AKRON, Ohio — When Lewis Black says “we’re really rolling toward a bigger and better tomorrow,” most listeners should expect there to be more. Not a pleasant more.
After all, this is Lewis Black, famous for his rasping, curmudgeonly delivery of thoughts about the state of society on TV’s “The Daily Show,” TV specials, movies and concert stages.
His thinking is backed by the formidable intellect of a man who is also an author, a much-produced playwright and the holder of multiple academic degrees – but all that might just make him angrier.
So here comes the more.
“I’ve gotten to the point where I’m, like, how come there are no adults left in the room?” he said. “I try to be a voice of reason, but this is madness what we do. This is utter madness.
“The whole way they’re running the country is just insane. It’s beyond anything I thought would be possible.
“These people (in authority) aren’t adults. They’re not. Mitch McConnell, Boehner, Pelosi, Reid – they act like they’re 10 years old. Nancy Pelosi’s basically saying, ‘We’re not going to cut our salaries. We’re going to sequester, but we’re not cutting our salaries’ – What level of arrogance do you live at? Who are you? You’re supposed to be an example. … And she’s old enough to know better.
“I get why Eric Cantor’s a schmuck,” Black said. “He’s a kid.
“But people my age better square up, because this is nonsense. We’ve got a little time left on this planet, and we should be acting like adults.”
On Friday, Black returns to Salina’s Stiefel Theatre. He performed there in 2007.
“We just love him here,” Jane Gates, the theater’s executive director, said. “He’s so funny.”
When Black is working on his stand-up routine, he says he looks for what makes him angriest, and when we talked not long ago, it was this idea of not being an adult that stirred him most. “I try to take that adult idea and make it funnier and funnier, and to come up with a joke for it. Basically, a lot of what goes on in terms of topical stuff is stuff that fits into the overriding arc of what I’m trying to talk about.”
When Black ventures into controversy, he does not worry about hecklers, who are seemingly more common as audiences treat comedy as a call-and-response event.
“Unless the response is interesting, I have a tendency to beat them senseless,” Black said. “We’re not playing that game. Go find somebody else to do that with, because I didn’t come here to do that.”
Of course, he has plenty to do offstage, such as his plays and his books. While he tries to leave open spaces in his schedule, sometimes they get filled.
“I’ve lost jobs because my touring schedule’s too much,” he said. “But this summer I want to write either a book or a play, so I will start to work on one or the other, depends on which catches my interest more. … The way the other books have worked, instead of getting off the tour bus, I just stay on it and keep working. I use the time between shows to work on the book.”
Playwriting, though, “is way different,” he said. “It’s much more of an introverted kind of writing. … And I don’t write for myself (in performance). I just go onstage and I start talking. I’m really writing onstage. But when I’m writing a book or a play, I’m locked up like some kind of hermit and working on my stuff.”
And which is more satisfying?
“In the end, it’s always the stand-up, because it’s just me and the audience, and the only person that can screw it up is me.”
Contributing: Lori O’Toole Buselt of The Eagle