Lewis Black has been one of the country’s most successful stand-up comics for nearly two decades. While he has been active as a stand-up comic since the 1980s, one thing that people do not realize about Lewis Black is that his genius extends beyond performing. For example, he holds an MFA from the Yale School Of Drama. Beyond full-length works that were produced, he has written hundreds of one-act plays.
The career of Lewis Black truly took off in the mid-1990s when he began appearing on The Daily Show as a commentator for the recurring “Back In Black” segment. His Daily Show notoriety has led to nearly a dozen comedy specials on television — they have aired on HBO, Epix, Comedy Central and History Channel — and acting in a variety of roles, including the film Accepted, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and the forthcoming Woody Allen series for Amazon. His distinct vocal delivery has also made him an inde-amdn voiceover artist (e.g. Inside Out, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Penguins Of Madagascar)
On Sept. 12, Lewis Black returns to Broadway run with Black To The Future at The Marquis Theatre. Presently, the show is scheduled for four performances: Sept. 12, Sept. 19, Sept. 26 and Oct. 10. As he noted on the official site of Black To The Future: “As much as I travel, performing in extraordinary venues, Broadway has always been my ultimate goal.” And per his Q&A with Downtown, more performances are possible, should the tickets for these initial four shows sell out quickly.
I had the pleasure of attending the live Gilbert Gottfried podcast which you were the guest of at Carolines. Within the interview, you talked about the mess that was the show Harry’s Law. Was that the first time that you nearly became the star of a network series?
Lewis Black: No, I had a series pilot written for me by Jay Tarses and Richard Dresser called Harvey Berger for Fox. I also had one written for ABC called Educating Lewis. I hosted two seasons of The Root Of All Evil on Comedy Central…
You’re coming to Broadway this fall. How does one of your one-man shows compare to your stand-up?
LB: It’s a longer form of my stand-up show, but they are similar.
What was the last thing that legitimately made you angry?
LB: This endless horrific election cycle.
Do you remember the first time you ever did stand-up in New York City?
LB: Yes, I believe it was at Kenny’s Castaways in the West Village. I came in from New Haven, where I was living. That was in 1979. I didn’t start working the comedy clubs in New York until the late 80’s.
If the announced shows sell out, is there any chance of you adding more shows?
LB: Yes that is more than possible. And I would certainly hope so.
What’s ahead for you once Black To The Future has wrapped?
LB: I continue to tour around the country. Hopefully do a little acting. And work on a new book and a new play.
You’ve worked extensively within television, movies, stand-up and theater. Is there a sort of project you haven’t yet worked on but still hope to?
LB: I wish I could do a TV series, a sitcom or dramedy. But I doubt it will happen. I have pitched and been involved in a number of projects that I thought deserved to be seen, but they never saw the light of day.
Is there a particular role or credit that you’re most proud of?
LB: I think the role in Accepted and the role in Inside Out. They were both extremely satisfying and terrific experiences. I’ve been lucky in that practically all the projects I have worked on I have worked with talented people.
When I saw you do stand-up at Westbury Music Fair a decade or so ago, you had mentioned an incident in which you had opened for the band Chicago and they had a problem with your use of foul language. At what point in your career was it finally fine to be you? Or at least when did people stop telling you to change?
LB: After touring with Mitch Hedberg and Dave Attell, two truly unique comic voices.
How did you first get involved with the ACLU?
LB: They called and asked if I wanted to help with their fight for Voting Rights. It’s something that should be a given by now and no one should have to fight for the right to vote in a truly democratic society. It’s ludicrous.
When not busy with your career, how do you like to spend your free time?
LB: I spend as much of it as I can with friends. I play golf because I am an idiot. I binge watch TV shows I like.
All these years later, having worked everywhere as a comic, what is it that keeps you based in New York?
LB: I love this city. If you’re going to live in a city, this is the one to live in.
Even though they need to realize and quickly the desperate need for low-cost housing for those who work here and for young people just making their way here. It’s absurd to build these many high rises and not make true accommodations for those who can’t afford what are absurd rents.
I consider New York my home. The pot melts here.
Finally, Lewis, any last words for the kids?
LB: When you find what it is you love to do or want to be, pursue it and don’t look back. If you don’t, you’ll be filled with regrets. And on occasion, get your face out of your smartphone and take a good long look at the world around you. The one that doesn’t exist on a screen.