Lewis Black, Carnegie Hall Performance

Michael Azerrad

By Michael Azerrad

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Splenetic Daily Show regular Lewis Black knows the answer: Denounce right-wing crooks, liars and idiots as vehemently and hilariously as possible and wait until everyone realizes you're right. But now what? During his first albums you could practically hear the guy at the table in the front belching up his beer. Now Black is spewing from the stage where Menuhin and Pavarotti once stood and a sold-out house is baying, "Lewwwwwwwwwwww! LEWWWWWWW!" How angry could you be at that point?

Raging comic Lewis Black breaks on through to the other side.

Well, plenty, actually. The apostle of apoplexy, the king of choler, the bastard spawn of Howard Zinn and Ralph Kramden, Black is still losing his mind over the fact that, as he points out so vehemently, America is losing its mind. The man never ceases to be simply and sincerely flabbergasted at the realization — and thereby hits on two age-old saws about humor: 1) It's funny because it's true and 2) We laugh in order to keep from crying.

From the typically self-deprecating intro, he segues into tried-and-oh-so-true riffs about grim realities like Yom Kippur, candy corn, Dr. Phil, airport security and Michael Jackson. For newbies, the jokes are still fresh; for Blackheads, it's like Dylan reinterpreting "Hard Rain." The fatuous notion that homosexuality will bring down the Republic is another perennial Blackian theme; this time he details a vision of "gay banditos" who systematically invade people's homes and commit buggery, hopelessly corrupting Americans one family at a time. Throughout, Mt. Black erupts with vast quantities of molten bile — FEMA, George Bush, and even the passage of time get flambéed in spectacular fashion — but it isn't until the very end of the show that something kind of amazing happens.

Carnegie Hall Performance

Lewis Black

Black begins musing on Terry Schiavo. "The most important question we have: what is dead, what is alive… Because that's the basic question. And we fuckin' refuse to deal with it. And I'm sick of it." He continues ranting for a while and then pauses, gathering energy for one last blast. "I will tell you something I know. Frozen embryos? Guess what? They're not alive. At all! They're frozen! They're frozen! They're frozen! They're frozen! They're frozen! THEY! ARE FROZEN!" He screams homicidally as if no one else is in the room; in fact, he's screamed himself hoarse. The audience laughs nervously while Black pauses for a good twenty seconds. At last, he chortles to himself. "Hm…" he says with a mixture of surprise and pleasure, as if he's accidently tasted a heavenly elixir, and then is momentarily tongue-tied, incoherent from what has just happened. "I saw a blue sky in my head for a minute," he finally says, softly. "And I almost laid down in the grass."

Anything else after that (literally) transcendent moment would be anticlimactic, but Black does close with something almost equally illuminating. He ventures that the only way to intimidate the terrorists would be to do something truly crazy — like elect a dead man as president. "The only way you beat anyone that is truly psychotic," he explains, "is you have to be more psychotic." And right there, Black has offered us his entire m.o. in a nutshell. It may not work, really, but it sure makes him (and us) feel better — for a blessed minute.