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Kinder Gentler American 

Lewis Black

click to enlarge lewis_gallery200_1_.jpg

Blah blah blah with all the change and the yes we cans. I worry that we'll have a better America that's so "better?VbCrLf that comedians like Lewis Black will have no further fuel for the potbelly stoves of their anger. Maybe we'll have better health care and tidier wars, but will America be funny? This I worry about.

Apparently Lewis Black doesn't. The comedian who's launched his rants across all the major media, from his "Back in Black?VbCrLf segments on "The Daily Show?VbCrLf onward, has weathered enough trauma to the American psyche that he's confident he can find a tirade in the next season of America.

When Black talks, it's a lot like making gazpacho in a blender: You get a lot of noise, and every now and then, if the lid's not on it, it explodes all over. These overflows are the key to his genius and success. He takes in events (whether they're about politics or, say, frog gigging), filters them through his anger and generates humor.

Still, he's optimistic about the way things are going, even though a candidate like Barack Obama sort of gets to him, "'cause hope makes me sick.?VbCrLf This is big, even for Black. Hope? Really?

"Well I'm almost 60, and hope's passed me by,?VbCrLf he says. "It's fun for the kids, but hope to me is, hope is like ?~Gee, I hope the hotel has a breakfast buffet in Richmond.'?VbCrLf

He'll find out when he comes through on his tour, "Let Them Eat Cake.?VbCrLf This particular gauntlet of touring ends with the filming of another Comedy Central special.

"Then they'll be some more, 'cause the tour never really ends. We just change the titles,?VbCrLf he says. "Just so you know. I've never stopped touring.?VbCrLf

Which may be why he does all his writing on the fly. "I write totally onstage. I don't write anything down.?VbCrLf Black figures about 20 percent of what comes out a night is stuff he's working on.

It's a pretty good indication of how busy he is. His explosive gazpacho energy is clearly what separates him from the average misanthrope or, perhaps, that mumbling guy in the park. It's what gives him the wherewithal to go on a USO tour last year, win a Grammy for a comedy album, appear on the Weather Channel to show the weather people how it's done, lend his voice to a few different Cartoon Network shows and host "History of the Joke,?VbCrLf a documentary on The History Channel. Maybe it's not surprising that he does a lot of sitting in his current show on Comedy Central, "Root of All Evil.?VbCrLf

The show's set up like a trial, in which two comedians argue over the worse of two concepts (Oprah or the Catholic Church, for example). Black presides as judge. The first eight episodes of the first season were hit-or-miss.

"By the time I was relaxed, we were done,?VbCrLf he says. "We were still trying to figure out what the fucking show was.?VbCrLf But the show did well enough to earn a second season (starting July 30), with themes like NRA vs. PETA, Disney vs. Scientology, boob jobs vs. steroids.

All this multimedia living keeps Black from his New York home, where he recently bought his first actual place. "I never see it,?VbCrLf he says, "so I'm able to travel the country so that my friends can enjoy my terrace.?VbCrLf

He's also managing to pack a new book into this terraceless whirlwind, "Me of Little Faith.?VbCrLf It's a follow-up to his first book, "Nothing's Sacred.?VbCrLf That book, he says, "was kind of like for people my age who lived through that period and for 14-year-olds to know that you may think you're crazy now, but you're gonna be fine.?VbCrLf

"Me of Little Faith?VbCrLf is his take on religion. "It's basically written for people who are stumbling toward the light.?VbCrLf

Which sounds a lot like hope to me.

"Well, not hope,?VbCrLf he says. "There's another word. I gotta go online to find it.?VbCrLf

It's become clear that Black, for all his gazpacho, is pretty happy, regardless of where America's head is. You don't spend so much time out in the world if you don't get a kick out of it. And if America does want to try to get better, it'll have to go through Black.

"I mean, if I didn't feel I was still growing on that stage, I'd walk away,?VbCrLf he says. "That's it -- and I can go sit on my terrace.?VbCrLf

Lewis Black's "Let Them Eat Cake?VbCrLf tour comes to the Landmark Theater Thursday, July 31, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $55.50-$65.50. Call 646-4213 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.
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