Properly revered in college dorms for combustible outbursts on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” Lewis Black hits the sort-of big time with his first HBO special, in which he savages a wide variety of targets without ever really delivering a comedic knockout punch. As angry comics go, Black blusters with the best of them, but his material can’t quite sustain this format, resulting in an hour that’s amusing but ultimately nothing to shout about.
Black unleashes his rage at Democrats and Republicans, corporate shenanigans, bottled water, even the country of New Zealand. Dissecting his observations, though, leaves more a general sense of bemusement elicited by his delivery — which includes occasional vocal ticks, as if he were channeling Foster Brooks — than any great moments of truth.
Moreover, the comic’s penchant for blue language — certainly no stranger to the latenight comedy circuit — at times feels like too much of a crutch, down to connecting syllables with profanity. It’s funny enough to point out that a wooden school desk wouldn’t do much to thwart a nuclear attack in one of the “duck and cover” drills from his youth, for example, without having to refer to the “fire-fuck-ball” that would have engulfed him.
The best riffs in this conventionally shot spec flow from Black’s eye for the absurd, such as his argument that “soy milk” is really “soy juice,” a less-appetizing proposition that doesn’t belong alongside the actual moo-cow variety.
Black opens the show by chiding loyal fans who dared bring friends with them, saying he doesn’t need the pressure of trying to win over new people, which is a pretty fair appraisal of where his act stands. Those who admire his work possess ample reason to, yet for the uninitiated he remains, like soy milk, an acquired taste.