There's a simple trick to his comedy, Lewis Black believes.
"My job seems to be to pick up the newspaper and read it to you," he says. "That's all I'm doing. A lot of this stuff you could do in the morning, on your own."
Equal parts political commentator, silver-tongued comic and grouchy old man, Black has his own niche in contemporary American standup.
If you're wondering, he has made it abundantly clear that he is neither Democrat nor Republican.
Through his cable specials, rant ‘n' rave books and frequent Daily Show appearances, Black assures his audience that he's got his finger on the pulse of America.
Well .... He's got his finger somewhere.
Our phone interview took place the afternoon of Tuesday, Jan. 31.
It's Primary Day in Florida. Your next show is two nights away. Will you watch coverage of Florida, and will that you provide you with material?
Lewis Black: I'll watch what happens and then I'll listen to both of them huff and puff their chests about it. I don't really watch it, because I don't need, on any given channel, five people telling me what it means. If you have a really good person, use the one person. I don't need somebody who has a blog called i-read-truman-capote-once dot com. It really is reaching absurdist levels.
They bring on people who do spin for either side. I need analysis. I need people who - and there are a lot of us - who don't give a shit about either side. I can barely watch it: "With three percent of the vote in, this'll really tell you that next year we're not going to have running water."
That's the issue for you, isn't it? That our government is way out of touch with us.
Lewis Black: Whatever they're doing, they're doing on their own, in a bubble without any real interest in what the American people are interested in. Most of us are in the middle. I don't care what you think, I don't care if you think it's the End of Time. Unless it's like with the Payroll Tax Cut ... it's 85 percent of the American people. AND both sides agree and can't pass a bill. I mean, how are you supposed to write a joke about that? All you can say is "Hey, look at the car crash." They AGREE and can't pass a bill. When you reach that point, it's over. Then you just dissolve Congress and start again, because you've got to get people who actually can talk to each other.
There's nothing they have to say to us at this point. You need tax reform, everybody knows you need tax reform, go do it. I don't give a fuck what you have to tell me about it. Go sit down with the other guy and compromise.
Election years are depressing, aren't they? The same old rhetoric, the same old promises, and nothing ever changes.
Lewis Black: This really is the first time there's been a "We don't want that president." I've never seen that. A lot of what he's accused of, as Bill Maher says, is made up. But you don't have to make stuff up, really, because he's a stiff. He's not worked out for a lot of people. And after the Republicans get over their crankiness about the health care bill, which will destroy America and rot our gums, really, literally, he's been a Republican.
He's been a really good Republican in the same fashion that Clinton was a good Republican. And that's fine - "Republican" being "in the middle." And he's been in the middle. For everything he's done for one side, he's done something for the other side. I don't know what you want from him. I don't think he's been a very competent president, on many levels. And a lot of what is really disappointing is that some of the money that was supposed to go out to do the things has been boondoggled by bureaucracy. But it's also been boondoggled by businesses.
On one hand, an election year probably gives you no end of material. On the other hand, do you really need an election year? There's always a lot of insanity to talk about.
Lewis Black: No, the only thing an election year does is help to focus it a little more, so that some of this stuff is more in front of them. As opposed to Congress, which is just like looking at bad finger-painting. It's hard to tell how come the painting came out shit-brown.
What they've done over the past four years is almost remarkable in its ineptitude.
I could get it if it was maybe 1832, and information was tough to come by, if it was hard to get a grip on what your constituency might want. But when nine percent of the American people like what you're doing, and you don't change at any point, something is desperately wrong with you.
Do you ever get so tired of ranting about this stuff that you get up in the morning determined to go onstage and talk about relationships and airline peanuts?
Lewis Black: Boy, I wish! "Did you ever buy socks ..."" "Did you ever have a hamburger ....?" I used to say that when Bill Clinton got a blowjob, a lot of comics got very excited because they felt like talking about that was political. And for me, it was finally the opportunity to talk about blowjobs. Something I'd been pining to do for years.
I miss it a bit. I think, in the end, one of the driving forces behind my act is that I have to be crazier than what I see. And now, they're really testing me. I don't know that I can go that far. They may have won. I may just have to go back to airline jokes.
Where: Johnny Mercer Theatre, Savannah Civic Center, 301 W. Oglethorpe Ave.
When: At 8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12
Tickets: $35-$59 at etix.com
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