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Lewis Black on his new special, The Daily Show, and the Root of All Evil

by Nick Zaino, posted Sep 4th 2009 11:16AM
Lewis BlackFor thirteen years, Lewis Black has been ranting and raving as a correspondent for The Daily Show, venting about all things political and pop cultural. For much longer than that, he's been a an actor, a playwright, and stand-up comedian, playing clubs and theaters everywhere around the country.

He taped his latest special, Stark Raving Black, earlier this month in Detroit for a fall release in theaters October 8th before it heads to a new premium HB cable channel called Epix, where it will debut December 5. (Black also filmed a documentary about his transition from a writer to a comedian - he's unsure where that will end up). And Big Bang Theory fans will be happy to know he'll be doing a cameo on the show September 28. I spoke with him by phone last week.

Why release the new special theatrically?

In order to... I think... I've got no idea. Everyone around me seemed to think it was a smart idea. Why not? I'm interested in seeing how that works and if it does work. It's another way to reach people.

Do you think that comedians need to rethink the way they do specials?

I'm not sure that specials need sets. That's one of the things that I got out of on this one. We went to lighting and we're presenting it in another way, and the guys I work with seemed to have an idea, and I like the idea.

How did you hook up with Epix?

Judy Pastore, who is in charge, I don't know exactly what her title is, I think comedy and specials, she was a big fan, and HBO had already kind of let me down. I lost a special in part because they made a command decision that if you were doing another TV show on another channel you couldn't do a comedy special. Then my show [Root of All Evil] was taken off and I said what about this year and they said, oh, we'll have to wait for next year. So for intents and purposes I lost a special waiting for HBO. That's part of the reason I went ahead and did it on my own.

Epix really stepped up to the place. My agents and my manager basically found them. It was a whole combination. And I was lucky enough that they needed some product and they needed it now.

Is yours going to be the only comedy special on the station?

No. I believe, and you can talk to them, but I'm pretty sure that Eddie Izzard is doing his.

Great, I'm a big fan of his, as well.

Yeah, exactly. So that made me feel really good. I thought if they start with the two of us, they're making a statement.

How does it feel to be sandwiched in between Iron Man and other blockbuster features they've got on their site?

Whatever. If I'm on Comedy Central, sometimes I'm sandwiched between ads for penis enhancement. Wherever the hooker ends up, the hooker can sleep.

When it airs on Comedy Central, will it be on the Secret Stash where it's unedited?

They'll probably bleep it first so it's safe for the kids and then they'll put it on late and let it go uncensored.

Like the ideas aren't dangerous at all, just the words.

Yeah, exactly. It's spectacular. No, seriously. Once again, America misses the point.

What do you think about the "birthers," the "Obama is not a natural citizen" people.

They're insane. They're just insane. They're insane people and it's tiresome. I mean, really, literally. It's another way, and I know that this will drive them nuts, but it's a way they can hide their racism. "He was born in Kenya." Really? Code word what?

It's amazing when they release the documents and those people are still out there, and some high profile people as well.

I'll tell you this, fucking assholes, when I was looking for my birth certificate for something, it took my mother a year and a half to find it. I'd like all of those guys to bust out their Social Security cards. I want their Social Security cards and numbers.

Do you think you've ever matched the outrage of the town hall protesters in your own stage act?

I'm sure I have. And, I'd like to go toe to toe with any of them.

What do you see when you see that footage of people yelling at town hall meetings and carrying guns to presidential appearances?

I see somebody who needs a job. Chances are. I see somebody who fears the way in which America is changing demographically. And I see, kind of people being fomented over nothing, over untruths. "The death panels are going after my grandmother." My grandmother is dead. My response to you is, since they can't kill my grandmother, why should I give a shit if they're killing yours,Lewis Black you fuck. No, seriously, if that's the way you're going to argue, then the way in which you have to argue back is to be as stupid as they are from the other side.

Did you see Barney Frank's town hall?

That was great. He's good. You know, you can't treat these people with kid gloves, with respect. And it's not helping. I mean, ultimately, it doesn't help. And I don't think it helped that, Obama didn't take it out of a partisan thing. I don't think he helped. I don't think any of them helped. I think whether you liked it or not you had to create a commission, you had to get the Republicans in the House and the Senate to pick people that they wanted on the commission, then let the Democrats pick the people they want on the commission, and those people go away and figure it out. It's absurd. It's a real problem. You don't solve a problem this way. This is not the way to solve a problem, and it's a big fucking problem. And I don't care if they solve it or not. I'm gonna be dead.

Do you see anything actually changing in what's being proposed? There are people making a lot out of "America's being dismantled," or big changes are coming from this bill.

