Interview with Lewis Black
Posted on 02/20/2019
Lewis Black, Grammy Award®-winning stand-up comedian, actor, and author returns to State Theatre New Jersey on March 7! He joins us to chat about his new tour, The Joke's on US Tour, and how comedy had changed over the time he's been performing.
READ THE TRANSCRIBED INTERVIEW BELOW
with Bert and Kelly from All Access and special guest Lewis Black.
Bert: Welcome back to All Access with State Theatre New Jersey. And I hope you’ve got your calendar marked for the evening of Thursday, March 7th at 8pm. Kel, one of the great comedians is gonna be coming back to the State Theatre stage. It is always so exciting when this guy comes back to New Brunswick. Would you like to introduce this guy who is standing by on the phone right now?
Kelly: I will. I am very happy to. He is a State Theatre favorite, for sure. Been to the State Theatre multiple times and we’re always happy to have him back. But, with us today is Lewis Black. Welcome Lewis.
Lewis: Hello, there.
Kelly: So, Lewis, The Joke’s on US Tour. I gotta say what a fitting title because I think every day I think, “You know what? The joke’s on us.” And so—
Lewis: It is.
Kelly: I really think this is something—this is your year for sure.
Lewis: Well, I don’t know what my job is anymore, you know? Really, by the time…by the time I get on stage, the satire’s been written.
Bert: Somebody beat you to the punchline sometimes, I guess, right?
Lewis: Well, they always do. I mean, you know, if it’s not one thing, it’s another and if it’s not me, it’s the audience that has already talked about it all day and went, “What? Are you kidding me?” And then it’s people trying to remember what happened two days ago.
Bert: Yeah, the cycle is that quickly. But, you know what, what people say, Lewis, about it is one thing. I care about what Lewis Black has to say about the state affairs around me. That’s what I’m interested in and that’s what I wanna hear from you that night.
Lewis: Well, thank you.
Kelly: So I mean, I guess you got a point there. I mean, I guess it’s like we’ve talked ourselves silly out of this ridiculousness that happens from day to day in the ever-changing current climate. I know comedians, you know, there’s definitely a difference in how you perform in some states versus others.
Lewis: Yeah. No, there is a slight difference. But really, very little. I mean, I basically do the same thing everywhere. I mean, I basically try to just let folks know, you know, here’s what’s coming. I actually don’t talk about it, about him that much. What I really talk about is other things that I think are products of him, you know, in the way we are.
Kelly: Fair enough, fair enough.
Lewis: What’s important is how we’re getting screwed! On the daily basis. He’s not just the one screwing us. You got a whole group of people in Congress. You got no adults in the room. That’s what I talk about. You know, there are no adults anywhere. Nobody says, “There’s a group of people meeting. He lays out the history of Afghanistan, as if he knows it. It’s not the history of Afghanistan.” There’s six people there with Ive League degrees. None of them say, “Hey, that’s not the history of Afghanistan!”
Kelly: Yeah. It’s pretty crazy.
Lewis: It’s unbelievable.
Bert: Maybe it’s just job security, Lewis. If you speak out, you know you’re the next guy at the press conference being shown the door, you know? Maybe that’s part of it.
Lewis: I’m not gonna be…the last place I’m ever gonna be is at one of his press conferences. I would’ve dealt with him. I lived with him in, you know, I lived in New York City so, and you all know living in New Jersey, he’s been in our face forever. We’ve spent 40 years with him being a neighbor, for all intents and purposes. When I first came here and was starting as a comedian, along with really trying to write plays and stuff—which is really what I was doing but I was doing comedy on the side—he was the first guy I started doing jokes about. As a personality in New York City, I thought, “This guy is funny.” And I did all the jokes and I have to say, 40 years later, I’m exhausted. I don’t wanna do jokes about him.
Kelly: I hear you.
Lewis: I talk about my parents, who are now 101 and 100.
