowing of the Shofar, which he says can be “startling.” “Startling. That's the idea — to awaken our soul, bring us into the moment. I like it. I could use it on my tours, I’ll tell you.”
Overall, says Black, it doesn't matter how religiously observant Jews are throughout the year.
“Rosh Hashanah is a chance to start again, to connect or reconnect, even if only for a moment,” he says. “Praying in synagogue, hearing the Shofar, festive meals with challah. Auspicious foods such as apples dipped in honey, fish heads and pomegranates, as well as new fruits on the second night. Refraining from work. What more can you ask from a holiday?”
The 10-day Rosh Hashanah holiday begins tonight at dusk and culminates in the all-day fast of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which begins on Wednesday evening next week.
And as to Kreskin? Well, he says his business has changed quite a bit in the last three, four, five months.
"I'm doing a lot of private, corporate parties, and after the party I'm asked if the CEOs and maybe two or three other people could sit with me for half an hour and ask me about the passing scene,” Kreskin told one reporter recently. “And I think what they're really asking, basically, is the future of the business world, economically speaking."
Kreskin will be hitting the big screen this fall – in a way -- when the movie The Great Buck Howard is released. It stars Tom Hanks' son Colin as an L.A. law school dropout who works as an assistant to the Great Buck Howard (John Malkovich), a mentalist in the waning days of his career.
The film was written and directed by Sean McGinly, who worked for a while as Kreskin's tour manager. The film also stars Ricky Jay, Emily Blunt, Griffin Dunne, Howard Rubenstein, Matthew Gray Gubler and Steve Zahn.
About Michael Ian Black: Black is known for appearing on VH1's I Love the... series, his Stella comedy troupe, and a variety of other TV series and films. He was also the voice actor behind the Pets.com sock puppet, is the main subject in the current Sierra Mist commercials, hosted the first season of NBC's hidden-camera show Spy TV, and had a supporting role on the NBC dramedy Ed, created by John Beckerman and Rob Burnett and produced by David Letterman’s Worldwide Pants.
He began his career as a member of the comedy group The State and was featured on the television show by the same name on MTV. He continued working with members of that group on the show Viva Variety in the role of "Johnny Bluejeans", and in the film Wet Hot American Summer. His dry, sarcastically irreverent commentary on pop culture artifacts on VH1's "I Love the 70s/80s/90s/New Millennium" series has added to his and the shows' popularity. Black has stated several times on the show that he feels as if he is "doomed to an eternity of doing the 'I Love the...' series". He also makes fun of himself for being a Jewish-American and sarcastically enforcing the Jewish stereotypes.
In the latter part of 2004, he acted as guest-host of CBS's The Late Late Show while auditioning for the permanent hosting role. He was a finalist for the position, although the job eventually went to Craig Ferguson. He is also an occasional contributor to the online edition of McSweeney's, where he writes a column entitled "Michael Ian Black Is a Very Famous Celebrity".
Black, along with fellow State-rs Michael Showalter and David Wain, co-starred in and co-wrote the Comedy Central series Stella, a television adaptation of their popular stage show. The ten-episode first season debuted in June 2005 and was not renewed for a second season.
Black wrote the screenplays for two feature film comedies —Wedding Daze (The Pleasure of Your Company and The Next Girl I See, 2006) and Run, Fat Boy, Run (2007, co-written with leading actor Simon Pegg). Black also directed Wedding Daze which stars Jason Biggs, Joe Pantoliano, and Isla Fisher. Black also has some minor screen credits. He appeared twice on the Adult Swim show, Tom Goes to the Mayor, and was a guest voice on Seth Green's stop-motion show Robot Chicken. He appeared on the Comedy Central shows Crank Yankers and Reno 911!. He had a cameo in David Wain's 2007 film, “The Ten” as a prison guard.
In September 2007, he released his first stand-up comedy album, “I Am a Wonderful Man.” Black also maintains a humorous blog at michaelianblack.typepad.com. In addition, he starred on the TV series Reaper (2008) as a gay demon trying to destroy the devil through acts of kindness. Most recently, Black wrote a book entitled “My Custom Van: And 50 Other Mind-Blowing Essays that Will Blow Your Mind All Over Your Face” which was released on July 15, 2008 to high praise from fellow comedian Amy Sedaris among others.
Black is the host of Reality Bites Back, a scripted reality show that premiered July 17 on Comedy Central. Black also developed another show for Comedy Central; Michael Ian Black Doesn't Understand. Which later retooled to a pilot which featured Michael Showalter called Michael and Michael Have Issues.
Black has been an amateur poker enthusiast for several years, and is a regular player or "famous face"  on the online poker website, Hollywood Poker, which is run in conjunction with Ongame Network. He has appeared on a number of episodes of Celebrity Poker Showdown as a celebrity competitor — he has appeared in five episodes, more than any other player. He first appeared in the third game of the first season (2003), playing to earn money for the Endeavor House charity. He lost to Nicole Sullivan, who would go on to win the entire tournament.
His performance improved in the third game of the second season (2004), where he played for the charity "MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger" and won a game with Star Jones, Norm Macdonald, Adam Rodriguez and Jeremy Sisto, earning the silver chip after a lengthy "see-saw" battle with MacDonald and proceeding to the final table. However, he was knocked out early in the finals.
After being absent for several years, Black returned to the show in 2006, appearing in the second episode of the eighth season and playing for MAZON again. There, Black defeated Greg Behrendt, Tina Fey, Eugene Mirman, Jorge Garcia, David Cross, Will Arnett, Kim Coles, Stephen Colbert, Larry David, Jon Stewart, and Andrea Martin, and made Celebrity Poker Showdown history by knocking out three players (Martin, Coles and Garcia) in three consecutive hands. In the final table, he came in third (receiving $100,000 for his charity), with Jason Alexander winning the tournament (receiving $500,000 for his).
Black has made a mark in his appearances both for his jokes and antics and for his skilled, aggressive-but-controlled poker play. Black has been repeatedly praised by Dave Foley, host of Celebrity Poker Showdown, and by the two poker experts who have commented on the show, Phil Gordon and Phil Hellmuth.