15 Trivia Tidbits About Jack Black on His Birthday
Thomas Jacob “Jack” Black, born in the year of the great Woodstock Festival circa 1969, is the Frat Pack member who made it big in comedy thanks to his bubbling sense of humor and his natural musical talents. A band geek since high school, the tenacious native Angeleno would go on to perform in successful films such as High Fidelity, Tropic Thunder and the one where he educates a bunch of school kids on the meaning of rock.
On the man with the funny faces and the gnarly vocal abilities’ birthday, we’re paying tribute by bringing you some rockin’ trivia about Jack Black, whose earliest on-screen appearance was in an adorable video game commercial for Pitfall!
He Almost Starred in a Dan Harmon Sci-Fi Series Alongside Owen Wilson
Heat Vision and Jack is an unmade 1999 science-fiction comedy series created by Rob Schrab and Harmon. Ben Stiller was set to direct, and Black starred as Jack Austin, a former astronaut who gained the power of superintelligence — only by day — and had a talking motorcycle voiced by Owen Wilson. They actually filmed the pilot, which you can watch below.
He Comes From an Engineering Family
Thomas William Black and Judith Love Cohen were both satellite engineers who separated when Black was 10 years old. His mother worked on the Minuteman nuclear missile system, the Hubble Space Telescope and the Apollo lunar module. She helped create the Abort-Guidance System, which ended up rescuing the Apollo 13 astronauts. In fact, she was working on solving the problem of the Apollo 13 return while in labor with Black.
Black’s brother, Neil Gilbert Siegel, is also a systems engineer and has developed the Blue-Force Tracking system, the U.S. Army’s first unmanned air vehicle system. Some of Siegel’s inventions can be found in your GPS devices and smartphones today.
He Was a ‘Wild and Reckless’ Teenager
“So much so that I think I’m lucky to be alive,” he admitted to The Guardian. “Teenage boys feel immortal. It’s that weird mix of hormones and not yet fully formed brains. They actually are insane. I should have been put in jail. I got into drugs, and I stole money from my mum. It was a bad time. I used to drive around the streets, the curvy Hollywood Hills like it was my personal race track, ‘catching air’ with five kids in the car, me just screaming, ‘Yeaaagh!’ We were having fun, but there could’ve been a tragedy.”
He’s also opened up about his drug abuse as a kid following the divorce of his parents. “I was having a lot of troubles with cocaine,” he candidly told Parade Magazine. “I was hanging out with some pretty rough characters. I was scared to go to school (because) one of them wanted to kill me.” Black said that a school counselor helped him deal with his troubles. “I spilled my guts, telling him I felt guilty about stealing from my mom to get money for cocaine,” Black explained. “I cried like a baby. It was a huge release and a huge relief. I left feeling euphoric, like an enormous weight had been lifted from me. It changed me.”
He Was on an Episode of ‘The X-Files’
Making a guest appearance alongside Giovanni Ribisi, Black can be seen in the Season Three episode, “D.P.O.,” playing Bart “Zero” Liquori, the owner of an arcade who gets hit by lightning and who, naturally, has some killer tunes on his jukebox.
High School Almost Broke His Rock ‘n’ Roll Dreams
“I tried to take rock seriously when I was in high school,” Black once explained. “I performed in a band. We played at a high school party, and we were doing a real earnest, serious version of ‘Iron Man.’ Everyone was talking to each other, and we couldn’t even hear ourselves play. It was a miserable failure. We stopped in the middle of the song and said, ‘Let’s just leave. This sucks. We suck.’ And it devastated me; it ended my musical aspirations for many years until later when I got with Kyle Gass. Then I realized if we approached this tongue-in-cheek a little bit... I guess that stuck with me and carried over into my comedy.”
He Had a Cameo in ‘True Romance’ That Was Cut
Before Black struck it big by stealing the show in High Fidelity, he was doing a lot of small parts in movies, including Mars Attacks!, Waterworld, Demolition Man and The Cable Guy. Black also had a bit part in True Romance, playing a theater usher, but the scene was cut (you can watch it below).
He Voiced Darth Vader in the ‘Star Wars’ Bad Lip Reading
When Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit planet Earth, everyone was churning out content about George Lucas’ space opera. The “Bad Lip Reading” account over on YouTube did a whole series of dubbed Star Wars lip reading, with Black providing the voice of ol’ Darth.
