All the Rage

Lewis Black at the Improv, 2000 Sycamore Street in the Flats Thursday through Sunday, March 2 through 5. There are multiple shows nightly; for details, call 216-696-4677
Making a point.
Making a point.
Somebody needs to place a wake-up call to America. Lewis Black -- like the angry side of ivory-tickling Mark Russell -- has taken that responsibility upon himself and will place the call to Cleveland this weekend at the Improv.

"A lot of things bother me," he admits, understating his weekly vein-popping rants on Comedy Central's The Daily Show. "You wake up and look at the front page of the paper and go, "Oh, man ...' There's always something, you know?"

But Black didn't just pass a Comedy Central screen test and start bitching for cable audiences. The Yale School of Drama graduate has authored over 40 plays and appeared in several films, and he teaches at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, a summer retreat for celebrities, yet he never really got noticed for his comedy until The Daily Show. In fact, he admits that doing stand-up before the Daily gig started to seem a bit pointless. "When you've done it for so long in what is really a vacuum, you start to think maybe you're not even really doing this -- maybe you've lost your mind," he explains. "I wanted to find a larger audience; to finally see it reach fruition is great."

And although he's opened for Ray Charles and Chicago, the biggest draw to his club shows is still Comedy Central's youthful demographic. "I have kids coming to my shows with their parents," he claims. "And it's the kids who found me. Kids say, "You're just like my dad, only you're funny.'"

Anyone can complain, after all, though not everyone is good at it. "For a long time, I was just saying those things straight out, and people were appalled," Black admits. "Now it's less me and more this guy frustrated with the fact that we all know what the truth is, but nothing seems to get done."

Growing up in Washington, D.C. ("I say Washington, because if you say Maryland, it sounds like you're a sissy"), Black had his eyes opened at an early age, giving him plenty of time to learn how to use humor as political commentary. "It made me nuts," he says bluntly.

Thankfully, Black found a release valve in comedy, because there's only one other thing he'd rather be doing: "I think I would just sell guns. Seems more profitable, I wouldn't have to move around, and people would come to me." And if someone pissed him off, he'd just have to reach for the inventory.

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