Comedian Lewis Black gained fame in the early years of The Daily Show, when his perma-furious stage persona popped from what was then, under host Craig Kilborn, a rather glib half hour of comedy. Over the phone, however, Black's an absolute teddy bear - or maybe it's just that our nation is so chaotic, he sounds like the sanest guy in the room.
WEEKLY VOLCANO: How are you feeling these days?
LEWIS BLACK: How I'm feeling is I need five research assistants every morning to go through the (news) and get it all collated into something that's comprehensible and ... just to come up with facts. We don't seem to know where they are anymore. It seems like we didn't leave enough bread crumbs in the woods ... One group has a totally different set of facts than the other, so we're wandering around in two parallel universes.
WV: Why are there so few successful, conservative political comedians?
LB: Part of the problem they face is that the Democrats aren't funny. I used to say in the act: The Democrats are dumb and the Republicans are stupid, and stupid is funny and dumb is not. You listen to 'em for two minutes, and you go: Wow, I don't know what you said, and whatever you do, don't say it again ... The ones who generally end up doing comedy are people who feel like they're outsiders or have been put upon. It's hard if you don't have empathy for the person who's getting f***ed.
WV: Is comedy an effective form of protest, or does it just make us feel better?
LB: It goes back to the emperor's wearing no clothes. Somebody's gotta keep pointing it out. Part of it is, in fact, that authority shouldn't be listened to because they're the authority. Part of it is that you're not crazy - they want you to think you're crazy. In part it's because journalism left the landscape. That kind of opened the door, and also, it was the 24-hour news cycle so there was no escaping. Look, the only thing I thought the Obama presidency could really do was - by the time Bush left office, and due to what had become the trauma of a war that went on way too long, we had reached the point that America was literally in a total stroke. It's a stroke patient, so Obama's job as the President was to see if he could get America to just move a couple of fingers; and boy, if it could lift its hand, that would really be something. And apparently, that's as far as we've gotten ... It goes back to a two-party system that is completely like dinosaurs. The brain is now the size of a pea.
Black appears Saturday at Tacoma's Pantages Theater. His show culminates in a Q&A session with a round of improvised "rants" that appear subsequently on LewisBlack.com/live.
Lewis Black: Rant, White & Blue, 8 p.m., Saturday, March 18, Pantages Theater, 901 Broadway, Tacoma, $59.50-$75, 253.591.5894