I Am an Angry Old Man
But Lewis Black manages to turn frustrations into riotous rage
Finger-pointing and ranting, comedian Lewis Black has a style all his own. His fits of comedic rage are often focused on politics or religion, but there are few topics he won’t address. Black has his own segment on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” called “Back in Black.” He's been in movies and written four books.
“I happened to be in the right place at the right time with a jackass running the country,” Black said about what brought him into the spotlight.
Folio Weekly: You’re known for often cursing in your comedy. Has your audience ever been unprepared for your style?
Lewis Black: People sometimes tell me, “I think you’re really funny. Why do you use those bad words?” Basically, my response is, “Well, fuck it.” The way I talk, I am funny that way. I am comfortable that way. The words are not used to offend or shock. Those are the words God gave us. God gave us? No. Those are the words that we were given to express anger, outrage and frustration.
F.W.: Some have described your style as “comedic rage.” How would you describe it?
L.B.: Frustration, irritation and irate optimism. I wake up every day thinking everything is going to be OK; by 11 o’clock, I realize that I am fucked again.
F.W.: You’ve called yourself “America’s Foremost Commentator on Everything.” How so?
L.B.: I didn’t say that. I would never fucking say that. Someone way back when — when I first started to be known — someone who did PR for me said that. Then it just becomes, and it sticks. I don’t consider myself the foremost commentator, I consider myself somebody who would yack about practically anything.
F.W.: Is there any topic you don’t like commenting on?
L.B.: I have done very little on abortion. It isn’t worth the time, the energy or the effort to make people laugh about it. Their opinions are so deeply rooted in their emotions. It's chaos at the dinner table, for God’s sake; you don’t want to do it in front of 1,500 people.
F.W.: Are there people in the audience who get offended by your comedic style?
L.B.: When people get offended, it's usually because they stop listening. They hear what they want to hear, and then they jump on you without hearing the whole thing. I was in Beaver Creek, Colo., and for the first time, because it is not an easy subject to talk about at all, I brought up guns and violence. Before I said anything, somebody walked out. There are always going to be those people.
F.W.: Do you still talk about gun control?
L.B.: Well, I wouldn’t call it gun control. I think that's what sets people off. The word "control" is what fucks things up. We aren’t trying to control. How do we deal with the fact that we have a ton of guns, and how do we go about making it safer with that many guns? I don’t think it's that stupid of a thing to think about.
F.W.: You’ve written several books. Is their humor similar to that of your character on stage?
L.B.: The first three were. Well, probably all of them. People don’t really come to me looking for career advice or romantic musings.
F.W.: You’ve been in movies as well. Do you enjoy acting?
L.B.: Yeah, I wish I had done a few more of those. It seems to me that they've chewed me up and spit me out already. I did three movies in a year, and since then, it’s been nothing. I've done a little work here and there.
F.W.: You’ve been involved in autism-related charities. Did you do anything for National Autism Awareness Day [April 2]?
L.B.: Nothing. I didn’t really do anything today because I was hung over. I wouldn’t have known it was Autism Awareness Day. Now you have me feeling bad. I feel guilty.
F.W.: Do you ever face hecklers while you're on stage?
L.B.: Mostly it's drunk people who heckle now. I’ve had hecklers over the course of my career. The character of who I am up there, I try to be the most insane person in the room. You’ve got to be kind of stupid to go after the most insane person in the room.
F.W.: Is there anyone suitable to run our country?
L.B.: Anyone that wants to run is probably someone you don’t want to run. That has always been the point. I really can’t think of anyone. I would like someone who's more interested in just getting things done and not worried about their legacy or agenda. I would like someone who can get everyone in a room and make it work. I am tired of what they think, what their fucking opinions are, how they use their facts and fucking figures. We don’t have time. We’re out of time for that nonsense. I've heard the argument over and over again. Do we need to tie them all to seats until they come to an agreement? Children. When I was a child, I thought, “Wow, what a collection of jackasses running this country.” Now I'm the adult and I go, “Wow, my adults are dumber than the adults when I was a kid.” At least back then, they got stuff done. But part of the reason I think they got stuff done was because they were drunks. Drunks work better together than those people who are hanging out at the gym.