Comedian Lewis Black Talks About His 'Rant, White & Blue Tour'

When comedian Lewis Black came through town two years ago, he delivered a show that, as he put it, touched on “topics that include current events, social media, politics and anything else that exposes the hypocrisy and madness in the world.”

Given the recent election of Donald Trump as president, Black's analysis of the "hypocrisy and madness in the world" seems all the more relevant.

During a brief phone conversation, he spoke about what we can expect when he performs at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 7, at the State Theatre as he brings his "The Rant, White & Blue Tour" to town.

You’ve called this tour the "Rant, White and Blue Tour." Doesn’t every tour feature a rant?
Yes, I’ll give you that. But we’ve got to give them a different title. And the material is different. What I’m yelling about is always different. We come back to the same theme, which is that we’re not going to do anything. That should be the country’s motto. Given the opportunity, we’ll continue to do nothing. In light of no facts and not one fact at all, we will continue to not get a goddamn thing done. And we find new ways to not do things. This is a great idea. Let’s invite someone who has never been in politics to be president and see how it works. It doesn’t work. But people say we’re not giving him a chance. Okay. So let’s just keep going like this. At what point do you go, “Maybe we should have elected people who were interested in accomplishing things?” That would’ve been fun.

But Trump is a dealmaker, right?
Yeah, right. Anybody who was born and raised around New York City knows the kinds of deals he does. Seriously, as I’ve said before he was elected, he bankrupted two casinos, which is impossible. You practically have to have the National Guard standing in front of the casino shooting people trying to get in to gamble to do that.

In your standup routines, you often take a hard look at social and political issues. What inspired you to turn your attention to those things?
It was just always a bit that I would do in my act. It was just stuff that struck me. It grew over time. I’ve always been interested in how this stuff affects people’s lives and not so much in personalities. The personalities are always the same. It’s always the same group of idiots. This one has an ego that eats itself every day. Its ego cannot get large enough.

Other comedians have noted the rich material we’re receiving a daily basis now that Trump is president. Do you share that philosophy?
No. It’s an appalling source of material. If that’s the case, then why do you need a comic? There’s no need for me. I guess, I agree. The material is so fuckin’ solid on its own, then what’s my gig? How do you make something already funny, funnier? How do you satirize something that is already satire?

Do any Trump supporters ever come to your gigs?
They do. You gotta realize that it’s the first time that two candidates were nominated that nobody liked. People weren’t voting for anyone. They were voting against people. It’s absurd. You can’t run a democracy that way. There’s a percentage of people who don’t have a grip on the fact that they’re a minority, who voted for them. Some come to the show. At the beginning of my act, I make certain that they know a portion of the show will upset them. If they’re the kind of people who really get upset and their lives are so intertwined with this president, then they should get their money back. I don’t care. They should just leave. I didn’t come there to upset them. If you don’t get where the joke is here, there’s nothing I can do. That has to be the premise. You elected Donald Trump, and that’s the joke. I am talking to people who never lived with him in their city. They watched him on TV. On TV, he’s a breath of fresh of air and a character. If he’s living in your city, he’s taking up all the air.

You’re the ambassador for voting rights for the ACLU. How’s that gig going?
When they came to me, they wanted me to be their ambassador for voting rights. I said absolutely. I believe in voting rights. Voting rights are vital. The fight against those rights is absurd. If there was ACLU position against gerrymandering, I would be the ambassador for that. Who gives the Republicans or Democrats the right to say what the voting districts are? It’s absurd. I think they should give the map to a fucking ten-year-old and tell them to divide it into 32 boxes, and I’ll take that.

What’s it like to do The Daily Show without John Stewart?
It’s fun. I’m in my own little world there. I like the people who work there. I like doing it. In order to do what I’m doing on the road, you need to remind people who you are and it does do that. I enjoy working with host Trevor [Noah].

I wanted to download the Lewber app you spoke about on the show but can’t seem to find it. Is it still in development?
Yeah, it’s still in development. I don’t even drive anymore. I just quit driving because the anger level was way out of control, even when I wasn’t driving.

You have quite a bit of merch for sale on your website. Which piece of “cool shit” are you most proud of?
I really like the bobblehead doll that says 10 or 12 things. There is a magic 8-ball that answers questions the way I would. That’s coming up. I like the yoga asana as the Upward Middle Finger. I have a good group doing that stuff, and they’re great at it.

What’s your best memory of performing in Cleveland?
I used to perform at Hilarities and the Improv, and I like Cleveland. Nick, who runs Hilarities, is one of the people who is the reason why comedy survived and has become what it is. He brings in comics that no one has ever heard of and would give us a great meal, which is always a pleasure. It’s always a joy to work there. I believe a tipping point will come in Cleveland where you try too hard. You develop an area and then it falls apart, but it’s a city I like. You have the Playhouse, which is great and has done some great stuff. It’s always a fun place. And now you have a casino, so I can piss my money away there.

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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