Back in 1996, Lewis Black was invited to “The Daily Show” for a segment called “Back in Black.” The performance consisted of Black waving his arms, frothing at the mouth, and yelling at the top of his lungs about all the stuff in the world that irks him.
He’s been yelling his way to stardom ever since.
Black will bring the noise in “Old Yeller,” a live pay-per-view, VOD performance from the Borgota in Atlantic City on August 24 at 9:30 p.m. EST. Audiences may be more accustomed to paying for fights on cable, but consider this a really funny brawl with your eardrums.
The former struggling playwright turned professional ranter found success later in life. He was nearly 50 when he got his big break on Comedy Central. Since then he’s gone on to star on Broadway, appear on various TV shows, and win a Grammy for Best Comedy Album in 2007.
Recently, he sat down xfinityTV for an exclusive interview, where he yelled about politicians, Facebook, Apple TV, Twitter, old white people, and on it goes….
Not that we’re complaining, but what prompted you to broadcast your show live on pay-per-view, instead of selling it up on iTunes like your peers Louis CK and Patton Oswalt?
That decision was made under the category called desperation. Epix has been really good to me, HBO has been good to me, Comedy Central’s been good to me, but the last special I did, I wanted to get out as a live show, and we just couldn’t get it done. I just felt like doing it this way was an opportunity to get it out immediately. The option that some other comedians take, which I fully understand, is to go online. If I did that, I’d lose about 40 percent or 50 percent of the people who watch me. They’re not going to watch me on a computer. I don’t even want to sit at a desk and watch me.
Tell us about your show, “Old Yeller.” First of all, why the name? That’s one of my favorite movies.
Because I’m old and I’m a yeller, and I like the idea of my face on a yellow lab.
What topics can we expect you to yell about in “Old Yeller?”
How nuts everything is to me. I touch on the failure of my generation–that we set out to change the world and we did: We managed to really screw it up. And then I try to explain why we’ve ended up where we are. I talk about Social Security, and health care, and alternative energy.
The reason we’re not getting anything done is because we all have ADD. And then I kind of explain why we all have ADD: Television, the computer, Facebook and e-mail. You’re on Facebook, and these people seem to have endless lives. I don’t have time to live my life, let alone tell you what I’m doing, or post a photo.
Then I go after Congress and the President and all that stupidity, and I finish with all of this stuff that’s been spewed by Congressmen. Both sides have done it, but the Republicans really kind of went beyond stupid in a lot of the stuff that they’re saying.
Rick Santorum said the other day, I just read this, that liberals have made it hard for kids to take showers together. He’s an idiot. I mean, read this and you go, “Holy f***. We are living in a time when we keep dropping the ball in a lot of ways. This is the end of the old white man thing. I’m one of those old white men, and they make me sick. I can’t figure out how we were born on the same planet at the same time.
To me the whole show is really about, “What the f***? Are you kidding me?”
How do you come up with your material?
Basically I wake up in the morning and I think everything’s going to be great. I’m really kind of optimistic, and I look forward to a new day. I pick up The New York Times and I look at the front page and realize that once again I’m wrong. I start to fixate on stuff. I’m funniest when I’m angriest, so what I find is that I fixate on this stuff that makes me really angry.
Have you always been this angry?
I was always angry but I didn’t know how to express it without freaking people out. Stand-up was way for me to express that anger so that they could enjoy it and didn’t flee the room. People have said, “Now that you’re doing well hasn’t that changed your attitude?” No. By getting older, one of the things that I realize keeps me angry is I can’t believe we keep going through this. These are things that have been going on my entire life. They don’t go away.
The hardest thing for me is to find another way to show people how f***ing stupid it is. Same issues, over and over and over again. Same f***ing issues. Really? Immigration for the 40 thousandth time? “Boy, I didn’t know we weren’t letting people in who were smart?” How f***ing dumb are you? Everybody knows you let in smart people. Everybody knows that if a guy says that a fetus can masturbate at 15 weeks that that’s wrong. Everybody knows that!
Have you ever met the people you skewer in your routines? That must be sort of awkward.
No, I have a tendency to avoid them. I met John McCain. But I’d rather be separated from them because if I get to know them, I like them, and then I have empathy. It’s tough to do what I do if you’re empathetic to the schmuck who’s f***ing you.
What are you watching on TV these days?
I like “Breaking Bad.” It’s going to break my heart when it’s over. I like “The Killing,” in part because of the relationship between those two characters (Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman). The plot is almost secondary. I could watch those two wander around and have coffee and conversation. And I love “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Orange Is the New Black” and “Arrested Development.”
Do you spend a lot of time online? Would you consider yourself social-media savvy?
I am the equivalent of a monkey who just discovered that you could hurt somebody with a stick. I’m at that transition point where I have just enough information I could hurt myself. I’m lucky, I’ve got a couple of people I work with who get it. They’re the ones who keep me in touch with it.
I don’t Tweet a lot because I’ve Tweeted things that I thought were really innocuous about subjects that are inflammatory, and the response is so insane sometimes from people. And then I have to Tweet back, “Have I ever said I was going to come get your gun? No. And, “You really think I have the energy to come get it?” No.
The only thing that I have done is, you know that Apple computer thing, the Apple TV. A friend of mine got it for me, and it took me about eight months to figure out how to use it. That’s the other thing about Apple and Microsoft, and Facebook–they keep part of the information and you have to stumble across it. It’s all, “I didn’t know that, because you didn’t f***ing write it down for me.”
Both Apple and Microsoft, their “Help” thing should be described as “F*** you.” It should say, “F*** you for looking. Really? You need help, you f***ing moron?” It’s like geeks’ revenge.
Lewis Black’s live pay-per-view special “Old Yeller” airs on August 24 at 9:30 p.m. EST.