Lewis Black is More Than Just Angry
*Warning: Explicit Language*
Fans of comedian, actor and author Lewis Black may describe him as angry, irritated or even beligerant but, after speaking with him for quite some time about his career, his background and what he finds important, the one word I would use would to describe him would be compassionate.
“The best part of my career has definitely been to be able to direct money toward causes and charities,” Black said during a recent phone interview.
Black is a tremendous supporter of numerous charitable organizations including the 52nd Street Project, Autism Speaks and, most notably, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for which he serves as host to their annual golf tournament and fundraiser.
Though Black devotes as much time as possible to raising awareness for these causes which are helping find cures to debilitating diseases or assisting the less fortunate, his trademark rage and general disgust for the state of the world will always be his calling card; a personality trait engrained in him at a very young age.
“When I was a kid, I was a sarcastic little prick and it kind of grew from there,” he said. “But it took a lot of time to realize that I’m really my funniest when I’m angry. It took me about twenty years to figure it out. The hardest thing about starting out in this business is trying to find out where is your funny and how is your humor best expressed? I should have known this but, I didn’t really see it. There weren’t a lot of angry comics and I didn’t take the hint.”
From the start of his decades-long career, anger became Black’s wheelhouse as legions of loyal fans all over the world began relating to his on-stage heated anguish; which Black insists is only a small part of the entire man.
“The whole thing shocks me. I wake up every day and think this is unbelievable,” he said. “But most people are kind of surprised that I’m not aggravated and irritated all the time. You can catch me, I can get caught, but most of the time I’m saving my energy up to get aggravated on stage.”
Though decidedly mellow, calm and unassuming, there was a hint of Black’s blood boiling as he began to lament about how appalling he feels our country has become.
“We’ve really reached the point of enough is enough,” he said. “You know, the government has a 13% congressional approval rating and the same people are going to go back to the same voting booths and vote for the same people. It really is beyond my comprehension. When they shut the government down, 57% of Democrats and 55% of Republicans said that they would not send their representative back. And they are going to send their representative back and they should be fucking ashamed of themselves.”
Black was especially dumbfounded by controversial, even sometimes described as disgraced, South Carolina Governor, Mark Sanford, running for re-election unopposed.
“That idiot from South Carolina is running again and he’s running against nobody,” Black said. “The Democrats can’t find a Shetland pony to run against him? Then why have a democracy? It’s not like a redneck, rural area of South Carolina. It’s North Charleston. And if that’s the best you can do to represent your district, to be the leader of your district, then you lose your district. You just don’t get to send anybody.”
Though most may know him for his numerous Comedy Central performancess or award-winning guest appearances on such shows as “The Daily Show with John Stewart,” Black is also a best-selling author and accomplished playwright, as well as a highly successful voice-over actor. In June of next year, Black will star as (what else) “Anger,” in the much anticipated Disney / Pixar’s “Inside Out,” also starring Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling and Amy Poehler.
Getting back to his roots as a stand up and taking the stage at Pechanga Resort & Casino this Friday night, Black is always surprised by the plethora of social media critics who see his show and are ultimately put off by what they feel is questionable language.
“There ‘s a certain firewall that’s set up by my choice of words but the people who are upset by my profanity are the same people who are generally going to be upset by what I have to say,” he said. “I don’t understand how you can live in this civilization, in this point in time, and be somewhere between the ages of 40 and 70 and that language can still disturb you. There are 500 other things at least, before we get to the words damn or hell or shit or fuck, there are 500 other things that should upset you. These are words that adults use to express their rage. What I’m I suppose to be saying? Oh, pussy willows?”
Some skeptics say that it’s not necessarily the words that Black chooses to use, but the frequency and capacity in which they are being said.
“They say that I’m using a word gratuitously and I don’t believe I am,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll use a word gratuitously, in the sense that I’ll say that word to give me the two seconds to think about what I’m going to say. I’m not as fast as Robin was, so I’ll use that word to give me the two seconds I need. I’ll put that word up kind of like a flare, until I can shoot on to the next thing.”
Maybe his pension for profanity may alienate a handle of the thinner-skinned comedy club patrons but the majority of those who come out to Black’s shows are well aware of the unchained fury that has made him a household name. Regardless, whether it’s a four-letter word or highly intelligent political commentary, it’s hard to ignore what’s coming out of his mouth.
“I’ve reached that point, I think, where people who come to my shows generally know me but occasionally somebody stumbles in and I’m like ‘how did you end up here,’” Black said. “But most everyone there knows what they’re going to get. Some think I’m out of my mind, but they still believe what I have to say.”