Something to Shout About: Comedian Lewis Black Is Back On Broadway

By Jonathan Mandell
15 Sep 2012

Black at MCC Theater's Miscast benefit
Photo by Monica Simoes

Two decades into his second career, he says, "I have an ambivalent attitude toward theatre. I feel the same way towards it as toward an abusive orphanage." It might not be a happy experience, but it's still home. He never stopped going to shows, although, he says, "my real joy is going out and watching my friends' work. It's not seeing 'a very important play.' When I see 'a very important play,' I want to kill myself."

Lately he has gone back to writing plays. It's no easier than it was when he started decades ago. "Playwriting is like doing a jigsaw puzzle of a thousand pieces of the sky," he says.

His comedy is far less of a struggle. "When I'm angry, I'm funny. I don't actually know why."

He's been angry a lot lately.

"You've got two guys running for the presidency telling you what they're going to do. 'We're going to create more jobs.' How? They tell us to go to their website! Don't tell me it's entrepreneurs; don't tell me it's government. It's a combination of both. Figure it out. Talk to each other."

Black, who turned 64 in August, adds, "We've been trying to figure out Social Security since I was a child. Alternative energy, since I was a child. Healthcare. And we've done nothing to move forward on any of these." He cracks his gum.

Does he ever worry that, as with Lenny Bruce, his audience will start finding his comic rants just rants and not comic?

"I do worry about that sometimes."

So what does he do?

"I yell at myself on the stage."

He looks forward to doing his yelling on the stage of the Richard Rodgers.

"To be a guy standing up there is amazing to me. If somebody had said when I was at Yale that I would be doing stand-up on Broadway 40 years later," Lewis Black says, "I would have left school right then and started working right away as a comic."