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Politics is a perennial topic for the comedian, who’s coming to Roanoke.
Courtesy of Clay Patrick McBride | 2010
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Roanoke made the national spotlight last presidential election season during the “you didn’t build that” kerfluffle. A segment of President Barack Obama’s July 2012 speech in front of the city’s historic Firehouse No. 1 became a political advertising volleyball .
Comedian Lewis Black, who had performed in town the previous April, took to “The Daily Show” that month, using the speech and its fallout to launch a segment about the shallowness and dishonesty of political ads and rhetoric.
“If you are watching these ads and wondering, are they allowed to lie? Here is a tip: Yes!” Black hollered to a cable television audience.
It used to be that such battles only happened every four years. But in the 24/7 news cycle, it seems that someone or another is already positioning for a presidential run, and there are plenty of televised talking heads to discuss it.
For a comic, it’s steady fodder for material. But that doesn’t make it easy to digest, said Black, who returns on Saturday to Roanoke Performing Arts Theatre.
“On a personal level, it makes me crazy that everybody’s running [for office] all the time,” Black said in a phone call last week from his home in Chapel Hill, N.C. “In all levels, they never stop running. They don’t govern any more. They run.
“We elected you. Go do something. Well, I don’t really want to f--- things up by doing things. I don’t want to f--- our relationship up. I’d like you to have a concept of what I could do if I could do it, but as you can see, those other people have my hands tied.”
The Roanoke tour stop is part of a schedule that Black said “never ends.” If he is not doing live shows, he is working toward a televised special. If he is not doing that, he is working in television and movies — Black gets a lot of voice work for animated shows, including the Pixar film “Inside Out,” due in 2015.
And of course, he is writing material.
Politics is a perennial topic for Black, who grew up on the Maryland side of Washington and has spit hilarious invective across the political spectrum. Black, 65, realizes that many people his age are running things now. And the “frustrated optimist” is not happy with how they are doing.
“When I really look at the way the basic checks and balances work, and how would people my age not get it?” he said. “This is about compromise. Everything else is nonsense. Push the envelope all you want, but in the end, you’ve gotta sit down with the other person on the other side and figure out what it is that you get and they get and move the f--- on.”
As Black talks, he turns to several mental illnesses in an attempt to describe the American public of late. Black thinks that America has gone “schizophrenic.”
“It’s Puritan versus hedonist,” he said. “Let’s go to war. No, we have to be peaceful. It’s like one thing after another. Is it the individual that’s most important? Nope, it’s the group that’s most important. ”
It’s not bad enough that wars and rumors of wars dominate headlines. One can barely wander around without a cellphone distraction. And that brings up another possible diagnosis — and another.
“It’s hard to focus us,” he said. “In the end, we’re ultimately kind of knocked out on ADD.”
And the Ritalin prescriptions are going into the wrong bodies.
“We’re giving it to children, and adults are the ones who desperately need it,” he said. “I did Ritalin once, and it’s spectacular. And I don’t think giving it to children” is the way to go. “They don’t allow adults to smoke pot. I mean, everything that’s going on is mildly psychotic.”
Some recent pop culture news has centered on comedians and their heckling audiences. Dave Chappelle, working on a comeback, has recently stopped shows when audiences declined to shut up and be entertained. Black said he gets very little of that, and he considers himself lucky.
“People who come to see me know what they’re going to get,” he said. “If they see me twice at the same place, you might hear 10 minutes ... of something that I did before, and I’ve reframed it in another fashion, because you keep trying to get it closer to what it is you’re trying to say, and funnier.
“I think people, in a sense, come to watch me think on stage, in part. And hopefully, when I’m thinking, I’m funny.”
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