Actor, musician, and cult idol ascendant, Jack Black is known for both the characters he portrays on the screen and as one of the forces behind Tenacious D, a rock band/standup routine that Black has described as "a Smothers Brothers for the Dungeons and Dragons misfits set."
A native of Santa Monica, CA, Black attended the University of California at Los Angeles. He got his professional start on the stage, appearing in Tim Robbins' production of Carnage at the 1989 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He would go on to collaborate with Robbins throughout his career, making his screen debut in the director's 1992 political satire Bob Roberts and appearing in Robbins' Dead Man Walking (1995) and Cradle Will Rock (1999). Black spent the '90s playing supporting and lead roles in a variety of films, including Demolition Man (1993), The Cable Guy (1996), which cast him as the best friend of Matthew Broderick's character, and Jesus' Son (1999), in which Black had a small but extremely memorable role as a pill-popping hospital orderly.
In 2000, Black had one of his most recognizable and enthusiastically received screen roles to date in High Fidelity. Stephen Frears' popular adaptation of Nick Hornby's novel of the same name, it featured Black as Barry, a thoroughly obnoxious record-store employee. The part allowed the actor to do some of his own singing, a talent that he had previously inflicted on numerous audience members during his years with the aforementioned Tenacious D. The band, comprised of Black and fellow holy terror Kyle Gass, had existed since 1994, and it had been featured on the TV comedy series Mr. Show and as the subject of their own HBO series entitled (tongue firmly in cheek) Tenacious D: The Greatest Band on Earth. It was only a matter of time before Black stepped up from supporting character to leading man, and with the Farrelly brother's Shallow Hal Black may just have found the ideal vehicle for the successful transition. As a superficial man who falls in love with a 300-pound woman after being hypnotized to see only the "inner beauty" of the opposite sex, Black co-starred alongside Gwyneth Paltrow and Jason Alexander in what promised to be a charmingly offensive addition to the Farrelly canon.
Though MTV Films' heavily marketed Orange County (2002) was not a huge commercial success, Black's supporting role as the lead character's slacker brother was well received by critics and long-time fans alike, and the once obscure figure began appearing on media outlets including Saturday Night Live, Primetime Glick, commercials for The Osbournes, and various MTV music and film awards. In 2003, Black starred in his first big hit -- director Richard Linklater's musical comedy School of Rock, which featured Black as a disgruntled heavy metal-guitarist doing a substitute teaching gig for extra cash. Critics were so taken by his performance that he was honored with a Golden Globe nomination.
2004 saw Black turn in a cameo in the Will Ferrell vehicle Anchorman, after starring opposite Ben Stiller in director Barry Levinson's black comedy Envy. While the film was a box-office bomb after having its release pushed back several times, Black still had much to celebrate when it was announced he would be taking the lead in Peter Jackson's highly anticipated 2005 remake of King Kong. The epic film helped transition Black from a cult hero to a traditional movie star, though he was still careful to keep his original fans happy. In 2006, he starred in Napoleon Dynamite director Jared Hess' comedy Nacho Libre. The part of a disgruntled monk turned Lucha Libre idol was a perfect fit for the bombastic star, and he followed the performance up with another comic offering for his serious fans as he and Kyle Gass, his partner in Tenacious D, starred in Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny. This big screen telling of the band's mythical history promised to be full of the over-the-top laughs that rocked fans of the group's HBO series, and also included appearances by rock and metal idols like Ronnie James Dio and Meatloaf, who portrayed Black's dad.
Black didn't abandoning straight acting. He would appear in a number of more conventional, and even dramatic roles over the coming years, like in The Holiday and Margot at the Wedding, while still pursuing the broad comedic roles he was known for in full force, with comedies like Be Kind Rewind, Tropic Thunder, Year One, and The Big Year. In 2012, Black reteamed with Richard Linklater for a unique blending of comedy, drama, and crime, playing a congenial southern murder suspect in Bernie.