His comedy rants are perfectly suited to help us all vent about the past few years.
Lewis Black explodes with hilarious anger at Warner Theatre on Friday and Saturday.
“I was in solitary confinement for almost 12 weeks and it really took a toll,” Black told WTOP. “I lost my mind. As I say to the audience, ‘You’ve only been with me for 20 minutes, imagine what it’s been like to be with me for literally 12 weeks?’ … I was pointing a finger at myself, screaming. Your brain can only entertain itself so much then it comes after you.”
The tour is fittingly called “Off the Rails,” which describes the state of our nation.
“We’re completely off the rails, we’re not even on the rails, the train went off the rails, now we’re driving on grass and the wheels are spinning around,” Black said. “I mean who comes through a pandemic and at the end of the pandemic, it’s more crazy than it was in the midst of the pandemic? We’re fighting over stuff that is just completely ludicrous.”
He remains incensed by the U.S. Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.
“People saying it didn’t happen! Calling it regular tourists coming to see the place!” Black said. “We had a two-party system that initially was dealing with different points of view about the same reality. … We are now living in two separate realities. We’re arguing over what reality is. You can’t do that. I did that on an LSD trip and you learn a big lesson.”
Born in D.C. in 1948, Black grew up in nearby Silver Spring, Maryland.
“I was born and raised around Washington,” Black said. “One of the reasons I left is that the local news is national news. I would have been in front of Congress every day basically barking on all fours at these people and probably nipping at their heels. I just couldn’t handle watching that close what goes on there on a daily basis. I beat ’em to the punch.”
After a year at the University of Maryland in College Park, he decided that he could no longer live with his parents. So, he transferred to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to study playwriting, followed by his Master of Fine Arts at the School of Drama at Yale University in 1977.
“The plan was to be a playwright,” Black said. “I wrote a lot of plays. … [Anton] Chekhov I loved, [Samuel] Beckett I loved, [Harold] Pinter I loved, Sam Shepard I loved. … One of my first favorites was by John Osborne aptly enough called ‘Look Back in Anger’ … and Herb Gardner’s ‘A Thousand Clowns,’ which was a model for me for a long time.”
He began dabbling in standup at the West Bank Cafe in New York City.
“Downstairs was a 100-seat bar, a theater and a small little stage,” Black said. “I would open for every show. I’d been doing standup on and off, but I was doing it for fun. I got a kick out of it. It was a way I could write some stuff and get it up there without having to write a play. … It just took off. People liked the stand-up more than they liked the plays.”
Eventually, he made the shift to comedy full time around age 40.
“I had this play I thought would be the one to break through, but it was a miserable experience I had in Houston,” Black said. “I ended up working at a comedy club in Houston and they offered me a gig for the same amount of money that I made as a playwright. I’d be working there one week as opposed to spending two years writing a play.”
TV audiences got to know him from “Back in Black” segments on “The Daily Show.”
“The explosion of cable television is when they discovered, ‘Oh, politics is funny! Social satire is funny,'” Black said. “The reason we became the ones to look toward is … the fact that news was becoming satiric. Somebody would come on, they’d say something, then deny saying it, then we’d show them a tape of them saying it, joke’s over, let’s move on.”
He continues to appear on “The Daily Show” even after Jon Stewart’s departure.
“I’m doing them until they realize I’m still there and go, ‘Wait a minute?'” Black said. “I’ve been doing it for 25 years ago. I started with [Craig] Kilborn and I’m still doing it with Trevor [Noah]. I’ve enjoyed working with all of them. They bring me in when they want me. … They never auditioned me to be in that chair. … Just do it as a courtesy.”
Next up is the Warner Theatre, where he’ll hone his upcoming TV special.
“The Warner is sort of the final tune-up, so folks will be seeing it,” Black said. “I’m really pleased about doing the final tune-up there, because the special ‘Red, White & Screwed’ was great that we shot there. I’ve loved the Warner, I’ve loved working on that stage and I think that may have been my best special, so going back there to work on this is great.”
Stick around after the routine for his bonus live feed “The Rant is Due.”
“After I finish my show, I come back on stage,” Black said. “Go to LewisBlack.com, you can basically hear some of the Rant Cast. I ask that the audience writes in, they can ask a question, but I’m really looking for their comments about living in D.C. … I’ll pick the ones that come out of that area and it’ll be a live feed that goes throughout the world.”
This summer, he’ll even return to playwriting at Bowie Community Theatre in Maryland.
“It’s called ‘One Slight Hitch’ and it’s being done there in July,” Black said. “It takes place in the ’80s about this woman who has to choose between getting married or a career. If you didn’t know my name was on it, you wouldn’t know that I wrote it. It’s a romantic comedy.”