Comedian Black not prone to seeing things as shades of gray
By William Loeffler
Published: Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 8:56 p.m.
Lewis Black speaks in the voice of the angry radio talk-show caller who's fed to the teeth with craven politicians, stupid reality shows, vacuous celebrities, Wall Street duplicity, overpaid professional athletes, greedy sports-team owners and Facebook.
The difference is, he's usually funny.
The perpetually perturbed comedian has plenty to say about the recent fiscal cliff crisis, for which he says both sides of Congress bear the blame. He'll give the audience an earful when he performs Saturday at Heinz Hall.
“If it weren't Congress, one would call what they're doing to the economy ‘terrorism,' ” Black says in his trademark croak. “It's shameful. Listening to them enrages me.”
Since his 1996 debut as a dyspeptic commentator on “The Daily Show,” the playwright and social critic has expanded the art of complaining into comedy specials and DVDs, concert films, best-selling books and a one-man show, “Lewis Black on Broadway.” He won a Grammy in 2007 for his comedy album “The Carnegie Hall Performance” and another in 2001 for “Stark Raving Black.”
Black discovered his gift for comedy after he earned an master of fine arts in playwriting degree from the Yale School of Drama. In the 1980s, he was playwright-in-residence at the West Bank Cafe Downstairs Theatre Bar in Manhattan. While he'd performed stand-up in other places, he discovered his true comedic voice when he emceed theater shows and found that audiences responded to his wry, sarcastic humor.
He cites George Carlin as one of his primary influences. In a 2007 interview with the Tribune-Review, Carlin said Black was one of the comedians whose work he admired.
On stage, Black paces like a commuter waiting in the cold for a bus that's 30 minutes late. While the anger is real, he says he never forgets that he's paid to make people laugh.
“My bitterness usually comes out in interviews. What I do onstage is work on taking the bitterness and making it funny, but it always starts with anger.”
His prediction for 2013?
“It will be like 2012, only stupider,” he says.
William Loeffler is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7986.
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