Jack Black, Fred Armisen to Star in MOCAtv Web Comedy Series

Jack Black and Fred Armisen
Jack Black and Fred Armisen
 Getty Images

For years, artist Alix Lambert had an idea for a superhero named Ambiance Man. He doesn’t save the world or even resuscitate a dying puppy -- he fixes bad ambiance. “Like bad lighting, an ant infestation -- anything that could ruin your day-to-day,” says Lambert, over Skype from her apartment in New York. “He’s a Pre-Raphaelite superhero.” Now Lambert has spun Ambiance Man into a web series starring Fred Armisen, Jack Black and Jibz Cameron, which will debut on Dec. 20 on MOCAtv, the Museum of Contemporary Art’s YouTube platform.

The series follows the well-mannered hero, played by Armisen, on his quest for good vibes against the supervillain team of Buzzkill (Cameron) and Unidentifiable Odor (Black). “It’s so silly,” Lambert says, barely containing her laughter as she explains the show’s content. It’s a goofy concept, no doubt, but Armisen, Black, and Cameron (who creates outrageously comedic performance art under the name Dynasty Handbag) are the masters of the art of goofiness. Ambiance Man kicks off MOCAtv's Art + Comedy season, which will feature programming from Alex Bag, David Robbins and Martin Kersels, among other artists.

The idea was born years ago during an evening of drinks at her friend’s house. “Her roommate kept passing through the room we were in,” Lambert recalls. “Every time he would come through, he would do something like light a candle or open a window. We were just like, ‘It’s Ambiance Man.’ I told that story for years, and liked this idea of a superhero who [comes to the rescue] if you’re on an awkward date, or if you’re sweating too much -- more day-to-day stuff. I’m all for Batman stopping the end of the world, but I need today fixed.”

After a chance meeting with MOCAtv’s director, Emma Reeves, that turned into a greenlight, Lambert called on her longtime friend Armisen, whom she says she’s known for dozens of years, and her neighbor Cameron. Cameron brought her friend Black aboard, and the series suddenly had legs. “Fred is super talented, and I just thought of funny things that I wanted him to do, and I let him run with that. And he has his sidekick Feng Shui [played by comedian Atsuko Okatsuka]. She also fixes things, but she’s interested in order.”

Lambert’s long career has run the artistic gamut. This year, her photography was included in the New Museum’s NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star as an example of early ’90s contemporary art. Her 2001 film, Mark of Cain, in which she thrust herself into the Russian gulag population to document the criminal tattoo culture, was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. And she even wrote an episode of Deadwood for HBO. Until this point, much of her output has centered on violence. “I got into comedy before I got into the crime work,” Lambert explains. “I did a mock girl-band called Platapussy. So I have done funny things before. I did a lot of really dark, difficult documentary work, so it felt like a good time to do something fun again.”

Ambiance Man, which was filmed at YouTube Space L.A., will debut with a private screening at MOCA in downtown Los Angeles on Dec. 19, which will be accompanied by a live element involving Armisen and Cameron. Lambert hopes that the series will find an audience and go on beyond the four episodes she’s already made for MOCAtv. “The idea is that it will continue,” she says. “We’re talking to various people that we could partner with for that. We haven’t made anything concrete, so I don’t want to jinx it.”

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