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Anger management is not this guy's style

Playing such temples of respectability as Carnegie Hall and Disney Hall hasn't made Lewis Black any mellower.

August 16, 2007|Charlie Amter | Times Staff Writer

DESPITE a string of recent sold-out shows and two recent Emmy nominations for his last HBO special, Lewis Black still has plenty to be angry about.

"I don't think anything has changed, from the standpoint of things that got me angry before continue to get me angry today," he says via phone from Manhattan.

For example, Black hates Dulles International Airport. "It was complete chaos," he says with his trademark incredulous rage of a particularly nightmarish layover at the Virginia airport. "I came out of the plane, and I realized there was going to be no help from these people. I felt as if I might as well have been in Kurdistan, because [the airline staffers] were speaking my language, but it was incomprehensible."

Luckily for Black, his more recent travels have been smooth. Currently in the middle of a 30-plus-city tour, the sarcastic funnyman is hitting venues only a handful of other comedians working today could dream of playing. The 58-year-old, who has sold out such venerable theaters as Carnegie Hall and the Brooks Atkinson Theater in N.Y., performs tonight at Disney Hall -- the first comedian to play the venue.

But just because Black has achieved a level of success that allows him to perform in world-class concert halls doesn't mean his material is any less blue than when he started refining his angry-man act nearly 20 years ago. According to Black, salty language becomes more pungent when delivered in an architecturally significant building.

"The nice thing about venues like the Disney is that the acoustics are perfect for an F-bomb," Black says with a laugh. In his Emmy-nominated 2006 HBO special "Red, White & Screwed," Black begins his set by revealing that the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C., was actually his second choice for taping the special. "Originally we were going to perform at the Kennedy Center," he said. But someone at the Kennedy apparently called HBO to cancel Black after they realized he dropped the F-word some 42 times (the actual number may be closer to 70) during his previous HBO special "Black on Broadway."

For Black, using curse words for emphasis is nothing short of integral to his comedic persona. Playing the part of the frustrated Everyman has served Black well -- especially during the Bush administration.

The comic, who is probably best known for his "Back in Black" segments on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" (his next segment airs Wednesday and he hopes "Back in Black" will go bimonthly this fall), articulates the rage felt by many Democrats at some of the president's more perplexing policy decisions.

But part of Black's success stems from his ability to skewer both parties equally. He saves some of his best barbs for the Democrats -- railing against John Kerry and other key Democrats in his set. And you can be sure the bespectacled comic will have some choice words about the current crop of presidential candidates at his show tonight, including Hillary Clinton.

"She is so detached from what appears to be her emotional center, it's spectacular," he says. "I mean, you never see her . . . she can't be like that at home!"

Though Black's material tends to eventually drift into politics, don't look for him to become a commentator on MSNBC or Fox News any time soon. "I have no desire to be anything but a comic," he says. "I'm not an expert. . . . I'm a b.s. artist."

Even so, Black has done well for himself. Last year, the self-deprecating comic appeared in three films ("Apparently my movie career is over," Black jokes about his 2007 release schedule) and has a yet-to-be-titled book on religion due to hit stores in May.

"Writing a book on religion at this point should be a career-ender," Black says with a sigh. His fans know better.



Lewis Black

Where: Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., L.A.

When: 8 tonight

Price: $45.50 to $75.50

Info: (323) 850-2000,

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