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After ranting and raving his way into American hearts, comedian, author, social critic, actor, playwright and comedian Lewis Black will perform at the King Center on Sunday as part of his "The Emperor's New Clothes -The Naked Truth Tour."
I spoke with Lewis about politics, comedyand the future of our country. So let's "Shake, Rattle & Know": Lewis Black
QUESTION: Because of the nature of your comedy, do people assume you are just an angry person when they meet you?
ANSWER: Most people get it and yet there is a group of people that are surprised that I am somewhat a normal human being.
Q: How often do you get the office comic that wants to offer you advice on a bit?
A: Blessedly not a lot. I guess I am lucky in that respect because my comedy is so crazy that it takes a certain level of intelligence. People don't usually try to advise me on my comedy, but when they do I try and look interested, but you run out of ways to shape your face and make it look like you care or are really listening. I mean, really, I have waited all my life to receive comedy advice from a stranger; how did I get so (expletive) lucky. And at my age, too. Please!
Q: What is the dumbest thing people say to you when they first meet you?
A:I think the craziest must be when I am standing in front of or near the theater I am going to be at that night and people say, "What are you doing in town?"People are bombarded with advertising and with questions like that you have to question the effectiveness of advertising today. How do they even know if advertising works. I think advertising now is less effective than it was even 10 or 15 years ago.
Q: With the presidential campaigns in full swing, is that like comedy fodder for comedians such as yourself?
A: It is exhausting! It makes me wonder if my job as a comedian is even needed anymore and if I am even necessary. If people just watch what is going on in the world on a daily basis, how am I supposed to make that even funnier than it is already? How can you make two guys running for president making fun of each other's wives funnier? What grade of high school are these people in?The idiocy of these people is beyond belief. So, a powerful millionaire running for president; if that doesn't show the power of money I don't know what does. The insanity of money equating to political power. These two (Ted Cruz and Donald Trump) are arguing about who has a more attractive wife. They aren't talking about a woman and their brains, wit, charismaor intellect. They are arguing about who is prettier.
Q: Because so much of your material is based on current events, do you find your material might have a shorter shelf-life?
A: Not really. Comedy is a craft and it can be the equivalent of an IED; people are just waiting for you to blow something up in front of them. This stuff doesn't just go away. You think you have gotten rid of Cheney (Dick Cheney), and he pops back up again and reappears, so it doesn't have a shelf life. You have Trump saying women should be punished for having an abortion; well, when does a comment like that go away? Dealing with the Republican party I don't have enough time to go after the Democrats.
A couple of years ago the Republican party had a series of seminars to bring their party up to speed on how to talk to women? If you were going to do something like that, wouldn't you keep it a secret? That stuff doesn't go away. We live in an age when dinosaurs are just passing through the earth. People don't realize we are living in a different age. I am just trying to live in that age. Now you have two states who are more worried about who might be pissing in a stall next to you than anything else? Well, just wait because a whole lot more is coming to worry about than that!
Q: Last time I interviewed you, you said you didn't always have the persona you are known for now. What type of comedian were you originally?
A:I was funny!!! I was traditional. I spoke about the weather, Starbucks, IHOP and the things everyone talks about. It wasn't as much work then. It's not easy to figure out a way to make calculus funny.
Q: Tell me how you deal with people who come upand say, "You're a comedian? Tell me a joke."
A: If people say, "Tell me a joke," and it does happen sometimes, I just tell them I am not working right now. It isn't something I just turn on.
Q: Does your material come to you organically or is it something you plan out?
A: It comes organically. I might find something and then I keep circling it until I find a way to make it funny. A lot of things I talk about aren't funny. Gun violence is not funny and it takes years to make talking about it funny.
Q: We seem to live in an overly politically correct society where no matter what you say you are going to tick somebody off. Do you think about that when writing your material or do youlet all that go?
A: No, I don't care, I really don't. It is just absurd. I am writing an essay on the Lenny Bruce Book "How to Talk Dirty and Influence People," written by Paul Krassner. It is problematic in the terms of writing and there isn't his (Lenny Bruce) take on it, but it is the only record of what we have of him. What I noticed is, here is a guy who would talk about religion when it was taboo, sex when it was taboo, homosexuality when it was taboo. By talking about that stuff in his show, they took him off to jail for obscenity. The only thing that should have mattered was, did people laugh?
Q: What will it take to get this country back on the right track?
A: Education; everything starts there. Maybe if we teach kids what the basics are to survive in our society we will relearn it ourselves. People take sides, and they have to understand that your side doesn't matter. We are 50/50 on everything. Unless we can split the country and the 50 percent that thinks this way can live here, and the 50 percent that thinks that way can live there, and I can live in Mississippi, then we have to learn to co-exist. Right now there is no real war going on besides what is going on with ISIS, and they don't know what to do there either, so if we have no one to battle we just beat up on each other. I won't even get started on all the social media injustice. People just need to sit down and negotiate; you have people over here who won't do this for the President because of what someone else did years ago, and these people over here won't agree to this with the President, because of something someone else said years ago and not because they have a real issue of their own. It doesn't matter if you are the left or the right, he is the President. Stop pretending that you care when you don't. This country could use a real lesson in etiquette. Stop pretending to be happy to be at a dinner party with these (expletive) idiots.