Between 2008 and 2010, Jack Black appeared in five movies, eight if you include the short films The Secrets of the Furious Five, Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special, and Prop 8: The Musical He was everywhere, and the world was getting burnt out on his energetic antics; he even received a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Actor for his role in the notorious dud Gulliver’s Travels. Since then, he’s slowed down, settling for cameos (The Muppets, Sex Tape) and the elusive Right Role (Bernie).
This is not a bad thing, because even though I’m as Team Jack Black as they come, and I believe he can be a great actor when he’s in a movie or TV show worthy of his unique talent, he can come across as desperate and muggy in a turd like Year One. Unless he’s singing, that is. I will never get tired of Jack Black singing, so lucky for me, today’s his 45th birthday, which is as good an excuse as any to collect some of JB’s finest rock-your-sock musical moments.
1. Tenacious D
I failed ninth grade math. With a 64. The teacher wouldn’t slide me an extra point, so rather than “hanging out with my chums and lady friend at the rock quarry” (which really means, staying at home to sadly masturbate to Britney Spears in Crossroads…AGAIN), I had to go to summer school. That’s not even the most embarrassing thing about this story: it’s that I didn’t know how to ride a bike yet and I was too young to drive a car, so to get to school, I had to walk. Six miles there, six miles back. By the time I arrived, I was a sweaty, oily mess. The only thing that kept me from pulling a Heathers: my Discman, specifically listening to Tenacious D’s debut album on said Discman. All these years later, I still know every line, and what track I was listening to when I almost stepped on roadkill that smelled like a Golden Corral coated in bleach. So naturally, I’m picking a song, “Cosmic Shame,” that isn’t on the album, but does appear on the much-watch HBO series. Bonus Paul F. Tompkins appearance!
2. “School of Rock” from School of Rock
School of Rock isn’t a great movie by any means, but I never turn it off when it’s on cable. It’s a smart-enough crowd-pleaser, and Black is one of the best actors in Hollywood when it comes to working with children. He doesn’t pander them because of their age; he respects their talent.
3. “Let’s Get It On” from High Fidelity
Kathleen Turner Overdrive should go on tour with Nothing Rhymes with Orange.
4. “My Hero” with the Foo Fighters
Black and Dave Grohl are best of buds who have worked together many times in their career, including when the King of the Ice Bucket Challenge played Satan in the Tenacious D movie. Here’s Black providing background vocals for the Foo Fighters’ “My Hero” on Letterman.
Honorable mention to the D being in the classic “Learn to Fly” music video.
5. “Love Lifted Me” from Bernie
Bernie is Black’s second movie with Richard Linklater, and while it’s not nearly as well known as School of Rock, I think it’s much better. It’s Black at his most restrained. There’s no goofy dancing or buckets of sweat dripping onto his bowling ball belly. He’s entirely composed…right up until the moment he snaps (spoiler?). The “Love Lifted Me” scene, which occurs over a single two-minute shot, is a nice summation of the film as a whole: it’s not flashy, but it’s effective because of a commanding performance.
6. Guitar Battle with Conan
The two best things about this video: 1) the guitar-off that begins with Conan asking Black if he has bullsh*t crawling out of his ears, and ends with a human ashtray in a ridiculous hat appearing from behind the curtain, and 2) the giant hamburger background.
7. “The Golden Rule Song” from Run Ronnie Run
Run Ronnie Run isn’t as bad as its reputation, but it’s also not as good as it should have been, considering the level of talent involved. There’s David Cross and Bob Odenkirk, of course, but also Scott Aukerman, Brian Posehn, Ben Stiller, Sarah Silverman, and Black, who suggests that if you want to irritate a lady, you should give her a swift kick in the c*nt. Can’t imagine why critics hated this movie.
8. “King Kong Jam” from SNL
Black has only hosted SNL three times, which seems preposterously low for a high-energy comedian who can sing, dance, and make a fool of himself with the best of them. The last time was in 2005, when Black was in full King Kong publicity mode, so during his opening musical monologue, he performed a “King Kong Jam.” I’ve had the song stuck in my head for nine years. That is not an exaggeration.
9. “Sensitive” with Stephen Stills
Not a great video, but it was for a great cause. Back in 2011, Black and Stills, of CSNY fame, headlined the “Autism Is Awesome” benefit concert that supported Miracle Project, an “arts program dedicated to helping autistic kids raise their voice and express themselves through music, theatre, and dance.” The show highlight was when the duo performed a song by autistic teen Wyatt Isaacs, who joined them to sing it.
10. “A Comedian at the Oscars” with Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly
Still waiting for that gay coal-mining film with James Spader, Jables.