Lewis Black Goes Off the Rails at WHBPAC October 15
Stand-up comedy legend Lewis Black is bringing his incisive, thought-provoking and often savage rants to Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center as part of his Off the Rails tour on Sunday, October 15 at 8 p.m.
A well-known contributor to The Daily Show, who recently released his 15th standup special, Tragically, I Need You, in May, racking up more than 1.2 million views on YouTube, Black has become world famous for his yelling, finger-pointing rants that expose and challenge the hypocrisy and ludicrous behavior in government, culture and society while making audiences laugh throughout.
Sunday’s show marks a return to the East End for Black, who is no stranger to WHBPAC and has performed at other venues in the Hamptons.
The second leg of his Off the Rails tour got underway in September and he recently made a one-show appearance in the Las Vegas lineup of Bert Kreischer’s Fully Loaded arena comedy festival — featuring Stavros Halkias, Andrew Santino, Big Jay Oakerson, Maddy Smith and other younger comics — which led to Black’s newly released Fully Loaded (Bonus Special), now available on YouTube as a thank you to the more than one million fans who supported Tragically, I Need You.
He also continues to entertain and incite with his “Rantcast,” a weekly podcast where he channels the world’s anger into perfect video rants about everything from an oversexed elephant and Clarence Thomas’ unexplained wealth to professional sports, an alligator in Brooklyn and schools censoring Shakespeare because it’s too pornographic.
We spoke to Black ahead of his Westhampton show and discussed his unique brand of stand-up, the current state of comedy in the technology age, the country’s temperature when it comes to being offended and more. (The conversation below is lightly edited for clarity and brevity.)
A Conversation with Lewis Black
I watched your Fully Loaded (Bonus Special) and Tragically I Need You… For this show in Westhampton, are you working out new material or are you pulling from the specials?
When I’m finished with a special, usually I’ve got a chunk of stuff that I didn’t do in the special, plus there’s a little of the special, like I’ll start the show with a portion of the special, but literally where it was like 10 or 12 minutes in the beginning, now it’s down to three. … Initially it’s kind of a cut and paste, then I’ve kind of got it all together and I just start working it out.
Some of the things you come up with on your Rantcast must feed into your show, right?
Yes. It’s weird to do it in my Rantcast because I’ve got nobody there. I literally write on stage. The audience is such a huge help in helping me figure out where the funny is, because a lot of times, I’m not a punchline writer, so I basically wander around on stage stumbling into my punchlines.
It always amazes me of late, they yell about what I have to say and not how I say it. Instead of “I can’t believe he said that!” It’s like, really, that’s what bothers you?
The audience has been remarkably kind… People always say, “Boy, you’re repeating that — I’ve seen you do that a few times and it’s like you’re doing it for the first time.” … I try to always maintain that feeling anew.
Do you feel like maybe there’s been a shift where people are getting tired of being offended at everything, the holier than thou-ness of it all, going after people for saying things? Guys like Big Jay Oakerson, who you just performed with, and others, are saying whatever they want because there are no gatekeepers anymore and they don’t have to worry about that.
I think that it’s running its course. There are comics who are working now who are basically saying things that people I know might be upset at, but they’re not taking abuse for it, and they shouldn’t have to take abuse for it. They’ve got an audience that wants to hear it, and it works. It’s not homophobic and it’s not racist, but it kind of walks a fine line at times about other things, about the way we look at some other things. It’s the kind of stuff you could get in an argument about, but it’s like, really? We’re going to discuss this?
… There’s a younger group of people who love comedy and the way they’re finding their comics is on social media, let’s say YouTube and podcasts. They’re not finding them on TV, so they’re looking in a place where a lot of people aren’t looking. My generation doesn’t look there.
You’ve always fed off of the nonsense in the world. Do you feel like there’s more than ever or has there always been plenty to go after?
To me, there’s more stuff. … A lot of what’s coming up in the news, if you read it in a book, if you read some of these headlines, or the idea of these headlines, in a novel, like, “Oh, we’re going to ban books again,” you would laugh. You’d go, “That is funny. How stupid is that?” But the fact that it’s real has really rattled people.
And I’m just trying to find a way to show people to stop treating it with any respect whatsoever, because by fearing it you’re respecting their nonsense. And you have to get over that. It’s like the perfect example of what I’ve always thought laughter does. It’s a step back from what is bothering you for a moment to take a breath and go, “This is bullshit.”
Has the comedy boom been good for you?
It was great for a long time. It’s great for comedy. Has it been great for me? I don’t think it has. We’ve gotten to a different age when it comes to comedy. In terms of how people find their comedy. I’m the end of the television age. We’re really in a new age for how people find their comedy. … We’ve come out of an industrial age into a technological age.
You’re 74 and only just getting started considering that both your parents lived to over 100 years old.
I turn on the TV and they’re saying 70% of the American people are worried about the physical and mental health of Joe Biden because of his age. He’s 80, but 77-year-old Donald Trump only 41% of the American people are worried about his mental and physical health because of his age. They’re three years apart. Stop it. Come on! What’s 80 minus 77, you f___ing idiots? Go back and take a goddamned elementary math course.
And also, you can hear Donald Trump, so that’s to his credit. No one has heard Joe Biden since he got in office. No one has lasted more than two to three sentences, until he gets to the end of the thing and he says, “And God bless our troops.” That’s the only time you hear him.
So the fact is, that Biden, you don’t hear him and that’s appalling, and you hear Donald Trump and that’s appalling.
Thank you. I’ve still got it.
Check out whbpac.org for tickets and info.