Lewis Black brings his stand-up rants to Detroit on new tour
Is denouncing what annoys you really good for your health? Let’s ask the man who made ranting an art form.
“Yeah, I think it is. I have perfect blood pressure. That’s my only proof,” says Lewis Black, who played the character Anger in the animated movie “Inside Out” and whose searing tirades on “The Daily Show” made him famous.
What hasn’t been so good for the busy comedian is the COVID-19 pandemic isolation lockdown period, which he is covering on his current Off the Rails tour. He will play Friday night at the Fillmore Detroit.
“I didn’t do well, you know,” Black says of having to stay in and away from theaters and comedy clubs. “I was in solitary and lost my mind. During that time other people seemed to (say): ‘Boy, this was really my opportunity to become a surgeon.’ Really? Are you serious?'”
Even a simple question like rechecking his age unleashes Black’s hilarious and often austere sense of humor. He’s 73, right? “Unfortunately, but I feel like I’m 77,” he said in an impeccably timed phone interview.
Black is many things: a playwright with a master’s degree from the Yale School of Drama, an actor who’s been in everything from the 2016 ABC miniseries “Madoff” to “SpongeBob SquarePants” (as the voice of Santa Claus) and a best-selling author whose memoir was titled “Nothing’s Sacred.”
But stand-up comedy is where Black unleashed his genius to skewer the hypocrisy, corruption and incompetence, which 2022 seems to have in abundance. He was nominated for a Grammy for his latest album, “Thanks For Risking Your Life”. It was taped in mid-March 2020 at the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Michigan, just as the country was beginning to shut down.
“It was kind of like the last hurray,” recalls Black, who along with friend and fellow comedian Kathleen Madigan was immersed in media coverage of the coming COVID-19 crisis.
“From the moment the virus hit, we tracked it. When it hit Wuhan, we tracked it. … We were both trying to estimate when the shutdown would come,” he says, explaining that their constant business trips triggered their first level of concern.
Although he is a keen observer of politics, Black admits he did not foresee the partisan divide that would develop across the country over the practice of COVID-19 safety measures such as wearing masks and vaccination.
“I thought we were smarter. I really did,” he says sadly. He describes not being able to understand why Americans who would drive across the country to help foreigners after natural disasters would refuse to wear masks to protect themselves and others.
“It basically blew my whole theory (that) the only way the world would come together, or the United States would come together, is if aliens attacked (the planet). What I realized was is that some people would side with the extraterrestrials.”
Black says he was especially disappointed with older Americans who wouldn’t take the vaccine. “People my age who haven’t been vaccinated, I’m appalled, just appalled.”
He points out that his generation experienced “the greatest scientific experiment on earth”, the polio vaccine developed by Jonas Salk in the early 1950s.
“Our parents had the foresight to say, ‘You know you’re going to take this vaccine, because when I watch TV, I don’t want to hear the iron lung rattling in the background,'” Black jokes in his style. usual without punches.
But he is serious when talking about the lasting impact of the pandemic on the nation. “What I’m saying to the public, which I don’t think they want to hear, is nobody got hurt by this. Everyone got hurt.” And even though we act like things are getting back to normal, he adds, “we’re not okay yet.”
Despite all his frustrations, it’s clear that Black is happy to be back on the road and enjoys appearing in front of his fans. At the end of his shows, he does a recurring track called “The Rant Is Due” which he also shares via live audio streams and on his podcast, “Rantcast of Lewis Black.”
During “The Rant Is Due” segments, Black reads rants submitted to him by people who want to vent their own irritations and pet peeves. He says the quality of fan rants keeps getting better. And as a connoisseur of the complaint, Black knows that it’s the amount of fury that counts, not the breadth of the subject.
“There are people who hate peanut butter and want to get rid of it,” he says.
Black says he’s always loved Motor City, but he’s somewhat puzzled by how many people he meets in the entertainment industry — and in everyday life — who are from Michigan.
“One in three people in America is from Michigan,” he complains. “I think there’s a place up there where they have a pod, and people up there are creating people. It’s very weird.”
Contact Detroit Free Press pop culture critic Julie Hinds at [email protected]
8 p.m. Friday (doors at 7 p.m.)
The Fillmore Detroit
2115 Woodward, Detroit
18 and over
$45 to $75 at LiveNation