His Many Musical Collabs
Black has done backup vocals for the song “Fourteen” by The Vandals (along with Kyle Glass), some vocals for the hidden track “I Am The Warlock” on Dave Grohl’s album, Probot, as well as vocals on Liam Lynch’s “Rock and Roll Whore.” He’s recorded with Meat Loaf, accompanied two tracks on Eagles of Death Metal’s Death by Sexy album, as well as Lonely Island’s “Sax Man,” and provided stomps and claps on “Burn the Witch” by Queens of the Stone Age. He’s also appeared in an impressive amount of music videos, usually those of the gonzo variety.
Kyle Gass Taught Him How to Play the Guitar
Gass was the one who taught Black how to strum them strings and once told Conan O’Brien that Black’s strengths as a rock guitarist are his intensity and the fact that he can make “the easy songs actually look difficult.”
His Biggest Influence? Bobby McFerrin
While it’s pretty obvious that Black was greatly influenced by bands like Led Zeppelin and Van Halen, it was McFerrin’s ability to sing in various voices and instrumentation that inspired him the most. “I was obsessed with him because I had always imagined going out on stage by myself and blowing people’s minds just with the power of my singing voice,” Black told NPR. “Long before (his song) ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy,’ he was blowing people’s minds with incredible covers of Beatles songs. His voice would sound like all of the different instruments.”
His First Film
Black made his feature film debut in the 1992 satirical mockumentary Bob Roberts, directed by his UCLA pal, Tim Robbins, and featuring John Cusack, his future on-screen leading man in High Fidelity.
That Time Tenacious D Got Booed Off Stage
Back in 1999, Black and Gass opened for Stone Temple Pilots in Las Vegas at “The Miller Genuine Draft Blind Date” show. “Do you remember this?” Black asked Loudwire during an interview discussing Tenacious D’s new audiobook. “All of these people would win their tickets and fly in, and they would get drunk as fuck on Miller Genuine Draft.”
These lucky winners, however, had no idea who they were about to see perform, and when the then-unknown duo took to the stage — their debut album would only drop in 2001 — the ripping started. “They’re all thinking, oh my God, it’s gonna be fuckin’ U2 or something,” Black remembers. “The curtain opens, and it’s Tenacious D, and everyone in unison just starts booing. ‘Fuck you! You suck! Who are you? This is not a blind date that I like!’”
While some concertgoers supposedly remember the band leaving the stage after getting trashed, Black said they powered through and believes they made a couple of fans that day.
Fame Was Overwhelming for Him
“When I did High Fidelity, things skyrocketed,” he remembers. “I didn’t have to go audition anymore. Offers just started flying in. I rose too fast and got what you would call celebrity sickness, but I got my bearings after a couple of years.”
Black Had a Lot of Fun Jamming With the Kids on ‘School of Rock’
Black not only played games with the kids between filming scenes for School of Rock, but he also jammed with some of them after work. He also said most of them were way better than him. “They say don’t work with kids or dogs ’cause they’re cute, so they’ll steal the focus,” Black joked about the experience. “But I don’t care. I’ll battle your cuteness with intensity. And my own cuteness. I’m snuggly-buggly. I’m a big, insane teddy bear.”
Years later, Black did a reunion concert with some of the kids from the movie, all grown up.
He Initially Didn’t Want to Sing in the ‘Super Mario Bros.’ Movie
Black didn’t know that any singing would be involved in his portrayal of Bowser in Super Mario Bros. “There was no talk of singing until about halfway through the recording process,” he told IGN. “We had already had a few sessions; I think we were a year in when (directors Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic) first sprung it on me. They were like, ‘How would you feel about Bowser singing a song?’ And I was like, ‘Ooh, I don’t know.’ I’m very protective about my singing career with my band, Tenacious D. I try not to do too many crossovers where my characters sing unless that’s what we set out to do. ‘Are we doing a musical? If we are, then I want to hear the music before I agree to do it.’ So I said, ‘Let me hear what you got, what do you got?’
“They sent over this little song, and I just couldn’t deny that it was funny. I was like, I get it. I see why you want Bowser to do this, tickling the ivories and singing a love song to Peaches. It was undeniable.”