Lewis Black

D'Ambrosio, Antonino

THE PROGRESSIVE INTERVIEW by Antonino DíAmbrosio Lewis Black There is an old southern Italian saying: dobbiamo ridere per mantenere via le rotture (we must laugh to keep away the tears)....

...You have to work for it...
...Q: What do you see as the main problem of this Administration...
...It made me question deeply and ask myself: How can people like migrant workers who are helping us eat not have a pot to piss in...
...Q: Your rise to the top of American comedians has coincided with Bushís time in office...
...I just start yelling about this stuff and there is my act...
...What does that mean, nonbinding resolution...
...I mean, he beat Alan Keyes, for Godís sake...
...And granted, living with Bill is working for it, but itís not enough...
...Whether anyone likes it or not, they are the paper of record and it was their responsibility to pay attention, and the reality is that they didnít...
...Q: How do you develop your manic on-stage persona...
...Black: In the end, I donít set out to do this...
...They report, ďunnamed military sources...
...There are people who spend their entire lives working within government and are experienced and know how to run FEMA, the FDA, the EPA...
...Theyíre all barking the same tune...
...Black: He gave up the ghost...
...He told me his dad would say, during Vietnam, ďIf I knew it was going to be like this, I would have stayed in Russia...
...For all the moralizing this country does, people donít get it: Theyíre greedy...
...Some of Americaís top comedians were slated to perform, including Sarah Silverman...
...If you want the Presidency that much, you donít get it...
...And he is the founder of La Lutta NMC (www.lalutta.org), a nonprofit documentary production group...
...Black: I think out my routine and itís exhausting...
...Even Nixon went away for a little bit...
...Q: Speaking about South Carolina, what about McCain...
...It could take weeks...
...Black: I put Senator Chuck Hagel, who I think really gets it, along with, I donít know, pick one...
...Q: What is your take on Hillaryís Presidential bid...
...What makes me funny is my anger...
...It just goes on and on and on...
...I am talking about minimal things...
...Itís the Administrationís job to find them and put them in these positions...
...Itís me, itís me, look at me...
...Put money aside to fund playgrounds and high school football teams...
...During the McCarthy Era and the Vietnam War, Blackís mother, father, and grandfather would condemnó loudly and outrageouslyóthe governmentís misuse and abuse of power...
...What fell apart is maintenance...
...Q: You describe yourself as a socialist...
...He had his shot but Bush beat him senseless in South Carolina and now he has put his tongue so far up Bushís ass itís incredible...
...Hereís the law: If you have a company, and you canít explain, in one sentence, what the fuck it does, itís illegal...
...To tell you the truth, I donít even know what Iím thinking when Iím on stage because Iím jumping up and down, yelling like a lunatic...
...I find many things every day that set me off...
...Are you kidding me...
...And of course the natural, obvious joke is, they are going to use illegal immigrants to build the wall...
...And now I have people that help me manage my money and recently my accountant said, ďYou need to do this to pay less in taxes...
...While serving as playwright-in-residence and associate artistic director of the West Bank Cafe Downstairs Theatre Bar in Hellís Kitchen, New York City, Black began performing stand-up as an opening act and master of ceremonies before each play...
...My response was that I have been waiting my whole life to pay taxes...
...And now itís started again as they start quoting these ďsourcesĒ in regards to Iranís weapons...
...But beyond that, what was the reason to attack him at that point in time anyway...
...Iím in Greenville, South Carolina, and I havenít seen a black face yet...
...Hereís a sample about the Enron scandal: ďYou donít want another Enron...
...Lewis Black: The overall theme for me is social satire because my setup is information...
...A Doberman couldíve beaten Keyes...
...Ultimately, what I would really like to see is a Republican and a Democrat crossing over lines and running together and saying, ďFuck you...
...Like with this ďnonbinding resolutionĒ thing...
...Q: How do you respond to those politicians who trot out the excuse for Iraq: ďIf we knew then what we know now...
...Lewis Black was born fifty-six years ago to a middle class Jewish family in Washington, D.C...
...But the media doesnít really report on things in a detailed and thoughtful way that allows people to understand what a particular piece of news is really about...
