Those who know Lewis Black only from his "Back in Black" harangues would do well to sample one of his full-length albums. For the uninitiated, Black is a 50-something former playwright who in the past decade has emerged as a wildly popular road comic; in "Back in Black," his recurring gig on Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, he screams his way through a eyeball-popping, pox-on-all-houses retelling of the day's news. Considering how Rules of Enragement was recorded in mid-2003, Daily Show fans will be unsurprised to hear vituperation against the Bush administration ("a crackerjack group of fuckers") and executives in the then-recent corporate scandals ("the greediest people who have ever lived on the planet").
But unlike on his televised bits, Black has space here to show his range more; the outrage (and the screaming) punctuates longer thoughts, so they seem less affected and more earned. While his long bit on the Iraq war is rambling and weak, the bit on corporate scandals ("Greed") is genius; referring to Enron, Adelphia and Tyco, Black proposes a new law: "If you have a company and it can't explain, in one sentence, what it does… it's illegal." Much of the non-political material on the album is also great — make sure not to miss the opening tracks on Minnesota, and particularly the long track on "Ireland and Health." The former, he notes, "did something no other culture has done," namely "brought together religion and alcohol"; on the latter, he points out that "there's no such thing as soy milk" — because there's no "soy tit."