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Back with Black

By PF Wilson · October 2nd, 2013 · Onstage

Back in 2006, Lewis Black told CityBeat in an interview that the Bush administration and the GOP were “fucking out of their minds.” So it is fortuitous that a recent interview took place on the second day of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s filibuster to protest the Affordable Care Act. 

“Both sides are so beyond repair, I don’t know,” Black said. “Turning the TV on this morning and watching him talk for no reason at all except for his own ego and gratification; why don’t you take that time and explain what really upsets you about health care for everyone and then if you don’t like this bill, but believe in healthcare for everyone, how would you improve it? Instead of reading from Dr. Seuss. I mean, it’s a fake filibuster. How far from reality do we have to get to have a guy run a fake filibuster and have it covered as news? If it’s fake, it’s not news, it’s The Daily Show.”

Speaking of The Daily Show, Black still manages to stop by once a month to do his popular “Back in Black” commentaries. 

A recent one on Texas and that state’s governor, Rick Perry, is a particular favorite. It’s this penchant for cleverly satirizing American politics that drew him to the attention of BBC Radio 4. 

That station has a popular program called “The News Quiz,” and producers were looking to make an American version (“News Quiz USA”) that would run in both countries. They chose Black as their host. 

Comedians Kathleen Madigan, Todd Barry, Ted Alexandro and Andy Borowitz were also on board.

A pilot aired on Radio 4 a few months back, but the project did not move forward. 

“They took so long figuring out whether they wanted to do it or not,” Black explains, “and it wasn’t consistent, so there was no way to fit it into my schedule.”

Meanwhile, back in the States, Black continues to sell out theaters with his unique brand of anger-fueled comedy. 

With the worsening dysfunction in Washington, D.C., one would think that he must be worn out by now; not so. 

“It never ends,” he says. “Like with the Ted Cruz thing, it becomes a fountain that doesn’t stop giving. I’m just really trying to describe how big the psychosis is and now it’s impossible. Onstage, in order to give what we’re living through some sort of framework, I have to be crazier than what I’m seeing, and now they’re pushing my envelope.”

And while it’s slightly exaggerated, Black’s anger comes from a real place. 

“I’m not feigning anger, but you can’t be totally angry and keep people entertained. I’ve learned that from trial and error,” he adds with a laugh. “The level of disgust keeps getting higher. I think, ‘I can’t get anymore disgusted,’ and then I do.”

Black’s comedy is best enjoyed by an informed audience. Even in this age of copious information, that can still be a challenge.

“The problem is we have a lot of information, but we don’t have a lot of facts,” he explains. “We have more information than any society has ever dreamed of, but we have no facts. You can’t find facts. My job is to find facts, so I can base my act on some sort of reality system.” 

He cites social security as an example. 

“Any money you earn over $113,000 dollars a year — none of that money is going into social security. I talk about that every night in front of 1,500 people, and I’m lucky if 70 people knew that.” 

He doesn’t blame the audience, though. 

“I had to find that on page 16 of the newspaper. And if I’m just finding out about that, imagine what the Affordable Care Act is like.”

Of course, it’s not all politics with Lewis Black. Even the most seemingly mundane parts of life irk him. 

“I talk a lot about Facebook, ADD, Twitter — all of that stuff makes me as angry as politics,” he says. “What the audience begins to realize is that I’m just as crazy when it comes to those things as I am about politics. Facebook makes me crazy because I joined it. I joined something that gave me no instructions and no indication of what I was getting into. It just irritates me.”

LEWIS BLACK performs at Taft Theatre Saturday. Tickets: 513-232-6220 or tafttheatre.org.



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