Lewis: I talk about trying to take care of them and what that entails. And the fact that nobody’s really ready for the fact that people are gonna be getting older and older and who’s gonna take care of you? While the people, you know, my audience, who might be in their late fifties and early sixties, have no clue their parents are living way, way longer so that the money that they put aside for their life after when they were gonna retire now goes to trying to help their parents, who’s gonna help them? Their shmuck in the basement who’s living on the couch? Screaming, you know, I’m not coming up until you buy me chocolate milk? So, I mean, I talk about that, I talk about…I’ve actually had healthcare in Ireland, I talk about that. Cause nobody… everybody says they know about, you know, they all say, “Oh, boy, I wouldn’t wanna have that kind of medicine.” Well, I did! And here’s what’s really weird. Their equipment is eerily similar to Howard’s. One would’ve thought I was gonna get a chest x-ray that they would just take out an Etch a Sketch, from what I heard, to put it on my chest.
Kelly: Well, Lewis, one of the things that you kind of added to your show in the last couple years is this kind of live aspect where you take questions that have been submitted, and you go through them, and you, you know, you reply to some of them and you pick one and you go with it. How has that changed your, from show to show, how has that changed? And do you find that it just brings out the, you know, things that maybe you weren’t thinking about talking about? Like, have you found it to be a great addition or?
Lewis: I think it’s been…well, I mean, I’ve done…what’s really amazing is it goes throughout the world. I’m gonna be in New Brunswick, New Jersey, standing on a stage, standing on a stage at the State Theatre. And I’m gonna be talking to people throughout the world, everywhere.
Lewis: And that’s pretty remarkable.
Bert: That’s, that’s exactly how it works.
Lewis: And, and most of what I read will be written by the people of New Jersey and a lot of what will be read will be by the people who are in the audience that night.
Lewis: And a lot of it is their…what they’re upset about. So people who live in New Jersey, you know, should write in me and just start sending their rants to me cause I read a lot of their rants. A lot of people, apparently, are upset about pickles; I’ll just tell you that.
Bert: Okay. Alright, listen, you asked from Jersey to write you a rant, Lewis. It’s gonna be a long day. It’s gonna be a lot of stuff coming your way that maybe you didn’t think about.
Lewis: Well, that’s why I love playing New Jersey.
Bert: That’s why we love having you.
Lewis: If I could play just New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Boston in New England, and Massachusetts, that’s like the epicenter of bitter. It’s phenomenal.
Kelly: So, Lewis, a lot of people got to know you back when you were on the Daily Show . And I was actually watching some footage of you recently with Trevor Noah and you were reading things…you were responding for people’s roommates, like, things they wanted to say that their roommates…or things that roommates did and I just found that interesting cause I would love, there are some people that I would love for you to respond for me and tell them how I feel because that would be amazing. That could be a full-time gig for you.
Lewis: Yeah, it could be. The biggest selling thing that I’ve ever come—we’ve ever come up with cause I do this—we do merch and lot of the merch that I do, a lot of the merch that I sell, the money really goes to creating a couple of jobs for folks that I know and also, it goes to charity. The top seller is this bobble head that I have that basically it’s a swearing bobble head. So it’s me screaming about five, and six, seven different things that it’s screaming that I can’t really yell out now. And I’m also gonna be coming out with, which I also think would go well with you, if you don’t like your boss, I mean, I have a card for your boss telling the boss or coworker what you think or your roommate. So you open it up and you’ll hear me screaming.
Bert: Oh, I like it, I like it. It’s been a couple years but we are so excited to be welcoming Lewis Black back to State Theatre on Thursday, March 7th 8pm. Get your tickets. Get your friends there. STNJ.org. Your show, Lewis, is that first date material? If I wanna impress a young lady, do I bring her to see Lewis Black or not?
Lewis: Here’s…yes, you bring…what is it good for, which I said during the Valentine’s Day show I had, I’m the great date. If you both go there and you both laugh, you’re gonna get along really well. If one of you isn’t laughing, that’s the last date. This isn’t gonna work out. And I’ve had people who their first dates, a number of them, they came to see me on their first date, they both really liked what I was yelling and screaming about, and they’ve been married for years now.
