The Best of Lewis Black Ranting, and A Half Review of Running on Empty
"Let's get something straight--[this is] not going to be that exciting," Lewis Black bluntly told first-night attendees at the top of his new show Running on Empty at the Richard Rodgers Theater on October 9. "It's going to be more of the same." Which is fantastic news for fans of the comic and pundit's acid rants, random observations and leaps into American scatology.
In the eight years since his Black on Broadway, which played the Brooks Atkinson Theater in 2004, Black's downgraded his rage from a rolling boil to a steady simmer which foams up when he's riffing on issues like Facebook idiocy and the Island of Lost Toys that was the 2012 Republican primary race. His trademark anger is still there, naturally, but it's noticeably tempered by more fatigue with the world. It's as if Willy Loman has joined Black's twelve angry men.
Black's growing weariness is valuable. Rage is entertaining, but exhaustion -- especially with the current state of affairs -- is relatable. And relatable humor makes people laugh. A lot. Even while lamenting their own lives.
We can't show you clips of Black making people laugh during Running on Empty, but we can show you some of what you'll find in his aggressively funny return to Broadway, through some of the Black-est rants the internet has to offer. (WARNING: The clips below contain very naughty language, except #3.)
1. Lewis Black is an Angry Young Man
Want to see some pre-Daily Show era Black in action? This is it: Seven minutes of a young, afro-ed out New York Jew yelling at Los Angelinos. He's younger. He smiles more than he does now. He already disdains the suits in Washington, and health care makes him jowly with anger. The evolution begins.
2. Lewis Black Beats Aaron Sorkin at Blasting America
Remember Jeff Daniels' powerful rant against America in the pilot of HBO's Newsroom? Head writer Aaron Sorkin's entire series was launched by the bold statement that "America is not the greatest country in the world."
Lewis Black has been saying this for years, literally. (He did not have fancy camera work or scene partners like Elizabeth Marvel.) This is Black at his most irreverent--hopping from the slipping greatness of America to the irrelevance of lactose-free milk in about 14 seconds.
3. Lewis Black Hijacks the 2007 Emmy Awards
Nothing makes a televised awards ceremony feel as uncomfortable as handling a hairless cat quite like scripted schtick that's supposed to appear off-the-cuff to viewers. Fortunately, the producers of the Emmy Awards got it right in 2007 when they tapped Black to go off on obnoxious in-show commercials, network disrespect of TV end credits and ADD-triggering news tickers. The rant ended up being more memorable than any acceptance speech that night, and Black managed not to curse for two whole minutes -- a feat worthy of an Emmy itself.
(Bonus: Cutaways to stage vets Kelsey Grammer, Hugh Laurie and Mary-Louise Parker, decked out and applauding Black's monologue.)
4. Lewis Black Destroys Glen Beck and His "Nazi Tourettes"
We at TheaterMania try to stay impartial. We're not here to judge your new Obama family earrings or comment on your portrait of Mitt Romney and his dancing horse, Rafalca. We are here, however, to endorse this Daily Show rant in which Black systematically dismantles conservative pundit Glenn Beck. It's not that we have anything against Beck -- except his hate-mongering -- so much as we revel in how expertly Black uses carefully sharpened words and staccato emphasis to chip away at Beck's argument until the entire thing topples like a Jenga tower. It's not just a rebuttal. It's a masterpiece:
5. Lewis Black Calls Out Candy Corn
"Nothing proves just how dumb we are collectively as people more than Candy Corn."
We regret that there's no linkable video of Black's beloved four-minute assault on autumn's most controversial wedge of sugar, but really, do you need more than the audio? Click it. Listen. It's true. Sickeningly, disgustingly true: