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Rant buy me love: A conversation with comedian Lewis Black

Bill DeYoung



Lewis Black was off the road for 500 days. He did one show, and then another 100 days elapsed before the next one. "I've said it before - if I had it to do over again, I would do my act on a gurney," he says. "So I was lying down and maybe getting a vitamin drip. Because it's a lot of energy." Publicity photo.

You might expect acerbic comedian Lewis Black to have a field day discussing the Floridian political climate at Friday’s Mahaffey Theater performance. Au contraire.

Black tells the Catalyst that he has no intention of ripping Tallahassee a new one.

“I leave it to the Floridians,” he says. “I just kinda point to it, mostly because I’ve got other stuff I want to talk about. It’s your problem, and it’s so obvious.

“But I can have people in the audience who really think I’m funny, and then I bring DeSantis into the equation, and they flip out. Much the same way they flip out if you bring the former leader, who shall be nameless, into the conversation.”

Even the most caustic social commentators have to keep in mind that they’re preaching – or in Black’s case, ranting – to a paying audience.

Don’t hold him to it, however. On Dec. 8, as he was beginning the Florida leg of his first national tour in more than 20 months, Black – who admis to having little in the way of social media skills – Tweeted this:

“First off, it’s a stupid joke,” he explains. “It’s really stupid, OK? This is not a ‘hammer’ joke. This is not a joke saying ‘Boy, he’s a piece of shit.’ On my podcast I’ve called him Governor DeSanitary and stuff.”

The blowback from that one Tweet, Black reports, was intense. “So I went ‘OK, f— you, I’m not going to talk about that. You idiots, can’t you just enjoy the picture of my mother at 103? You’ve got to make it about something else? What is the matter with you?’ And I rarely come back at them, if ever, because usually then they go crazy.

“Somebody came back the other day and said I’m a liberal. They base it on the one picture of my mother. I don’t want to deal with it in the audience.”

Black is back on the road after a lengthy pandemic hiatus. His first show, he says, came after he sat pretty much idle for 500 days.

Comedians need to stretch those humor muscles, to keep the act from atrophy. “What was worse,” he says. “was I couldn’t think of what else to do. I thought boy, this’ll give me a chance to read. Basically, it gave me time to not do stuff I thought I would do, so I could feel guilty about that. And then I would watch other people who seemed to be thriving.”

When somebody in his circle suggested he try a regular Zoomcast, he wasn’t interested. “People started doing stuff, I thought, way too early. I wasn’t going to put myself in that situation. It was strange.”

He eventually gave in, and his Rant Cast (archived at recently logged Episide No. 61.

Photo: Twitter.

He tends to think and think, and stew, and think and stew some more before he writes anything down. The earliest Rant Cast episodes, Black explains, were “more my thoughts than my comedy. It was like watching somebody build the Titanic with Popsicle sticks.”

Also still a going concern is The Rant is Due, in which he asks fans for their own litany of complaints, written in Black-speak, and then reads them on his podcast.

“The level of writing that people were doing evolved to a point that I just thought it was tremendous,” he says. “I thought the stuff that I was reading was as good as anything I could get from writers working on The Daily Show.

“It evolved as they found my voice, and they found their voices, and it was just extraordinary. Not that they would be writers on The Daily Show, I’m not saying that.”

Meanwhile, he remains a regular contributor to The Daily Show, on Comedy Central, with a commentary segment called Back in Black.

Tell him he’s turned into this generation’s Andy Rooney, and Black recoils.

“That horrifies me,” he blurts out. “I didn’t want to be Andy Rooney. I wanted to be angry. Andy was more bemused and skeptical.”

CBS and 60 Minutes, Black says, once approached him to succeed their beloved Rooney. “And I said no. Because I wasn’t going to sit down with those idiots and discuss what they wanted to edit. No, no, no.”

Mahaffey Theater tickets here


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