Bert: See, a Lewis Black success story. I love it.
Lewis: It really is.
Kelly: Nice. And, Lewis, so when you come to New Brunswick, you perform at the State Theatre, it’s like, you’re just, like, you just show up and you’re around town and people see you, you know, down the street at Dunkin’ Donuts and it’s like you know this place. This is, like, one of your hometowns. Do you like performing at the State Theatre? You have to because it’s like it’s right here, you know it, you spent some time with George Street Playhouse, and so New Brunswick is kind of like a second home to you.
Lewis: It is. I mean, I spend a lot of time there cause we did that play there a few years ago and that’s a great little theater. And I spend a lot of time wondering around the streets. And the nice about New Brunswick, I mean, I’ve been coming to New Brunswick since my friend, Vinnie Brand, ran and still does run the Stress Factory, which is one of these clubs that really evolved into a great club and I was lucky enough to play it and I learned a lot playing it there. Learned a lot about what I was doing and how to handle and audience cause those crowds that came in, they were crazy! And so, what’s amazing is to watch the evolution of New Brunswick, which is really just gotten to be a more incredible place. You know, it’s just really become a really interesting town, it’s taken on a life of its own, and it’s got some great places to eat, and it’s got some old school places that, you know, have survived, which is always great as opposed to some shmuck bringing in some franchise idiot, you know, another Applebee’s.
Bert: Yeah. So it makes the city great. And I’m sure one of the first things you learned from Vinnie was two drink minimum, one of them can’t be water, right?
Bert: But you mentioned that show there that was at George Street Playhouse, it was set in the 80s, it was a hysterical. Do you like writing stuff for other people, material for other people, Lewis? Do you like that?
Lewis: Yeah, I did. I mean I wrote, I used to be a, you know, I wanted to be a playwright so I really loved doing it. And they finally got that play done so that they, now that it’s published, they do it around the country and I have a bunch of one acts that I wrote that they published and those are being done, finally. Yeah, no, I do like it. Actually, I’m going back and writing, I wrote a book called I’m Dreaming of a Black Christmas and I’m gonna be writing that as a one man show. I’m gonna take that and revamp it cause it already is kind of a one man show so I’m just gonna bring it to the stage.
Kelly: Nice. And that was, I was actually gonna ask you, what’s next on the horizon for Lewis Black? What else do you have coming up in the near future?
Lewis: Well, hopefully we’re going to, I’m meeting with my friends next week. We’re trying to do a travel show. And since I’ve traveled way more than anybody should’ve of and so I went to, I’ve been to places that I find really that people wouldn’t think to go to that are really great that you wouldn’t go, “Really?” Cause my friends go, “Why you going there?” You know, “Why you going to Huntsville, Alabama?” “It’s great.” “No, it’s not.” “Yeah, it is.” So I kind of, I’m working with a friend of mine who was the executive producer of the Ozzy Osbourne Show, which was really the beginning of all the madness of these kinds of shows. But he really did it, they didn’t make anything up. Jeff really put the show together. I work with Jeff a lot and we did a shoot down in Huntsville and we’re gonna see if we can possibly get that going. You know, to do like six or eight episodes and I’m hoping that’s what happens next.
Bert: A road trip with Lewis Black, sign me up in a second for that. We’ll see you in New Brunswick Thursday, March 7th, 8pm. Get your tickets and come on out for a night of just laughs and a great time with the amazing Lewis Black. Again, it’s The Joke’s on Us Tour, State Theatre New Jersey on Thursday, March 7th, 8pm. STNJ.org for tickets and info. Lewis, always a pleasure, always great catching up with you, my man. We’ll see you in New Brunswick March 7th. And thanks again, alright?
Lewis: Thank you very, very much. I really appreciate the time. It’s always a pleasure to talk to you guys.