Comic Lewis Black is what you would call an equal opportunity offender. No matter what you believe politically or socially, he is bound to offend you with something he says during his set. But as he warns his audience at the very beginning of his latest album from Comedy Central, Lewis Black: In God We Rust: Don’t get up and walk out.
He’s right, because just as sure he is to offend you, five minutes down the road he’s just as sure to have you shaking your head in agreement. He may be joking, but as often as not those jokes point to real problems. Whether he is talking about excessive political partisanship or government’s failures to deal with terrorism, cell phone problems or Facebook fever, it’s hard not to see the basic truths underlying his comedy. This is serious fun.
He has developed a stage persona all his own. He is the angry man with a capital “A.” He rants and raves. He is viciously sarcastic. The foulest language is not strong enough for him. There are certainly those who will agree with what he says, while deploring the way he says it. I’m sure he’d make very clear what they ought to do about it. Think Clint Eastwood talking to the empty chair at the Republican “fete de nomination.” This is an angry adult to talking to adults. Linguistically touchy? Stay out of the kitchen.
I’m sure conservatives will find him too liberal, liberals too libertarian, and so on. It is true he has little use for politicians of any stripe; neither Republicans nor Democrats seem able to deal with the problems the country faces. But it is also true that when it comes to specifics, the names he ridicules more often than not are GOP stalwarts. It is Sarah Palin; it is Michelle Bachman. It is the Tea Party. It is almost as though politicians are bad, but Republicans are worse. Of course, it could be my own political prejudices showing through; I would imagine conservatives find him merely another example of bias in the self-proclaimed cultural elite.
The only problem with Black’s comedy is that like much political humor it tends to get dated. As I pointed out in my review of The Prophet, which was recorded in 1990, in 2011, it was more interesting as history than as topical criticism. Dan Quayle and the Exxon Valdez have lost some of their impact with age. The underwear bomber and Christine O’Donnell will very likely go the same way in years to come, if they haven’t already done so. Of course, this isn’t going to be a problem in a club or theatre. You can always edit out the old and edit in the new. A CD, however, is forever, or close to it.
Comedy Central is also releasing the set, which runs 75 minutes on director’s cut Blu-ray and DVD. Bonus features include “The Walk-out” (a deleted scene), a photo gallery, audience participation, and promo shoot outtakes. Like the CD, the DVD and Blu-ray are extended and uncensored.