...Now, I think Obamaís very good and very smart and may bring something fresh, but I am not comfortable with anyone that age taking office in this current political climate...
...I started learning about countries that have a ďshare-the-wealthĒ system and I said to myself, ďThere is nothing wrong with that...
...This is how itís supposed to work...
...Q: Who would you seeing doing this...
...What are some other highlights...
...The first time around they did a basically decent job of running government and keeping a stable atmosphere in the country...
...Itís like a workout for me...
...For example, Dick Cheney took millions from Halliburton and put it in a trust...
...A lie is the worst thing in the world...
...And people may have forgotten, but Hillary destroyed any possibility of a government-run health care program...
...Pryorís response to this criticism was, ďA lie is profanity...
...It just screams of incompetence...
...Black: I call this news by default...
...This is how we are able to fund the things that make this country workólike roads and schools...
...The joke here is all set up through the information: The Vice President is the former CEO of Halliburton, a company that is receiving huge defense contracts for the war in Iraq...
...I start with the person making a dopey statement like former Senator Rick Santorum saying that gay marriage and homosexuality are a threat to the American family...
...Fittingly, I first met Black at an event in New York City honoring Lenny Bruce and free speech...
...When I was twelve, I saw Edward R. Murrowís Harvest of Shame and that was it...
...Ridiculous...
...Q: Many people are finding real news through fake news with shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report...
...Black: Oh boy...
...Q: You have often said that you donít consider yourself a political comic but a social satirist...
...For me, itís like if you went to a doctor for diarrhea and he prescribed Ex-Laxó-now thatís nonbinding...
...This makes sense...
...You donít get things the first go around...
...The thing thatís great about Hillary and Obamaóa woman and a black manóis that we can save face a bit with the rest of the world...
...Capitalismís problem is that it has nothing to say about how to combat greed...
...He was my mayor and that was enough...
...So, by simple observational social satire you explain this to the audience and expose that yes, there is a clear conflict of interest...
...I lived around the government when I was a kid and I know itís got many problems but you donít elect people who donít like government because thatís what theyíre in charge of...
...Itís a prejudice to believe that...
...Trust me...
...The flag burning amendment last summer was really absurd...
...Art is the ability to tell the truth...
...Black: As much as the problem is the Iraq War, there is a bigger problem: There are unqualified, incompetent people within the government bureaucracy...
...I canít trust someone like that...
...Itís cowardly...
...The New York Times said, and this is extraordinary, this is a much better presentation this time around...
...I keep saying to people that the next time if I come back as a comedian Iím going to do it from a gurney with an IV drip...
...A Congressman who is on the committee to protect children from sexual predators is himself a sexual predator...
...There is a huge amount of material to pull from...
...You can find these people and they will do their jobs well...
...Black: Would a few more yearsí experience hurt...
...Afterwards, when I spoke to him, he was not the raving on-stage persona that has caused many to worry for his physical and mental health but a subdued, thoughtful man who graciously offered to meet with me to discuss his work...
...Well, wouldnít you know that a company down there got busted for really using illegal immigrants to build the wall...
...I might do, for me, two or three over-the-top things a year like get on a boat and take a cruise...
...Why do you think that is...
...It led me to uncover the image versus the reality of how people live...
...It starts with things like when The New York Times had to apologize for the lack of research they did reporting on the Iraq War...
...He is also a bestselling author (Nothingís Sacred), star of two HBO specials, and an actor appearing in a number of films, from Hannah and Her Sisters to Man of the Year...
...I donít know where they areóI think they killed them...
...Then I tell the real story: How is this a threat to the American people...
...The Administration quickly came to Cheneyís defense, explaining that there is nothing really wrong with this and that there is no conflict of interest...
