After listening to Lewis Black’s act one night in 1989, a fellow comedian told him: “It sounds like you’re pretty ticked off at some things up there. Next time you go on stage, I want you to yell: ‘I’m pissed off!’ ”
Black took his advice. A modern-day descendent of “Network’s” Howard Beal (“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”), Black is known for his trademark aggravated persona: the clenched teeth; the agitated, pointing hands; the stuttering lines.
“Lewis’ material is his alone; it’s priceless,” says screenwriter and co-hort Norman Steinberg. “If H.L. Mencken were alive, Lewis Black would be his favorite comic.”
While political commentary characterizes Black’s regular guest appearances on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” he prefers to be known as a comedian who debunks authority in general: from weathermen to idiotic customer service reps at UPS.
A graduate of Yale Drama School, Black was a founder and a playwright in residence at the West Bank Café beginning in 1981. His notable works include “The Deal,” a satire on big business barons of the ’80s, and “The Czar of Rock ‘n Roll,” a musical about the “Elvis Presley of Russia.” Black turned “The Deal” into a short film in 1996, and it can currently be seen on the Sundance Channel.
Although Black performed some stand up comedy with his theater troupe, it wasn’t until 1989 when began touring the comedy club circuit.
He has just signed a major creative deal with Comedy Central and has burned his first CD, “The White Album.”
In between his “Daily Show” gigs this summer, he teaches a course in stand-up comedy at Williamstown Theater Festival in Western Massachusetts.
“The course preps young actors for the audition process. As a stand up, one directs, writes, and acts out their own material — all vital skills to succeeding in an audition,” says Black, “another main concept of the class is that everyone has a funny story to tell; and if you don’t, then you have a problem.”