Lewis Black is cranky. His crankiness coincides with the arrival of Hurricane Sandy, which is rocking New York and his home borough of Manhattan.
But you expect he would be cranky regardless of the weather pattern, antagonistic and combative if the weather were sunny and 75.
“I have a natural level of insanity that has served me well,” says Black, who is back at Terry Fator Theater at the Mirage on Friday and Saturday as part of the resort’s Aces of Comedy series (tickets are $59, $69 and $79, not including fees, and can be purchased at the Mirage website).
Black is well known for his “Back in Black” commentary segments on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” and his concert specials on Comedy Central. He is in regular rotation with the top-flight comics in the highly popular Mirage series.
From the interview:
Johnny Kats: I expect you are dodging the storm?
Lewis Black: I am hunkering down, and we’re all going to die. They make announcement of the arrival on TV, and we watch the storm come in, and we all panic.
J.K.: Where do you get your news?
L.B.: I kind of watch CNN, more and more, but the half-hour news updates. There’s none of the punditry going on. I watch Scott Pelley [on CBS] to get some concept of what’s going on. At least it’s a shot at knowing something. I am not a fan of watching people who are paid to think and then tell me what to think.
J.K.: The pundits?
L.B.: The pundits! Yeah, there are no reporters anymore. They are all pundits. I don’t know how they got hired. I kind of read the New York Times, too. I stumble through it.
J.K.: Are you still a traditional newspaper reader?
L.B. Yeah, I can’t stand reading online. I’ll read e-mail. It’s an age thing. I hate looking at the screen to read. The computer is a TV. I hate reading on it.
One of the things that has changed for me is that friends of mine will send me stuff through e-mail. Read this! I didn’t even know certain websites existed. I know what I’m supposed to know. Why would I need to know about things the newspapers don’t tell me? Politico, for Christ’s sake. Someone brought up Politico to me, and I said, ‘Politico? I don’t even know what it is!’ And I am not living in a cave. A friend notified me of its existence. I read the papers, and they aren’t about to report about Politico because it’s their competition!
J.K.: The delivery of the news is really important to you then?
L.B.: I want to know that who I am getting my information from is actually someone who does research as opposed to someone just making stuff up. This is an issue for me. Newspapers, at least, force someone to bring in a resume. I’m not sure how some of these people get on cable TV.
J.K. This interview will run after the election, but in the past, you have been critical of the quality of candidates both parties have nominated.
L.B.: We have gotten better. But I watched the [vice president] debate, and I thought, ‘Wow, all the people in the United States, and this is the best we could do?’ There is nothing thoughtful that comes from these debates. It’s beyond my comprehension that we put ourselves through this. Campaigning has become as close to an athletic event as we can get. The head of the free world is supposed to be decided here, and basically we are asking them to give us their ideas in 2 minutes? How ridiculous is that? I read about this stuff all the time, and it’s difficult for me to comprehend.
J.K.: I have to ask you about something I wrote about a year and a half ago, when I saw you at the Mirage. A guy had heckled you from the middle of the audience, and I wrote a satirical column as if I was that person, from the point-of-view of someone who would heckle a comedian. A lot of people took it seriously, that I was actually that person.
L.B.: Oh God. I didn’t see that. I would love to read it.
J.K. Well, I was not the person heckling you. That’s the important thing.
L.B.: That’s good.
J.K. You had put this guy in his place and really embarrassed him. Is that how you usually handle people, punishing them for disrupting the show?
L.B.: I always try to be funny, regardless. Sometimes I feel like I want to take a machete and cut them off at the knees. Some are drunk, so basically I just slice and dice them. In a club, you can fool around a little, but in a theater, like in Vegas, it’s a big night out. People are paying their hard-earned cash to show up to see you perform. I’d rather do my show rather than make it a part of my show.
You have to know how much of this comes from people who are acting like they’re 9 years old and overexcited, and you just deal with it.
J.K. Is your disposition something of an act, a character that you play onstage?
L.B.: I’ve taken what I already have and worked on it (laughs). I basically funnel the angry energy of the 13-year-old that I was and make him an adult.