For comedian Lewis Black, it’s a hell of a time to be alive— provided his blood pressure holds. The comedic bounty of election season is ripe to be skewered and nobody does it better than Black, with his angry exasperation for all things political.
This season he’s already produced a CD, due out soon, and is currently touring and updating his material for a stint on Broadway, “Black to the Future,” in September and October. When we spoke, Black was on a tour stop in Canada, watching the Democratic National Convention and fuming about the media, the conventions, and of course, The Donald.
NSFW language follows.
Current: I was watching an old clip where you discussed Sarah Palin and how you chose not to engage with her onstage because, and I’m quoting you here, you “couldn’t exist in this world if she was a real person.” How has your attitude onstage changed?
Lewis Black: I think my attitude is I don’t think I’m necessary anymore. Reality has become satire. Essentially we’re living in the intersection of reality and satire. I don’t know how I’m supposed to satirize things that are already satiric. I’m watching the graphic comic depiction of 1984 in terms of what we’re saying is the opposite of what we’re meaning. I mean both parties couldn’t do anything more to flush the English language down the toilet.
So it is becoming more of a challenge to do your job?
Yeah it is. My job I figure is to be more insane than what I see. That’s always been kind of my job. My comedy stems from anger and being crazy, and they’re stretching the limits of my sanity.
It seems like part of the problem is the total lack of context. You watch the news, and every story is the end of the world, or society is crumbling. How do you disengage from that cycle?
The media couldn’t find a fact if it existed in front of them. The world’s in trouble, but in order to be sure to watch it, we better have breaking news every moment. How can there be breaking news every fucking moment? Call it broken news.
Because we’re all going to have to get up, and go to work, and go about our day, no matter what’s going on.
Exactly. So get your face out of your phone. The reason a lot of the times that we’re not picking up on where the problem is coming from is because we’re too busy sending out a meme or doing 500 other things on our phone. It’s stunning beyond belief what goes on.
To sit here and go, “The next President’s going to make a difference” — Fuck you! Fuck you hard! You need a congress that’s going to do stuff with the president and until that happens, fuck you. We’re in the same boat we’ve been in. So for them to be here and throw this shit in front of me — you can lay a certain amount of it at Obama’s door, but 13 percent of the American people approve of what Congress is doing, ok? What does it take? And then they’re going to go out and vote for the same jackass they voted for before. Nobody gives a fuck about your district, shithead. Ok? Work together with the other districts, so we can actually get somewhere. This is the same stuff. We’ve been discussing immigration for how many years now?
How do you keep your comedy fresh when it’s the same conversation?
Well that’s the tough part. You have to come up with a different way to put it. That’s really it. How can I put it this time, so that A) It’s funnier and B) somebody hears it?
I always think back on the Comedy Central Roast of Donald Trump, where everyone is mocking him for his presidential ambitions. Now look where he is. Has comedy lost some of it’s ability to skewer these figures?
Well, it’s a Roast.
Not exactly political satire.
No. It’s not political. Seriously, we don’t do it. What has to do it is when people are interviewing Donald Trump, from the moment where he started talking about the Mexicans to John McCain, should not have allowed him to blather on. Be the adult to the nine-year-old in the room with a behavioral problem. Nobody stood in front of him media-wise and curbed him. They’ve allowed him to make choices about who’s going to interview him. You say no, you don’t get to do this, and that’s it, the ballgame is over. I really do hold the media at fault here.
You hold the media at fault, or does some of the blame lie on the viewing public?
No, no, no, no, no — we’re not at fault. A) Nobody should have an election that lasts a year. B) The job of journalists is to dissect what we’re looking at in terms of facts and not in terms of how many people are going to be watching. They created a false dynamic from the very beginning, that this was the most important election ever and God, this is really it.
You know, they’ve turned it into a sporting event that ends with these two fucking stupid pep rallies that I’ve been watching since I was a kid. Enough is enough. You don’t get a pep rally. You’re going to stand there and tell me you want to save money and this is what you spend it on. Blowing each other?
On a personal level, would you engage with these conventions at all if you didn’t have to?
No. In essence, I was stuck doing it because I was doing Colbert. I’ll watch a little of it and walk away because it’s like I’m going to break something. I either watch it in my pajamas, but most of the time I’m wandering around my apartment buck-naked and screaming like a banshee. Because it really is appalling. It’s just an opportunity for the state of Hawaii to go “quack quack honk honk.” Which would be fine if it was a two-month election cycle, or whatever normal countries do. You know what makes you feel like the world is coming to an end? Because these people don’t shut the fuck up. This is summer. We should be barbequing and shit. I’m sorry to go off on a tangent. It just irritates me to no end. I’m up in Canada, and I need to turn to Sportsnet. I’d rather watch cricket results than this shit.
Is there a difference between how they cover all this theater?
Well I’m kind of watching CNN because basically the CD will be coming out shortly that I did on tour, and now I’m producing the stuff I’ll be doing in Ann Arbor and on Broadway. What’s nice about appearing up here in Canada is that I’m not dealing with an audience that’s thinking in terms of Democrat or Republican. They already get that that’s a joke. They’ve got their own jokes to deal with. It’s much easier for them to laugh at us than we can laugh at ourselves.
And then that tweet gets featured on the news, like it’s somehow worthy of discussion.
That’s the other thing. All the guys and the women I like, they’re not news. Spend that five minutes looking for a fact. Somebody can hack in with two seconds and find 20 thousand messages, and nobody is able to figure out what Donald Trump is earning. Really? You can’t do the breakdown of what he insists is financial genius, meanwhile he bankrupted a casino. Can you give us an analysis of how the genius did that? I mean how untrustworthy are these people? 50 to 60 percent of us don’t trust these politicians. Tell us how these people are untrustworthy. That’s your fucking job.
Ok, I’ve hit my fuck limit.
I wasn’t aware there was one.
Lewis Black will perform Friday, September 16 at the Michigan Theater.
For tickets and more on Black, visit lewisblack.com.