Angry Lewis Black Is Still Angry

Categories: Interviews

Courtesy Lewis Black
It's only been two years since New York comic/Daily Show commentator/Grammy-winning Jack of all Rage Lewis Black released his last special, but he's noted plenty of political hypocrisy, generational ineptitudes and technological missteps in the meantime to keep his blood pressure soaring comfortably. Recorded in Atlantic City, Old Yeller: Live at the Borgata premieres May 2 on Epix.

Black also hosts Big Stars, Big Cure: An Unforgettable Night of Comedy and Music to Fight Cystic Fibrosis on May 5 at Lincoln Center's Rose Theater. The lineup includes Jon Stewart, Whoopi Goldberg, Kathleen Madigan and video pieces featuring Meryl Streep, Robin Williams and Will Ferrell.

See also: Hannibal Buress: "Bombing Can Be Good"

Old Yeller is your third special for Epix and your 11th album overall.
It's boredom! It's getting sick of saying the same thing. And I think, too, if I'm going to wander around, people, when they come back, they should see something that they haven't seen. A lot of it's the evolution of a joke or a thought. I talked about phones for awhile, and then from phones I went to talking about all of the social media. I find--I hope--better ways to express something and get the point across. Because obviously my points aren't getting across; nothing has changed! I don't even care about living in a utopia; I just want to live in a functional society! Unless I move to Tahiti, in which case I'll just be quiet.

You mentioned social media. In relation to that, comics are now releasing specials via direct download. Why is having a platform on Epix still important to you?
Because I have an audience that's mixed. I've got an audience that goes from, like, 12 to 90, and I can't expect a certain chunk of my audience to sit and watch me on a computer screen. So that's really it. There will be some stuff that I'm going to be doing down the road that is probably more direct, but as of now, I'm probably doing it because at my age, I'm at the tail end of that whole era of the George Carlin and the guys who did those specials on television. So it's partly, "Well, that's the way I do it!" I've spent the last couple years trying to get things together to be able to do it in another fashion, and we'll see if that comes to be. And if not, hopefully there's another Epix special.

If you go a more direct route, what would you envision trying to do?
In a best-case scenario, I would probably try to do it through an app. Download a Lewis Black app, and then watch me onstage somewhere in the country, wherever I'm performing that night. If all goes well and we can pull this off.

So a live special?

Or even just 10 minutes of it. It's one step at a time, but if nothing else, I've been doing stuff in this latest incarnation of wandering around of people texting questions to me. And at the end of the act, I answer some of the questions. All of that stuff will eventually see the light of day, because it's specific, or it's about stuff that I don't normally talk about. It's about an hour's worth of material that worked, and I can start to get that out.

It's interesting what you're saying about the apps and the texting, juxtaposing that with what you said about being the last wave of comedians releasing specials in an old-school way. But you're also talking about doing stuff that no one else is really doing yet, and it could definitely change the nature of specials.
It really has to do with the guys I work with, who are leading me into it, because otherwise you'd be talking to Mr. Clueless. You're talking to somebody who still finds it hard to deal with Twitter and Facebook. I'm somebody who really fought Twitter. I'm against the 140-character thing, really, A) I don't like that fashion. People are great at it. There are people who I follow who are great at it, who can really write short-form, and they're tremendous, and they sort of created another form. But for me, when they first approached me, it was like, "Fuck you!" You're taking one of the few things I love, which is language, and you're undermining it, in a sense.

And then I realized what it was in the end was an advertising platform. But it's an advertising platform in a lot of ways for people to advertise themselves, or what they think, or what they want, or points they want to get across.

I just did a talk at the National Press Club in Washington... I was asked about a quote from Rush Limbaugh about [how] Stephen Colbert taking over the Letterman position was an attack on family values, which was his take on it. Halfway through the paragraph I felt like I was going to have a stroke. So I responded to it, in a fashion in which I said that Rush Limbaugh was a prick and I talked about Stephen, and then Rush Limbaugh responded to this! I saw it on the Twitter-fuck thing! And it was like, "Now I'm supposed to...what? Because we're going to get in a debate about this, but then part of me just goes, "You know, fuck you!" To think that I'm that important; that people are watching the National Press Conference and paying attention to your name. But there is more I would have said; I also would have said this and I would have said that and I would have said this, but if I've got 140 characters on Twitter to put it on, do I put it on my Facebook page? What?

Or your Tumblr.
Or my Tumblr. But it's like, "No! I'll take it, and I'll put it in my act, and fuck you! I'll save it for myself!"

It's funny; I'm actually distantly related to Rush Limbaugh. But he never came to family reunions or anything like that. Never met the dude.
Well what I said was he's talking about undermining family values; Stephen has a family, he has five kids, he was the last of the Catholics that kind of held in there during the nonsense period. He held onto his faith. I said, "What do you want from this guy? You in the end think this is the guy who's going out to undermine family values?" I was really lit. I could understand if he said I might be undermining family values, but don't talk about my friend!

I guess you are pretty thrilled about the Colbert move, then?

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