‘King of the Rant’ coming to Williamsport
He’s loud, feisty and angry. But Lewis Black is also inclusive. He wants northcentral Pennsylvania residents to contribute to the rants and laughs that will reverberate throughout Williamsport’s Community Arts Center.
The acclaimed comedian brings his “It Gets Better Every Day” tour to the performing arts venue on Saturday, Feb. 29, at 7:30 p.m.
A two-time Grammy winner for Best Comedy Album and a staple on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” Black is known as the “King of the Rant” for his acute sensitivities to the absurdities of life. From politics to peanut butter, anything and anyone is fair game for Black’s insightful commentary presented in a permanently agitated state.
His latest show offers fans the opportunity to contribute to that commentary. At each tour stop, Black solicits rants about the area and dedicates the final portion of his act to the submissions.
“I really hope to get stuff from people around Williamsport,” Black said in a recent telephone interview. “I try to make it as much about the city I’m visiting as possible. I want what is said about the city to come from them, not from me. They will be writing the Williamsport part of the show.”
Audience members will be instructed how to submit material prior to the performance. The public is also invited to leave their rants on Black’s website in the weeks leading up to the show. Black’s “The Rant is Due” segment is streamed live and archived there.
“I’m literally doing my show and then doing their show and doing it on the fly,” Black said. “I love doing it.”
Below, Black answers questions regarding his act and comedy.
You have had a multifaceted entertainment career beyond standup. You’ve authored bestselling books, written several plays, and acted in both movies and television. Which of those roles do you enjoy the most?
Standup, only because I don’t have to deal with any filters. It’s just me and the audience. Standup is the one place where I learned something by being rejected by the audience and over time got better.
What is currently angering you?
If we are going to make a proper judgement about impeachment, whatever side you’re on, you don’t do it with 12 hours of hearings a day. If you really care for this to be a participatory democracy, you don’t pull that (expletive). People don’t have time for it. And they (Congress) know it. When you see me yell on stage about this, it’s funnier. By the time I get to Williamsport, these idiots will be up to some other stupidity.
During a 2006 standup special, you made the joke that there was so much madness in the world that you couldn’t keep up with it all as a comedian. Do those times seem quaint compared to today?
Those times seem pastoral in comparison. There weren’t many adults in the room then, and there are fewer now.
You purposely avoid saying the name of the current president?
Yes. He and I lived in the same city for 40 years, so part of me is really sick of making jokes about him. I haven’t spent much time dwelling on any of the presidents because they are not of much interest to me. I’ll finish an act and people will come up to me and tell me I talked too much about him. Then the other side will say that I didn’t talk enough about him. If you want more than three to five minutes about him, find other people who do that because that’s not my gig. It’s never been my gig. I mainly dwell on other things that I find funny.
When it comes to politics, you skewer liberals and conservatives?
Yeah. But it doesn’t really matter because both sides hear what they want to hear. It really is appalling. How these idiots who are elected to office don’t get that most of us are in the middle is beyond me. Their deal should be to compromise. Somebody gets a little more of the vote, then they should get to do a little bit more, not a lot more, just a little more.
Do you differentiate between directing a rant at someone and actually hating that person?
I learned along the way that you don’t direct hate at people. You direct hate at objects. Right now, I can’t get my Bluetooth keyboard to connect to my computer. That’s what I hate. I hate the keyboard, and I hate the computer. And the mouse can go (expletive) itself, too. You’re not supposed to hate people. That’s the deal. That’s what religion is based on. Love thy neighbor as myself. I don’t care if you think the president is the greatest ever, that doesn’t allow you to hate the people who don’t like him. We don’t have time for that energy anymore.
During the past few years, many prominent comedians have bemoaned the rise of political correctness and have said that the “PC Police” are hurting comedy. Have you felt stifled?
Not really. Then again, I think about what I’m doing. I’ve always thought it out a lot. Here’s the thing: Somebody involved in the PC idea of the way comedy should be shouldn’t go to a show in the first place. There are comics who will cross the line, but by pumping your chest and getting upset about something they said, you’re giving that comic more power than the comic deserves. I know sometimes what will offend an audience. And I go after it. Sometimes, I’ll start by saying how political correctness ruins a joke. I get it out of the way and move on.
Do you alter the content of your act depending on where you are performing? For example, do you do the same jokes in Alabama that you would in San Francisco?
Yes. There is no reason not to. Sometimes you learn how to tell a joke differently, better. You discover something. But you don’t find out unless you tell the joke. I was doing these religion jokes and when I went down South and started talking religion down there, I realized I was doing the jokes too fast. When I slowed it down, it made the jokes better.
You’re not angry in everyday life like you are on the stage, are you?
If I was like that all the time, I would be dead! I wouldn’t get through a week. Every so often something will set me off, but most of the time I’m saving my anger for the stage. Basically, I got to take a nap to let it rip.
Is there an optimist underneath the anger that you display on stage?
Yes! I couldn’t be this angry if I didn’t think things could be better. If I was a pessimist, I wouldn’t get this angry.
For ticket information on Lewis Black: “It Gets Better Every Day” on Saturday, Feb. 29, visit the Community Arts Center or call its box office at 570-326-2424.
The CAC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Pennsylvania College of Technology. It is one of the top performing arts venues on the East Coast. Since its reopening in 1993, approximately 1.5 million guests have enjoyed over 1,000 productions.