In “America, You Sexy B----,” the unlikely pair of comedian Michael Ian Black and Daily Beast columnist Meghan McCain join forces on a cross-country tour to bring the political discussion directly to the American people. Here's an excerpt.
Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride
Michael: This is stupid. I’m in an airplane flying across the country to go spend a month with Meghan McCain, a woman I barely know, in order to drive across the country in an RV with her and my friend Stephie, with the vague purpose of “talking to people.” About what? Politics, their lives, how they want the government to function, all of it with the idea that we are somehow going to gather enough material to write a book together and save the country. I mean, that is just pure stupid.
The thing is, I don’t like talking to people. I barely talk to my wife and two kids. Why am I leaving them for a month to do this? I was perfectly happy to stay home and complain about America from my house in Connecticut. That’s what I’ve been doing, and it seemed to be working fine. Why did I agree to take my b____ing and moaning on the road with this bubbly twenty-seven-year-old blond-haired, rich Republican chick I’ve only met twice? How did this even happen?
The answer: Twitter and Ambien.
During Obama’s first presidential campaign, I got invited to appear on MSNBC to make jokes. You’ve seen these segments on cable news where a comedian comes on and makes a few lame jokes about whatever’s going on in the headlines that day, and the host pretends to laugh while viewers think to themselves, That guy’s not funny. My job that evening was to be the guy who wasn’t funny. I don’t remember the exact context, but Meghan McCain’s name somehow came up during the broadcast. She’d done or said some thing that flew in the face of Republican orthodoxy, as she often does, and I said to Lawrence O’Donnell that Meghan was my favorite Republican.
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A couple of years later, I was doing a talk show pilot for E! and I needed a guest. Meghan agreed to do the show via satellite as a favor to her agent, whose good friend was my agent. Meghan was vivacious, charming, and she had a new “less Republican” haircut; afterwards my extremely liberal friend Joe asked if it would be all right with me if he married her. I gave my blessing. Meghan had not then and still has not met Joe, but I figured Republicans are into arranged marriages so it would probably be fine.
The entire project, from idea to execution, happened in only a little over a month. Michael and I sold the book before we actually met in person. I know it may seem a little impulsive and extreme to agree to write a book with essentially a perfect stranger, but I have a tendency to be impulsive and make extreme decisions. I also believe in seizing the day and making the most of every single opportunity that ever crosses my path. One of the mantras I live by is Hunter S. Thompson’s “Buy the ticket, take the ride.” I am a Hunter S. Thompson groupie, and if this particular scenario didn’t encompass seizing the day, then I don’t know what does. Besides that, it sounded like a lot of fun, and I love combining anything that includes politics and having fun.Video: Meghan McCain fights back at weight critics (on this page)
Michael: Right after E! decided they didn’t need my talk show hosting services, I was up late one night nursing the onset of an existential crisis. Swirling in my brain were the facts that I would be turning forty in a few months, I didn’t have a steady income, I didn’t know what I was doing with my life, and I had a family to support, with no immediate prospects for employment. When I am feeling like this, I have one friend I turn to for support: Ambien. The purpose of Ambien is to ease restless souls like mine into a deep and dreamless sleep. But Ambien is also great fun if you just want to get on the Internet and mess around for a few hours, which was my main intention. This is, of course, was a mistake, the electronic equivalent of drinking and driving. Ambien relaxes the mind in such a way that you may find yourself saying or doing surprising things under its influence. For me, this normally involves writing nonsensical postings on my Twitter account while eating disgusting amounts of junk food. As a soon-to-be-forty married father of two, this is what passes as a “crazy night.”
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Half an hour after taking the Ambien, I was elbow deep into a bag of Tostitos and cruising my active Twitter account — 1.7 million followers. Not bragging. Just saying. Okay, bragging. Follow me: @michaelianblack — when I happen to notice that Meghan McCain had posted something. I responded to her. She responded to me, and then the Ambien seized my fingers and typed the following: “We should write a book together.”
After a few moments, she wrote back: “Sure!”
The exclamation mark made me think she wasn’t serious because exclamation marks are rarely the sign of a serious thought. I write back: “I’m serious.”
If I could retrace my altered mental state, the logic of why I would even suggest an idea like that would go something like this:
I need a job.
I like writing.
I like politics.
Meghan McCain seems nice.
Write a political book with Meghan McCain.
It made sense to me at the time.
Around dawn, I woke up on the couch, covered in Tostitos crumbs, and stumbled upstairs to join my wife, Martha, in bed. Something was troubling me, though, something I had perhaps done under the influence of a powerful sleeping agent. Just before falling back to sleep, I realized what it was: I had just proposed writing a book with a woman — a Republican woman — I didn’t actually know, based largely on the facts that I once said something nice about her on TV, she seemed cool, and my friend Joe liked her new haircut. The woman in question is also the daughter of the other guy in the last presidential election. Moreover, I’m pretty sure she said, “Sure!”
From America, You Sexy B----: A Love Letter to Freedom by Michael Ian Black and Meghan McCain (Da Capo Press).
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