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Lewis Black

  • Orpheum 216 State Street Madison, WI, 53703 United States (map)

The ever-pissed-off comedian offers perspective and deflates hypocrisies. Info/tix

Photo by Sean Gallagher.

Photo by Sean Gallagher.

Many mistake Lewis Black for a cartoon character, or a guy pretending to be as angry as he is onstage. But the truth is that Black hearkens back to the biting satirical comedy of George Carlin and Bill Hicks, understanding that it's okay to talk about really depressing shit that affects us all so long as you are really fucking funny—and don't go for the obvious joke. While his acidic wrath is understandably a turn-off for many, his live act isn't all doom and gloom. On 2012's In God We Rust, he lays into Valentine's Day—not for its commercial crassness, but for the poor planning that went into having it on February. His most recent, 2017's Black To The Future, has no shortage of political material, with bits on Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton, Ben Carson, the Affordable Care Act, and, of course, Trump, but everyday idiocy still remains a healthy target in his jokes about overzealous pet lovers and, uh, the wisdom of bears.

Acerbic, self-aware, and able to take equal-opportunity shots at the futility of violent anger, Black is an interesting animal. Since his comedy is so emotionally driven, he has been known to go on tirades that are either self-serving or so esoteric—or rote, for that matter—that he seems to not care whether everyone else in the room is with him. Some strange, but true, examples include Black groaning about golfer foibles or people who spend too much money on clothes for their pets. (Pets come up a lot.) Regardless of where Black is going on any given night, rest assured that he is tapping into something real and deeply felt.

Although for most he's synonymous with Jon Stewart's The Daily Show, Black had been and continues to make regular appearances both in the Craig Kilborn era (starting in the mid-'90s, if you can believe it) and in the Trevor Noah era (starting in 2015, if you can believe it) with his "Back in Black" segment. These appearances compress Black's simmering stage persona into a breakneck, hunched-over rant about something in the news, which these days includes being baffled at people's outrage at how much Donald Trump golfs and running down the absurd lengths schools are forced to go to in preventing shootings without government intervention on the Second Amendment. In an age when it's easier than ever to panic and jump to sweeping, reductive conclusions about the world and where it's headed, Black's way of processing the madness is as essential as ever. —David Wolinsky

Earlier Event: November 29
Film-Makers' Cooperative: New Work 2018
Later Event: November 30
The Vanishing (free)