Black in Business

Comedian Lewis Black back on the Orpheum stage Sunday

On a day when revelers are stumbling over themselves to puke up green beer, a week after the earthquake in Japan left tens of thousands missing or dead and four nuclear power plants in shambles, comedian Lewis Black is holed up in his New York City apartment. “I won’t go out there. Literally, the city has turned into a vomitorium,” Black says. “There are two days, really, that you don’t want to be in New York: New Year’s Eve and St. Patty’s Day. It’s amateur night.” And Black is no amateur. His career took off following his “Back in Black” segments on “The Daily Show.” Numerous stand-up specials, three books, six comedy albums and two Grammys (2007, 2011) followed. Black’s comedy, often fueled by politics and current events, is delivered in a controlled rage that may lapse into a meltdown at any moment. As Black rants, his index fingers dance like caterpillars climbing through layers of bullshit and idiocy for fresh air, a sense of sanity in an insane world. It’s easy to imagine Black’s fingers flying as he refers to a plan approved by the House to slash funding for a tsunami warning center that issued the alarm following Japan’s earthquake. “What kind of a country watches what’s going on in Japan and then has the serious nerve to vote against — to cut the budget for warning systems? At what point don’t you get that certain investments pay off in the long run because you have them in place,” Black says. He recently heard that the U.S. pays more for its defense than every other nation combined saying, “That would lead you to believe that something’s f***ed up. I wouldn’t give a damn if a third of that was going to soldiers who’d come home, soldiers who’d fought, people who’d served their country, but it’s not.” Black, who opposed the war in Iraq, was also part of a few USO tours in that visited European and Middle Eastern military bases to support the troops. He didn’t support the recent Comedy Central Roast of Donald Trump. He’s not a fan of Trump’s. Then there was the seeming replacement of frequent roast contributor Greg Giraldo, who died last year at age 44, with The Situation of “Jersey Shore” infamy. “[Giraldo] was a great comic. You owe it to his memory to put another comedian there,” Black says, “What Giraldo would have done if The Situation was on stage with him, it makes me smile to think of it.” Giraldo was a frequent guest on Black’s short-lived show, “The Root Of All Evil,” where comics argued which of two subjects was the greater evil. An early episode pitted Viagra versus Trump. Giraldo was sided with Viagra and lost when Black ruled Trump more evil. Although Giraldo often garnered the most laughs during he show, he also frequently lost. Black says Giraldo was paired with the topic likely to lose just to mess with him. “We liked the fact that he went to Harvard Law and we made him lose every time,” Black says with a chuckle. Like Giraldo, Black graduated from an Ivy League school, but with an MFA in playwrighting from Yale. An anecdote from the documentary about Black, “Basic Black,” describes him yelling, “Trust Fund! You have a trust fund!” at a professor who condemned Henry Winkler and other alums for working in television. “Yale was an uncomfortable time. I had a great time with the student body; I had a hellish time with the faculty,” Black says. After Yale, Black formed the West Bank Café’s Downstairs Theatre Bar in New York with friends and went on to write 40 plays. While at the West Bank, Black oversaw the development of works by future Academy Award-winning writers Aaron Sorkin (“The Social Network”) and Alan Ball (“American Beauty”) among others. Black says he looks forward to returning to Omaha. “I consider Omaha one of the places where I developed into who I am. More than that it gave me confidence,” he says. Initially people told him his act would be a tough sell here in a conservative Republican state. Instead Black says, “I realized I was reaching that audience. That mix of the audience is the mix that I look for.” As the interview winds down you can almost hear the sirens, early warning that Black’s coming back. Or, are those actual sirens? “Yeah. They’re coming finally,” jokes Black. “Things are finished. Maybe I won’t make it to Omaha.” Lewis Black: In God We Rust, Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglass St., Sunday, March 27 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $35, $45, $55 and $65 at ticketomaha.com, by phone at 402.345.0606, or in person at 13th and Douglass St.

posted at 08:48 pm
on Thursday, March 24th, 2011

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