Comedian Lewis Black performs in Breckenridge
If you go
What: Lewis Black performs on The Emperors New Clothes The Naked Truth Tour
Where: The Riverwalk Center, 150 W. Adams Ave., Breckenridge
When: Friday, March 18 at 8 p.m.
Cost: Tickets range from $39-49 and are available at breckcreate.org
Catch the live Q&A session following each of Lewis Black’s performances at lewisblack.com.
It’s a tough year to be Lewis Black.
Somewhere on a tour bus in the middle of Idaho, the rage-inspired comedian and self-proclaimed Socialist explained his political philosophy to me via phone: “Take care of everybody, and shut the f—k up.”
Simple enough — except this year. As debate after debate pushes across the country, the presidential candidates have done anything but keep quiet this season, meaning they have often set themselves up and delivered the punch lines before even the moderator can chime in.
With the current political landscape, Black finds himself in a near career crisis, wondering, what is his role?
“I don’t even need material anymore,” he said. “I do their material. I mean seriously, we’ve reached the point where I basically spend the first part of my act questioning why I’m even on stage any more. What is my purpose as a comic?”
He is struggling this year to figure out who is the comedian and who is the subject, but touring helps put everything in perspective.
“It’s been good,” he said. “It’s one way to keep in touch with the reality that they want to tell me about, then what I actually see for myself.”
A funny man with a serious side, Black seems to value the dichotomy of life, though it has little place in his work-heavy schedule.
“It’s not a matter of balancing it out because I like what I’m doing, it’s not like brain surgery. … It would be one thing if it was seven days of you know, going through and picking crops.”
Originally, a playwright — who still writes when he has time and has a small play on tour now — he transitioned into comedy though he “never expected this to be a career.”
He began to pursue stand-up comedy full time in the ’80s and has been on several tours since then.
“I’m driving through Idaho right now, it’s beautiful, there’s snow on the mountains,” he said. “You know, I’ve gotten to see the country over and over again, and you get to see how it changes.”
A new show
Many of these changes make their way into his stand-up routine, with rants on everything from iPods to global warming and a constantly evolving set.
When asked how much he plans in advance, Black replied, “Now about 70 percent is planned. Some of it is playing off the audience. Some of it is trying to figure it out, so I’ll try something else, or I’ll try something else, or I’ll try something else. Right now, I’m basically trying to work on finding a through line for a set I’m doing that will eventually become a special.”
Black has starred in several comedy specials over the years in addition to the television shows, movies and comedy tours he’s performed on and the 40 plays and three best-selling books he’s written. Yet he shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, he will add a new experience on Friday, March 18 when he makes his Summit County debut at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge as part of The Emperors New Clothes The Naked Truth Tour.
He has previously performed in Beaver Creek and Aspen and even owned a theater in Colorado Springs in the early 1970s, so he is no stranger to Colorado. Still, you shouldn’t expect him to steal any of your turns while he’s here.
“Playing in the cold has never intrigued me. … I have no interest in dressing up and playing in the cold. I tried once to learn how to ski, and it was so abysmally unsuccessful that I never did it again.”
Sticking to comedy
Without the call of the slopes, Black has plenty of time to focus on his comedy and the current state of affairs in the U.S.
As mentioned, he calls himself a Socialist — what he considers “a kind of enforced Christianity.”
A party with a marked reputation, he hopes people can look past that, “they don’t even know what (socialism) means. And what they think it means scares them.”
Regardless, for the first time, the comedian has a dog in the fight for the presidential election. When asked if he supports Bernie Sanders, he replied, “I pretty much tell the audience that because I’m a Socialist. Which is meaningless. I’m in a party that barely exists, I’ve got a candidate who’s running for office and I’m thrilled. I’m thrilled just to have a candidate, alright? I’ve waited my whole life for that.”
Ever the realist, Black knows Bernie might not have the best odds but appreciates the opportunity for what it is.
“These people don’t think he’s going to win,” he said. “This is the first time anyone has shown up even close to being on a ballot, so get a grip.”
The gift that keeps on giving for a comedian, politics have taken many turns recently, and as Black says, “This last year was really where it went over the line.” And at this point, no one is out of the race, or out of Black’s crosshairs.
A frightening sight on both sides of the aisle, he first turned his attention to the Republicans in our discussion.
“As crazy as Trump is, Cruz is just as crazy. And the least crazy one, which is Kasich, no one is paying attention to.”
But that doesn’t mean the Democrats are beyond reproach for Black.
“Somehow you read, that people think that Hillary Clinton is the Anti-Christ, which is absurd, but they act like she is. Like somehow she is going to destroy things, well you know, no. And I’m not in favor of her. … There’s a lot of reasons not to vote for her, don’t make s–t up.”
Of the whole debacle, he relates, “It’s like watching people who are coked out at a party.” But again, to be fair, it’s “both sides. I don’t need you to make s–t up about the other side. I know both sides, and I don’t need this stuff repeated.”
Which brings up the analysts, whom Black sees as even more irrelevant than the candidates.
“Then it has to be parsed out by eight to 10 people who are commentating on it, of which, maybe two are qualified. Call people up. Why don’t you call some f—-r up at random? Then it might be interesting. But to just have these people, I just saw him, you don’t need to tell me what I saw or what it means.”
But in case you were feeling optimistic about something, don’t worry, “all of this is mute point if they don’t change the people who are in Congress, then I don’t care who you elect. You can elect a tortoise.”
So given the politicians handling their own material, and the spotty cell reception on tour buses rambling through the middle of nowhere, what keeps the king of the rant coming back to the stage?
“I enjoy doing it. I learn. As long as I’m on the stage learning something, I enjoy it. And it’s a way to get rid of a lot of, you know, pent up frustration.”
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