Lewis Black is not an asshole, he just plays one in real life. You know him best from the “Back In Black” segment on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, as well as his own show The Root Of All Evil on Comedy Central, but Black’s actually a stand-up veteran with 30 years on the mic behind him. After graduating from the Yale school of drama (that’s right, no fuckin slackers here, folks) and opening his own theater in Hell’s Kitchen, he hit the road and never looked back.
His comic flare lies in the ability to make people laugh at the baffling absurdity and hypocrisy that dominate modern American politics. As one of the country’s foremost social satirists, Black grabbed American’s attention by the throat with with his volcanically frothing social “commentaries on everything,” hands shaking worse than Michael J. Fox on crystal meth, ranting and writhing like he’s possessed by demons far too large for his skin. His stream-of-consciousness borderline-breakdown comedy style takes specific aim at politics, religion and cultural trends in an interesting mix of grouch and sage. His comedy appeals to everyone from college kids hungry for truth to old curmudgeons who can’t believe how fucked the world has become.
Black has recorded seven albums to date, and his Carnegie Hall performance won a Grammy last year for Best Comedy Album. He is also a bestselling author (Nothing’s Sacred), star of two HBO specials, and an actor appearing in a number of films, most of which we’re sure he’d rather us not mention.
When not on the road performing (where he spends most of his time), Black’s either doing his show, writing new material or talking to bastards like us. We leapt at the chance to spend a few minutes ruffling feathers with the best firestarter out there about Obama and McCain, dead comic heroes and why evolution is the only thing that keeps him going.
Antiquiet: You once described your humor as “being on the Titanic every single day and being the only person who knows what is going to happen.”
Lewis Black: Yeah, y’know, you’re kind of setting the deck chairs out, watching the iceberg get closer and closer. I said that kind of as a joke, but now shit’s getting weirder by the day. It’s really proving itself true. I said to the audience, noone up in the ranks knew we were headed for an economic decline? Shit, everybody in the audience knew that the shit was gonna hit the fan six months before it did. Bunch of fuckin’ idiots runnin’ the joint- they still don’t call it a depression. What planet are you living on?
Antiquiet: What do you say to people calling you the root of all evil?
Lewis Black: I agree wholeheartedly. I said it at the very beginning- the show’s really good, but I should be the one on trial.
Antiquiet: Speaking of evil, how many presidents do you suppose it’ll take to reverse the Bush/Cheney effect?
Lewis Black: It’s gonna be affected quickly just by them being gone. Just by somebody pretending to listen. That’s a major step. Anybody who acts like they’re paying attention to the needs of the American people would be huge.
Antiquiet: McCain doesn’t really seem to be in touch with that though…
Lewis Black: Neither does Obama! Seriously! What’s he doing? They’re both listening to themselves. I’ve never seen anything fucking like it in my whole life. And Obama’s a rock star? To who? Could he march to the middle any faster? I mean, they talk about him being the big media star. He was, six months ago maybe, but the Republicans can’t do as much damage to him as he can.
Antiquiet: People just don’t seem to know what he’s really about.
Lewis Black: Oh good, as opposed to the rest of ’em, right? Yeah, cause we know what the rest of ’em stand for, right? That’s fucking bullshit. What we have is an election in which one person couldn’t remember the word ‘hope.’ There are much better Repubican candidates than any of the ones they ran, but he’s the best of the group that floated to the top.
Antiquiet: So what’s a confused voter to do?
Lewis Black: Well I’ve said it before: if Bush hadn’t won… okay granted, what he did was horrible, but I can’t imagine that Gore would be some splendid moment either. Imagine how shitty Gore would’ve been as a president if he couldn’t beat Bush.
Antiquiet: But he did!
Lewis Black: Yeah, well, Gore needs a brother in Florida.
Antiquiet: I can’t imagine Gore rejecting the Kyoto treaty or invading Iraq on false pretense, much less grant billions of dollars in pipeline and reconstruction contracts to a company his VP is a former CEO and major shareholder of.
Lewis Black: There’s a lot of truth to that, and it’s a living, fucking breathing example of conflict of interest and corruption. But Gore- he had a very narrow vision. He never had the balls to put on such a spectacular show as the fucking fun-house we’ve been living in for the past eight years.
Antiquiet: You’ve professed your adoration of Lenny Bruce, George Carlin and Bill Hicks… Are there any comedians out there now who have the chops to pick up that torch?
Lewis Black: Bill Maher, Doug Stanhope, Marc Maron. The angrier ones.
Antiquiet: You’re playing shows pretty much every day for the rest of the year. Have you found a consistent formula that you stick to on tour?
Lewis Black: Oh Christ no. Evolution is the only thing that keeps me going. The reason I write while I’m onstage is to stay present. As long as I feel like I’m going somewhere with what I’m doing I’ll keep doing it. I don’t know where it’s going now, but mostly the ‘let them eat cake’ thing has really come true. We just don’t know what the fuck we’re doing anymore. I don’t know when we stopped figuring that one out.
Antiquiet: You’ve been in numerous films, you’ve got seven comedy albums out, you’ve been arrested in a bus full of naked teenage girls… What’s next?
Lewis Black: Breakfast buffet. I don’t know, I’d like to do another movie. But if not, I’m really happy doing this. I don’t give a shit.