Interview by Brian Raftery
2003. Diner in Los Angeles.
Profile appeared in GQ magazine
Brian Raftery: Test. Test. My name is Brian Raftery and in 2003 I did my first-ever magazine profile. This time for GQ magazine about Jack Black.
[Clip: Jack Black in “School of Rock”]
Brian Raftery: I met him in Los Angeles, and the weird thing was we actually didn’t do an interview for hours. I spent the whole day with him.
Jack Black: Dude, do you want to follow me to a coin shop? I like coins.
Brian Raftery: I think we did the interview at a diner, and by the time we sat down to eat, we had spent so much time together and been in so many sort of strange situations in all these comic book stores and guitar stores and had a lot of casual talk that as soon as I kind of put my tape recorder out to have a formal interview, he was very open. And you know his early career was more interesting to me than most because he really did start as kind of a child actor. But he wasn’t a famous child actor. He didn’t get big until later.
[Clip: Jack Black’s “Pitfall” commercial. “Just last night I was lost in the jungle with Pitfall Harry.”]
Jack Black: When I was a kid I did a commercial for Activision. Did you ever have that Atari system?
Brian Raftery: I had the 2600.
Jack Black: Yeah.
[“Pitfall” clip continues: “...Surrounded by giant scorpions and man-eating crocodiles.”]
Jack Black: Pitfall.
Brian Raftery: Pitfall. That was the best game.
Jack Black: Yeah, the best game.
Jack Black: I went on a lot of auditions. But I remember that one and what sealed the deal, they said “Okay, do it like you’re really confident.” And that was something I already had in the pocket. I already had this kind of cocky, asshole 10-year-old, 13-year-old brat thing going.
Jack Black: And I was so stoked. Because I remember thinking, “Man, if the kids at school ever see me in a fucking commercial. On TV. I’ll be popular and that will be the end of it.” And it kind of worked. I was popular for a couple days. But my thirst was not quenched like I thought it would be. I thought just one time on TV, that’s all I need and I’ll be satisfied. It might have been one of those things where I prayed to God: Just give me one commercial and then I swear that’s it. And that’s when I met the devil. Because I used up all of my God prayers. No. Um. I actually had a weird thing with prayer a little bit when I was a kid. Not really prayer, but I don’t know where I got this kind of obsessive-compulsive thing as a kid where, I remember, somebody told me you’re not supposed to use the Lord’s name in vain, like you’re not supposed to say “Goddammit” or anything like that. And so somehow I got really freaked out about going to hell, you know, so I never said “Goddammit” anymore. But then if I thought “Goddammit,” then I would say, “I’m sorry God.”
[Music: Blue Oyster Cult “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”]
Jack Black: And then at the most ridiculous point, I think I was saying “I’m sorry God” a thousand times a day. I don’t know when I fucking broke that ridiculous craziness either.
[“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” continues]
Brian Raftery: Did you go to church a lot?
Jack Black: No, I was raised Jewish. But my mom had a little Jews for Jesus period. And it rubbed off on me.
Brian Raftery: Right here he’s talking about his mom’s Jews for Jesus period.
Jack Black: The weird thing is, that’s when I really started getting into rock. Because I remember my mom had this tape she was listening to in one of her Bible studies something or other. It was a preacher talking about the evils of rock. You know, Satan’s music. And he was playing examples of music that had evil stuff in them, like that was the first time I heard Blue Oyster Cult “Don’t Fear The Reaper” among other evil songs that were really awesome. And that’s all I got from that tape was how awesome the songs were that he was saying were evil. I don’t remember what that preacher thing was but I wish I did so I could give him a shout out and say thank you for turning me on to fucking bitching Satanic jams.
[“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” continues]
David Gerlach: So let’s review: Jack Black’s mom’s Bible study tapes led him to discover music, these bitching Satanic jams. And after that first Atari commercial, he prayed for more acting roles so he’d be popular at school. Well his prayers were answered…
[Clip: Smurf Berry Crunch cereal commercial]
David Gerlach: …Sort of.
Jack Black: And then I got another commercial with the same director but it was not nearly as cool. And there was a little backlash. I actually lost popularity.
Brian Raftery: How so?
Jack Black: Smurf Berry Crunch cereal. And I was being pulled along in a red wagon by a little girl. And I did the voice over. Not so cool.
[Music: Jack Black “Legend of the Rent”]
David Gerlach: Many thanks to Brian Raftery. He’s now a contributing editor to Wired magazine. Find more of his work at BrianRaftery.com. Support for Blank on Blank comes from Flipboard, the world’s first social magazine designed especially for iPad, iPhone and smartphones. Flip through all of our lost interviews and video shorts at flipboard.com/blankonblank. Amy Drozdowska produced this Blank on Blank with me. Our sound logo comes to us from Jeffrey Alan Jones. And for all the journalists out there listening: we want to hear your lost interviews. So drop us a line to email@example.com. Blank on Blank is distributed by the Public Radio Exchange. PRX.org. That’s all for now. I’m David Gerlach. Keep listening.
Music: Blue Oyster Cult “Don’t Fear the Reaper” | Jack Black + “Legend of the Rent”
Senior Writer Fast Company
Author, Retired music executive
Journalist and Biographer
© 2014 Blank on Blank. All Rights Reserved.