‘At least we aren’t eating each other’

Lewis Black serves comedic truth at Taft Theatre

 By Benjamin Smith

 Photo: “I will be talking about legalizing pot, the fact that ignorance can no longer be rewarded and that science is a real thing.” Lewis Black will be at the Taft Theatre in Cincinnati on Oct. 5

Comedian Lewis Black needs no introduction. If you are somehow unaware of this voice of reason crying in the wilderness, then you should face the facts: you are either Amish or dead. Maybe both. Everyone else should see about getting tickets for Black’s performance at Cincinnati’s Taft Theatre on Saturday, Oct. 5. Black recently chatted with the Dayton City Paper about his upcoming gig, politics, being a playwright in a past life and the end times.

Last month you filmed a live comedy special, “Old Yeller,” in Atlantic City. How did the performance go?

I felt really good about a lot of it. I thought it looked terrific. But … I am never sure when I do a special how I feel about it. I am way too critical for my own good at times. But my Mom liked it a lot, and isn’t that what really counts? –Lewis Black

Atlantic City is a s***hole, isn’t it?

Yes, it is; they really didn’t do the work they needed to do on the city when the gambling money was pouring in. They just opened a new hotel there, and I think the state put some money into it. They should have used [the money] on the city. But on the other hand, there are some great places to eat in A.C. that have been there forever. There are some nice hotels, with the Borgata being the nicest, I think – and that’s not because I did my special there, but I should give them a plug. And on a summer day, it’s still nice to walk the boardwalk. –LB

You also appeared on MSNBC a couple times in August. As someone known for topical political satire, how did it feel to be in the belly of the beast? What’s the vibe like over there these days?

I really wasn’t around long enough to get a sense of the vibe over there. But I will say that Joe Scarborough really has a relaxed set and it was a lot of fun. Lawrence O’Donnell was in Boston; it’s always strange sitting in an empty studio talking to the host over a mike and an earpiece. I don’t pay much attention to the belly of the beast unless it’s edible. –LB

Why the hell don’t you have your own show on MSNBC yet?

Why don’t I have my own show anywhere is a better question. I wouldn’t want to be on
MSNBC or any news network. –LB

Fair enough. But if you did have your own cable news show, who would be your first guest? 

If I had to have a first guest on my nonexistent show, it would be Abraham Lincoln. I would interview a dead man. I think it would make for compelling TV. If it had to be someone living, I would probably like to interview the staff of The Onion. –LB

Let’s talk about your upcoming performance at Cincinnati’s Taft Theatre. What should the audience expect? Should I not take my Romney-supporting grandfather to this show?

You can take whatever relative you want to the show, no matter who they support. I will be talking about legalizing pot, the fact that ignorance can no longer be rewarded and that science is a real thing. Global warming is real. Arguing that is a waste of time and energy. And the audience will be able to tweet questions and comments to me, which I will respond to. –LB

In preparing for this interview, I learned that you started out in entertainment as a playwright. How would you describe your early theatrical material?

How and when did you go from being a playwright to being a comedian?

My early plays were very dark, surreal comedies. I went from being a playwright to being a comedian while in Houston, Texas, where I realized that I couldn’t go on working in a profession where I was treated so badly and for so little pay, [and] that it was time I moved on to comedy, where I was treated nicely and did get paid. I had a production at Houston’s Alley Theatre, and it was the end of the line for me. –LB

Do you think comedians today have too much – or not enough – sway and influence on the “national dialogue” about certain subjects?

I think comedians have little influence on the national dialogue. We act as insulation from the madness. –LB

Final question. You’ve been in the business of making funny, yet astute, observations for quite a while now. In your opinion, how bad are things? Is civilization as we know it unraveling? Or is it business as usual?

Things are as bad as they’ve always been, but we should really know better by now how to make them better. Civilization is a quilt being knit together by an arthritic God. It evolves slowly. At least we aren’t eating each other. Maybe figuratively, but not literally; that’s a step in the right direction. –LB

Lewis Black performs on Saturday, Oct. 5, at the Taft Theatre, 317 E. 5th St. in Cincinnati. Tier 1 tickets are $57.50; Tier 2 tickets are $47.50; Tier 3 tickets are $37.50. Showtime is 8 p.m.; doors open at 7 p.m. For tickets, please call 513.232.6220 or visit tafttheatre.org. For more information about Lewis Black, please visit lewisblack.com.


Reach DCP freelance writer Benjamin Smith at BenjaminSmith@DaytonCityPaper.com.


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