Lewis Black: Black on Broadway
August 3, 2005
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that our world has gone to hell. We have an inferior health care system, high unemployment, a war in the Middle East that no one wants and natural disasters that kill hundreds of thousands of people. Basically, we’re screwed. So what can we do about it? Lewis Black has a solution: get pissed off.
Most people know Black from his politically incorrect rants on The Daily Show. Recorded for HBO at the Brooks Atkinson Theater in New York City, this hour-long stand-up allows the comedian to cut loose from the constraints of mainstream television with his curmudgeonly persona. He sounds off on a number of things that are currently pissing him off: the cold winter weather (“Where the fuck is global warming when you need it?”) and the country’s deficit which has caused the cutting of “essential services” like police officers and firefighters (“It’s much more fun watching something burning down.”).
Black’s shtick is to start most jokes in a conversational tone of voice and punctuate the punch-line by yelling it angrily. After all, he’s the angry guy who’s angry at the world. Think of Sam Kinison in terms of style of delivery and Bill Hicks in terms of social and political commentary. Black works the crowd with all the skill and experience of a veteran stand-up comic. He does a good job of going off on tangents and then laying on a zinger that references an earlier joke. He has a good sense of timing. He knows just the right amount of beats between the set-up and punch-line of a joke.
One of his funniest routines is on traveling, in particular to New Zealand. “Let me just tell ya,” he says, “It’s 22 hours by plane. So if you have the opportunity…Don’t.” This leads him to wonder who exactly designed the uncomfortable seats in the coach section on airplanes. “I think it’s a guy with Scoliosis who’s really pissed off.”
If you can tap into Black’s misanthropy (and in this day and age who can’t?) he is quite funny with some genuinely laugh-out bits. On soy milk: “They couldn’t sell soy juice so they called it soy milk because any time you say soy juice you actually start to gag.” It’s not just his jokes that are funny but how he delivers them—in an angry, exasperated way of someone in danger of having an aneurysm. What makes Black’s comedy work is that its core there is a ring of honesty that he exaggerates for comic effect. He understands and acknowledges that the world is supremely messed up and that there may be nothing we can do but at least we can have some fun complaining about it.