Lewis Black has been doing standup comedy for decades, along with his other occupations, like authoring 40 plays and two bestselling books (Nothing’s Sacred and Me of Little Faith), and appearing in more than a dozen feature films and TV shows, including his HBO specials and his frequent commentaries on The Daily Show.
Stark Raving Black is an apt description of Black’s live comedy at The Fillmore Detroit on August 2, 2009. The filmed performance features his signature comedic fury, which we have reason to believe is more than persona. And which those of us who are fans find endearing, even while he’s punctuating his sentences with the F-word as generously as the way some of us use commas.
As his name coincidentally suggests, Black’s dark delivery is a measured rhythmic rage, an endless irritation over the shenanigans of Washington politics and the stupid ironies of life, especially his own. His commanding style creates a zone, a sacred place where he can confide his exasperation to millions of us. Where he speaks calmly and slowly at first, waving his long fingers in the air. And suddenly explodes into outrage—like a combination of your dad and your parole officer—with a cadence that feels like he’s jabbing us with a cane to make his point. It’s a good kind of pain.
Stark Raving Black dwells on topics of frustration such as turning 60, which he knows is not “the new 40” because, first, they’re two different numbers, and second, 60 is so old that “I can’t remember sh—.” And he laments in detail about a show where he had to follow country singer icon Vince Gill and his “absolutely perfect” wife Amy Grant. Or as he describes it, “Two perfect Christians followed by a miserable aging Jewish prick.”
Does Stark Raving Black have its weak moments? Well, maybe. Some of Black’s timing is more drawn-out than usual, with long pauses that occasionally made my mind wander. My superstitious nature worries that if he is as preoccupied as he lets on, wondering how his fringe comedy career jumped into the fast lane, he could get thrown off his game. But my rational side assures me that every successful performer deserves a little wiggle room. And the bottom line: stark raving Lewis Black delivers. When it’s released on DVD, you’re in for some good entertainment. B
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