This review of Lewis Black in a show entitled "Black Humor" at the Cherry Lane Theatre was written by Rita Sola and appeared in Volume I, Issue 4 (February, 1998) of Applause! Applause! published by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens.
"Black Humor" - Lewis Black
Cherry Lane Theatre (38 Commerce Street, NYC)
Reviewed 1/29/98 at 8:00 p.m.
"If it weren't for my horse, I wouldn't have spent that year in college." What can this chance remark overheard by Lewis Black and related in his one-man show possibly mean? "Don't think about it for more than two minutes", he advises us, "or the blood will gush out of our noses." With this, he encapsulates the absurdities of life that assault our senses every day. Humorists from Aristophanes to Samuel Johnson to Mark Twain to Lenny Bruce have done this for centuries but with a facade of bemusement. Even Bruce, our most angst-ridden comedian, seemed to be laughing with us. But Lewis Black, currently at the Cherry Lane Theatre, is consumed with rage. Which raises an interesting question: How can a man apparently screaming in pain be screamingly funny? Perhaps we shouldn't think about it. But he is.
Black's show, entitled appropriately "Black Humor", is strong on the political: "In my lifetime," he says, "we have gone from Kennedy to Clinton and from Eisenhower to Bush. By the year 2012, we'll be electing a plant." Apart from the obvious remarks about Clinton, ("I thought we were electing a social president. I didn't realize how social.") he reminds us that one of the president's boasts when he first ran in 1992 was that he had raised Arkansas' standing in education from 50th place to 49th. "Wouldn't you have kept that a secret?" he asks. Black then suggests that Arkansas achieved that remarkable progress by shooting some of the dumber kids. Neither do cultural foibles escape his attention. He regrets the accidental death of Sonny Bono, but was appalled to find the funeral covered in its entirety on CNN. Black complains that even Hubert Humphrey's funeral did not receive that much coverage. So he called some friends and discovered they were also watching the funeral and it was being carried by two other channels as well. His conclusion: It was really The Cher Show featuring the funeral of Sonny Bono.
Black has little good to say about our great cities. In New York, he points out, the word fuck is a comma. And terrorism is redundant. Why do foreigners have to come here to do the job we do best? As for Las Vegas, our very own Gommorah, see it, he says, before it turns into salt. One of Black's funniest bits is his description of a Las Vegas casino at Christmas. There's nothing quite like the comments of gamblers accompanied by Christmas carols: "God damn it, Jesus Christ, Holy Fuck, a-rum-pa-tum-tum." And, of course, La-La Land is not spared. "The next time you feel like going to Los Angeles, sharpen a pencil and stick it into your eye instead." Black tells of how some years ago he was seen at Catch A Rising Star by a writer, a producer and a director from Hollywood. They offered him a part on a pilot for a sit-com and a short while later, he was sent a script. His part was that of a character named Lewis and every one of this character's lines was straight out of his own routine at Catch. This was all right with him, but then he was told he would have to fly out to L.A. because CBS wanted to audition him. Lewis Black was required to audition for the part of Lewis Black. P.S. Another actor got the part.
The absurdities he points out are funny, but as you think about them, you understand his rage: A woman's purse that costs $12,000. What could it be made of, he wonders. A rhinoceros' scrotum? Then there's the tie that costs $275. "There's an economy going on here and I'm not a part of it," he says. And worst of all are TV weathermen who earn $1.5 million dollars a year just to say "It's going to be a fine day. Back to you." If it is true that laughter is the best medicine, Lewis Black is certainly one of our best medicine men. None of his humor is sick - it is the society we live in that is. But perhaps it's best not to dwell on that too long...or the blood will gush out of our noses.