Sometimes, people do like a complainer

Lewis Black's over-the-top rants appeal to all ages

Scene: clubs, bars, nightlife

January 01, 2004|By Sarah Schaffer | Sarah Schaffer,SUN STAFF

Lewis Black is more than a complainer.

The nationally known comedian is also a Yale-educated playwright and an accomplished actor.

But give a listen to his routine, and you might think that he's just another downtrodden guy -- one who likes to complain, a lot.

For years the Maryland native has earned a living by making people think that he's eternally oppressed. On the standup circuit, Black has built material around his annoyance with everything from bottled water to war and corruption.

As commentator on Comedy Central's The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, he is known to rant excitedly, spouting acerbic manifestoes that would scathe even the most thick-skinned targets.

And even when the spotlight is off, it doesn't take much to get this guy excited about an issue.

Calling from his New York City home, Black couldn't help but carry on about Schwarzenegger's gubernatorial election ("The facts are the punch line.") and the war in Iraq ("Half the world thinks we're nuts!").

In fact, Black's trademark over-the-top reactions to government and pop culture could make some believe he is personally offended by everything he talks about.

And when this Montgomery County boy returns to the area this weekend as part of his solo standup tour, the chronically ruffled funnyman will continue with his popular woe-is-me-for-being-surrounded-by-idiots schtick.

He expects the crowd at the Baltimore Improv to be much like his audience at many other venues -- filled with a lot of college-age fans.

It's a natural fit, said Black, 55, who believes their affinity for him may be due to his own, as he put it, "emotionally stunted" condition.

"I formed my worldview by the time I was 21, and I haven't really switched it," he said with a husky chuckle. "The basis of part of my act is anger at authority, and I think that's right up their alley. [But] a lot of kids have told me that I am just like their parents, only funnier."

Black's ability to connect with people his own age -- and their kids -- has given the performer "an honor of being a family comic," he said.

But the terminally sardonic man isn't joking about the title, and he's entirely serious about maintaining such a position.

With his fuming temporarily under control, the surprisingly soft-spoken guy (at least for the moment) said he even likes the label.

"I'm probably proudest of that. I think it's great that you've got a father and a son and a mother and a daughter sitting there laughing at the same joke," he said.

"Outside of a Disney film, you don't see that a lot."

Lewis Black performs tomorrow through Sunday. The Baltimore Improv is at 6 Market Place in the Power Plant Live complex. Show times are 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday and 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $25. For more information, call 410-727-8500 or visit

For more club events, turn to Page 32.

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