Rage and Humor
Lewis Black talks politics, anger and making it at an older age
photos by Dana Norlund
Lewis Black is so angry!
There are a lot of angry people in America. They’re angry over police brutality, failed politics and stupidity. Especially at stupidity. Stupidity makes them so angry they could spit fire. The angriest of them all is comedian Lewis Black, who will be at Route 66 Legends Theater (14500 Central SW) on Friday, Sept. 19, channels this anger into explosive comedic energy.
Well known now for rage-fueled stand-up rants, Lewis started as a playwright in New York City.
“I wrote plays for about 20 years and on the side because I was fascinated by it. I did stand-up on occasion just for fun,” says Black. “I didn’t really care about [stand-up] as a career. I just thought of it as a way to get something I wrote up on stage.”
Black ran a theater in New York for nine years, which featured debut plays by such writers as Alan Ball and Aaron Sorkin. “I would open every show and talk about what we were doing,” says Black, “so I got very comfortable on stage. Saturday nights we’d do a free show, and I would open with my stand-up.”
Black made the shift to stand-up full time after an awful experience at a theater in Houston. After the theater lied to Black about certain finances of a production and claimed they didn’t have enough money to bring him back to see a play of his produced, a broke Black ran across town to a comedy club. “I did a 15-minute audition at the club, and they hired me for a run five weeks later. They gave me a room and a car, and so at age 40 I started going on the road with comedy.”
In 1998 Black was hired to fill time on “The Daily Show.” The hugely successful comedy and satirical news show gave Black the platform he needed to showcase his talent for hilariously articulating political failures in this country. “[‘The Daily Show’] helped me find an audience,” says Black. “But I stopped trying to figure out what my demographic was a long time ago.”
“I’m tired of people trying to tell me what I am. Both sides make me sick. I describe my politics as psychotic. It’s not about party politics—it’s about fucking stupidity.”
The crux of Black’s humor is his hatred of all that’s useless and stupid. “People call me liberal, which is a word that is used pejoratively. I’m tired of people trying to tell me what I am. Both sides make me sick. I describe my politics as psychotic. It’s not about party politics—it’s about fucking stupidity.”
And so on a nightly basis Black takes the stage and vehemently and intelligently shouts about the awful state of this country’s political landscape. “On stage I feel like I have to be more insane than what’s going on outside, and right now the bar is high,” says Black. “I think the thing that has evolved here in the US is greed. I also think it didn’t help [that] the economy went belly up, and a bunch of people got screwed, and they bailed out the banks. And yes the banks needed to be bailed out but they didn’t do much for the people. So what I do is try to make people feel like they’re not crazy for being mad and make all of this funny.”
Living is hard, the state of the country is tentative at best, and daily we see news stories that make us want to scream. Watching Black is cathartic in many ways. His anger envelops the audience in a warm empathy and makes you realize you’re not alone in thinking a lot of people are stupid.
Genevieve Mueller is a writer and comedian. She performs all over the country and runs two monthly shows in Albuquerque: Comedians Power Hour and the Bad Penguin Comedy Show at The Box. More at genevievemuellercomedy.com or on Twitter: @fromthefloorup.
Lewis Black: The Rant is Due Tour
Friday, Sept. 19, 8 to 9:30pm
Legends Theater at Route 66 Casino
14500 Central SW
Tickets: are $45-$70