...Q: I know that Dick Cheney shooting someone in the face while quail hunting was your favorite moment in 2006...
...You either get to keep the money or you donít...
...Black: The Mark Foley scandalóthat is a joke that tells itself...
...Q: And Obama...
...Are you kidding me...
...As a young man, Black first turned his creative sights on theater, namely as a playwright...
...Black: You got to be fucking kidding me...
...There was no reason, none at all...
...Black: The false needs like the third house, the fourth boat, the most expensive hoo-ha...
...to the status quo...
...I really donít search for the lies because nowadays you donít have to look hard...
...But is the country ready for a black President...
...His arrogance as mayor was awful...
...Q: Giuliani...
...You canít even get to the joke...
...I only have seventy-five minutes or so to get it out so I go all the way and just go nuts...
...Influenced by the likes of Beolcoís commedia dellíarte, Moliere, and Nobel Prize-winning satirist Dario Fo, Black would tackle every genre of theater, ultimately writing forty plays...
...Blackís theatrical background gave him a unique edge: He cast himself as both prankster and prophet in his own one-act show...
...Black: I canít do it...
...The Grammy Awards has to make a plea to keep music in schools...
...We have five million other things to worry about and this is what Congress is going to spend their time on...
...And if we canít build levees and homes anymore for people who have been displaced by Katrina, whatís our ability to build a wall...
...But they created a psychotic whirlwind around themselves, and Iím not ready to go back to that psychotic whirlwind...
...I then learned to pronounce ďapartheidĒ and saw the treatment of blacks here in this country as they struggled for civil rights...
...I mean, what planet are we on...
...What did they need to know...
...They couldíve trained people to actually speak the language...
...Black: Every day these guys do something more outrageous and full of hubris...
...Q: Finally, you are often criticized, just as Richard Pryor was, more for your use of profanity than the content of your work...
...She should go away for a little bit...
...He is the author of ďLet Fury Have the Hour: The Punk Rock Politics of Joe Strummer,Ē soon to be a documentary produced by Tim Robbins and Amnesty International...
...And itís gotten worse in my lifetime...
...Antonino DíAmbrosio is a writer and filmmaker based in New York City...
...He is also the author of the upcoming ďPolitics in the Drums: A Peopleís History of Political Popular Culture...
...The next time if I come back as a comedian Iím going to do it from a gurney with an IV drip...
...How did they even come up with that word...
...Black has recorded five albums to date, winning a 2007 Grammy for Best Comedy Album for The Carnegie Hall Performance...
...Black: From the time I was kid, I saw the broader context of how we live here in the U.S...
...Itís the same thing as remarks about Jews drinking the blood of Christian babies during Passover...
...On top of that, this kowtowing has allowed him to lose all of those things that made him interesting to both sides...
...I canít believe they are doing this again...
...I think out my routine and itís exhausting...
...Then thereís the proposal to build a wall on the Mexican border but they donít vote on the money to build the wall...
...As one of Americaís foremost social satirists, Black caught the American publicís attention with his volcanic, hands-trembling, ticking-time-bomb-like social ďcommentaries on everythingĒ in the ďBack in BlackĒ segment on Comedy Centralís The Daily Show with Jon Stewart...
...You either get to be Vice President or you donít...
...Comedian Lewis Black not only believes this, but also practices it every day by making people laugh at the absurdity and hypocrisy that dominate modern American politics...
...Q: What do you think happened...
...Is there a connection...
...They could have spent a year working on it...
...I guess I am asking another question in my work as well: What happened...
...This is what is called maintenance...
...I do that for a week and thatís enough...
...Black was the nightís emcee but did perform a show-ending monologue that brought the packed house to its feet...
...Iím sick of it...
...You donít even have to have socialism...
...Really seems to be a standard line of the Democrats who voted for war, like Hillary...
...I mean, were people running out of briquettes for barbeques and began using flags...

Vol. 71 • April 2007 • No. 4


 
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