Nothing is coming. There's no bill, there's nothing. What's the big change that's going to happen? We have shitty health care, now we're going to have shitty health care? What difference does it make? Seriously, what do these people who are screaming think they're losing? What? They're standing there screaming for their insurance company? Are they insane? And if these insurance companies are that good, I'd like to know who they are.

You've said before that you're a socialist, how do you feel that that word is being used as slander in the health care debates?

It's unbelievable because I think it's got nothing to do with it. The word liberal didn't work, and the word radical didn't work, so they had to go find another word. They don't know what the word means. They have no clue what the word means. And these people in Congress who are being paid by the government so they can have their health insurance, by their definition, that's socialism. By the scope of their definition. It's not slanderous, all they did was create a larger definition that doesn't exist for a word. Then socialism wasn't enough so they had to start comparing him to Hitler. And really, he's as far away from socialism as the whole country is.

They sort of hit on socialism and fascism at the same time as if they were the same thing.

Yeah. Well they think that socialism is Russia and Cuba. It's not. That's communism, so shut up. Move on.

It's been what, thirteen years now you've been on The Daily Show?


Do you feel like your role there is ever going to change, or that you're sort of dyed in the wool there as far as what you're doing?

I think that's what they want me to do and it's fine. And I'm lucky to have the gig.

Do you think you'd ever want to do something else within the context of The Daily Show?

Probably five years ago I would have to say absolutely and now I would say there's other stuff I'd like to do.

What's the status of The Root of All Evil?


I never heard anything official about it.

No, of course not. It's dead. They didn't seem to realize we were doing it when our audience was out of town during the summer. It's insane. Our place was in November-December-January or December-January or January-February. That's when you should have put it on the air. If you didn't want to do the show, we didn't have to do the second season if that's what you were going to do. If that's when you were going to put us on.

I know how long you fought to get your own pilot on the air and to get your own show on the air, did that make it more disappointing to have Root of All Evil get canceled.

No. Part of the problems we were having - I mean, god bless Comedy Central but you go through note sessions and stuff and you fight fights that are not worth fighting. To be honest, the big lesson there was, I'd like to have fun. And I have a lot of fun when I'm on the road doing my stuff. And if I'm going to do something, it's going to be fun or I'm not interested. And it was really fun to work in that room, but we needed to have decisions made by them and we'd made the decisions four months before, and there's a week to go and they won't make a decision about what's versus what, what the show was going to be. So then it was like, really? You've had these things for four months. I don't have time for that. We did our job, you have to do your job.

The one thing I asked for, I said the only show I care about, you can do whatever you want, but I think because the Democrats and Republicans are having their conventions, and our show's going to be on between them, I want a show about the Democrats versus the Republicans. And Comedy Central changed it. They wanted to do liberals versus conservatives, and then they changed it to red state versus blue state. And at that point, I said I don't care anymore.

The red state/blue state division is false anyway. Why don't you pick a color of Teletubby and do one versus the other.

Yeah. It was really the end of it for me because it was my show, apparently, I'm the executive producer, my name's above the title, I'm asking for one show out of ten. And you can't give me the one show. That's it, the ballgame's over. I don't ask for a lot, and I'm easy to work with. So you can at least give me one of the things I'm asking for. I'm not fighting you tooth and nail, and I should be. But it's not worth the energy and it's not worth the time.

That wasn't what the show was cancelled for, though.

No. It was cancelled because of numbers.

Are you working on anything else?

Yeah, there's a cartoon by a really brilliant kid and we've been taking that around. His visual sense is unique in every way, shape, and form. It's a very, very dark comedy. Really smart. But kids would get a kick out of it. We're going into these pitches and I say, "The good news is, we've got something really unique. And the bad news is, we've got something really unique."

Lewis Black and the Big Bang Theory castDo you ever see any reason why you would leave The Daily Show?

If my schedule went to the point that I couldn't do it, if I had a show and between that and the touring and everything, it would be time to hang it up. And you should also know that I'm guest starring on The Big Bang Theory on September 28th.

What are you playing on that?

I'm playing an enraged entomologist.

Is there anything back in the sense memory you can use to portray that?

[laughs] Yeah. It was really well written. They're great, the cast was great. John Galecki, I'd worked with him over the summer on a workshop over a play that I wrote, and this character came up and Chuck Lorre called and said, do you want to do this. And I went "fuck yeah." It was great, because it's stuff I like to do and I don't get enough of a chance to do it. So it was really great. And it's funny.

Do you get to act as much as you'd like to?

I'd like to do a little more than I've been. Because it's been either feast or famine with that. That's generally the way it is with most people.

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Chas Winterbottom

Does anybody else get a Gilbert Gottfried vibe from this guy?

September 04 2009 at 1:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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