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Jack Black & Jason Segel

Best known as a comic actor, Jack Black is also a gifted singer and agile songwriter who has won a fan following for his musical projects and has put his vocal skills to work in many of his best-known roles. In addition to the guitar-slinging teacher Dewey Finn in School of Rock (2003) and the arrogant but golden-voiced record store clerk Barry Judd in High Fidelity (2000), Black voiced the character Bowser in 2023's The Super Mario Bros. Movie, and his recording of "Peaches" for the soundtrack became a hit, making the Billboard Top 100 singles chart. Tenacious D, his collaborative project with Kyle Gass, became stars of a cable comedy series, performing witty acoustic celebrations of their status as the world's greatest metal band, before going on to make albums and stage concert tours in the real world. Even when he's playing music for laughs, Black's strong vocal skills and charisma show he can hold his own as a performer, and he's recorded with the likes of Beck, the String Cheese Incident, Charlie Haden, Meat Loaf, and Dave Grohl's metal project Probot. Thomas Jacob Black was born in Santa Monica, California on August 28, 1969. His parents were aerospace engineers who worked in guidance systems for NASA and the American military, while their son Jack attended Santa Monica's Crossroads School, where he displayed a talent for theater and the performing arts. He made his show biz debut when he was 13, appearing in a television commercial for Activision video games, and he went on to attend UCLA, where he became part of the Actor's Gang, a theater company whose founders included Tim Robbins. Black would drop out of UCLA to focus on his career, but Robbins saw potential in him and gave him his first film role, a small part in Robbins' 1992 directorial debut Bob Roberts. (Robbins would also cast Black in 1995's Dead Man Walking and 1999's Cradle Will Rock.) By this time, Black was working steadily in television, and in 1999 he starred in a television pilot, Heat Vision and Jack, directed by Ben Stiller; the pilot went unsold, but the pilot film developed an underground following and was widely circulated as a bootleg. Meanwhile, in 1994, Black and fellow Actor's Gang alum Kyle Gass began playing comedy clubs as an acoustic duo, Tenacious D, describing themselves facetiously as the world's greatest heavy metal band, with their songs usually celebrating their own excellence. As their act developed a following, David Cross, then co-creator of the HBO sketch comedy series Mr. Show, recruited Black to star in "Jeepers Creepers," a bit parodying the film Jesus Christ Superstar. It led to Tenacious D appearing in several video shorts for HBO, spreading word about Black and Gass among both comedy fans and rock enthusiasts with a sense of humor. In large part due to Tenacious D's growing following, Black landed his breakthrough role in the 2000 film High Fidelity, playing a wildly opinionated record store clerk eager to form a noise band called Sonic Death Monkey. The film did well and Black's performance was a highlight; meanwhile, Tenacious D landed a record deal with Epic, and their self-titled 2001 debut album was co-produced by Dave Grohl, who helped beef up the arrangements and give the songs genuine hard rock thunder. (Grohl would later tap Black to sing the hidden track "I Am the Warlock" on Probot, his side project paying tribute to his favorite metal artists.) Black also popped up at a 2002 concert in Austin, Texas by the String Cheese Incident, where he joined them on-stage for a show-closing cover of Rush's "Tom Sawyer" with Black on lead vocals. The set was released by the band on the disc On the Road: 04-04-02 Austin, TX. After appearing in the hit films Shallow Hal (2001) and Orange County (2002), Black landed the leading role in Richard Linklater's 2003 film School of Rock, playing a washed-up rock musician-turned-substitute teacher who teaches his students to play classic rock. The film was a massive commercial and critical success that played to Black's talents in both comedy and music, and it established him as an A-List star. In 2005, Black landed a rare dramatic lead in Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong, and the following year, Tenacious D made their big-screen debut in the feature film Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny. The film and its soundtrack album featured guest shots from Dave Grohl, actual heavy metal legend Ronnie James Dio, and arena rock legend Meat Loaf (who played Black's father in the movie; in 2010, Black returned the favor by appearing on Meat Loaf's album Hang Cool Teddy Bear). Black also sat in with Eagles of Death Metal on 2006's Death by Sexy. Black contributed singing as well as a leading performance in the 2008 picture Be Kind, Rewind, and that same year he provided the voice of lead character Po for the animated feature Kung Fu Panda. The film was a major box office success that spawned three sequels and several spin-off short subjects, while Black dueted with CeeLo Green of Gnarls Barkley for a cover of "Kung Fu Fighting" that appeared on the soundtrack. The great jazz bassist Charlie Haden got his start playing country and bluegrass music in a family band, and 2008's Family & Friends: Rambling Boy saw him covering classic old-timey tunes with a small army of guest vocalists. Black, whose wife is Charlie's daughter Tanya Haden, joined in to sing "Old Joe Clark." In 2009, the SNL-affiliated musical comedy troupe the Lonely Island released their first album, Incredibad, and Black sang on one track, "Sax Man." He once again teamed up with filmmaker Richard Linklater for 2011's Bernie, a dark comedy based on a true story about a mortician with a difficult spouse; in addition to playing the title role, Black sang several classic spirituals in the movie. While the Tenacious D movie was a critical and box-office disappointment, Black and Gass refused to retire the act, and they came back with a third album in 2012, Rize of the Fenix. Black also tipped his hat to another cable television-spawned heavy metal act by lending his trademark vocals to Metalocalypse: The Doomstar Requiem – A Klok Opera, the soundtrack album to an extended episode of the animated series Metalocalypse, about a death metal band called Dethklok. An all-star lineup of heavy metal stars paid homage to Ronnie James Dio (who died in 2010) with the 2014 album A Tribute to Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life, and Tenacious D took part by contributing their interpretation of "The Last in Line." In 2012, Beck released an album in the form of a collection of sheet music, Song Reader, and in 2014, an all-star lineup of musicians (including Norah Jones, Jack White, Sparks, and Jason Isbell) recorded the songs as a benefit for educational charities; Black took lead vocals on the song "We All Wear Cloaks." In 2015, a Tenacious D concert album, simply called Live, was issued for Record Store Day, and the same year, R.L. Stine's popular series of horror stories for kids was brought to the screen with the film Goosebumps; Black played Mr. Stine and appeared in the spin-off music video "Bumps Gonna Goose Ya." Black once again played a musician in the 2017 Netflix feature The Polka King, in this case real-life bandleader and swindler Jan Lewan, with Black singing alongside members of Lewan's original band. South African sonic pranksters Die Antwoord invited Black to sing on their 2016 album Mount Ninji and Da Nice Time Kid. He landed a role in another successful franchise by co-starring in 2017's Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, alongside Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan. Black and his co-star Nick Jonas also appeared in a spin-off music video, "Jumanji Jumanji." He also starred in the 2019 sequel, Jumanji: The Next Level. In 2018, Tenacious D debuted an online animated series, Post-Apocalypto, with a soundtrack album issued concurrently with its premier. 2022's biopic satire Weird: The Al Yankovic Story included a cameo from Black, playing iconic DJ and TV host Wolfman Jack, and Black, who in the 2010s had appeared in a pair of music videos for the California punk band OFF!, played a supporting role in the 2023 film Free LSD, which starred OFF! and was written and directed by their guitarist, Dimitri Coats. 2023 also saw the release of The Super Mario Bros. Movie, an animated film based on the wildly popular video game, with Black providing the voice of Bowser. He also sang the song "Peaches," an ode to Princess Peach. It was issued as a single with a costumed Black starring in the video.
© Mark Deming /TiVo

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