Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter are the Michaels of "Michael & Michael Have Issues," a new situation-sketch-metacomedy that premieres tonight on Comedy Central. The series features the stars as "themselves": They are seen living their lives, making their TV show and performing in it. But it is all made up: Only the names haven't been changed.
Conceptually, it is a little like a lot of things that have come before. Comedies about the making of comedies are fundamental to the medium's DNA, including "The Jack Benny Program," "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "The Larry Sanders Show" and "30 Rock," and (though it was about a website) "The CollegeHumor Show." (Showalter, incidentally, has a Web series, "The Michael Showalter Showalter," on Collegehumor.com.) As a sitcom studded with sketches, it especially resembles, of all things, Demi Lovato's current Disney Channel tweencom, "Sonny With a Chance."
Although its stars do sometimes adapt the attitude of teenage girls -- I know, right? -- its closer cousins, tonally, are deadpan absurdist (often New York-based) comedies such as "Flight of the Conchords" (another show about bickering bonded partners) and "Important Things With Demetri Martin."
Black, whose credits include Comedy Central's "Viva Variety!," VH1's "I Love the . . . " series, recurring roles on "Ed" and "Reaper," and ads for the soft drink Sierra Mist, is the more familiar of the pair. He and Showalter have worked together in the comedy groups the State (MTV series, 1993 to 1995) and Stella (Comedy Central series, 2005). I've always found him likable, to the point of regarding his presence as a kind of endorsement.