Grammy nominee Lewis Black is “still learning” comedy

LOS ANGELES – Lewis Black is honored for his sixth Grammy nomination for best comedy album, but withdrew from the Las Vegas ceremony on Sunday. Instead, he will be at a New York theater as part of his national tour “Off the Rails.”

A two-time Grammy winner, Black has spoken about the world and people for five decades and has been a major component of The Central Show’s The Daily Show since 1996. So what keeps him going?

“Stupidity,” he replies. But seriously, people – steadfast comedians like Black, are heartbroken – he has a reason: “What drives me is that I’m still learning.”

His latest Grammy nomination is for “Thank You for Dangering Your Life,” which was recorded at a concert on the eve of the closure of COVID-19 in March 2020. There’s a special accompanying video in which, among other topics, Black commits a two-day free transfer as a source of happiness and points to his comedic roots: mother Jeannette, who is 103, and father Sam, who died in 2019 at the age of 101. died.

Black, 73, is also a playwright – theater is his first love, and he holds a master’s degree from the Yale School of Drama – an actor, best-selling author and trainer of aspiring comedians at the University of North Carolina’s Alma-Ata University, where he won a bachelor’s degree.

In an interview with the Associated Press last week, he discussed the humor when the speech is scrutinized; a performance on the eve of a pandemic and the study of the lessons of Joseph Heller’s comic novel “Lloyd-22”. Notes were edited for length and clarity.

AP: When you’re on stage, do you find it difficult for others to get in trouble for what you say?

Black: Only in interviews. If edited incorrectly, it can be read incorrectly and someone will be offended. When I’m on stage, I don’t go out and think I have to say something that should be considered a line crossing. Maybe I offend people, but I don’t mind them.

AP: Why did you decide to continue your first March 2020 concert at a Michigan casino when so much was unknown about COVID-19?

Black: I knew (the fan) hadn’t reached the fan base yet, but we were close to it. It was like a stupid photographer standing there when the sky turned to ashes and said, “The storm is coming.” I felt the same way. I thought, “Wow, maybe I’m putting these people (in danger).” But there were already 1,500 people there and they were shoulder to shoulder in the casino. reached the stage.

AP: At the concert, you talk about celebrating your parents ’first birthday and their wisdom, including your mother saying,“ I crossed the finish line. I have to be done. ”Does your humor reflect theirs?

Black: My mother was more sarcastic. My dad knew there was a line that you could get if you wanted to keep your audience. If you want to entertain them, you won’t cross this line. My dad is the one who told me when I was 13 or 14 to read Kach-22.

AP: Because he thought you could appreciate it?

Black: He was reading a book, laughing, and I never laughed at him out loud. Did I say I should read it? She said it tells you how to work with the office, it basically gives you an idea of ​​what to expect in life.

AP: You were a playwright during the Lower West Coast Cafe Theater in New York in the 1980s, and collaborated with, among others, future Oscar-winning screenwriters Aaron Sorkin and Alan Ball. It seems like an amazing experience.

Black: It was great. It was as helpful as anything I’ve done so far. If people in New York were paying attention to what we were doing, I probably would. When we got there, the situation was difficult, there were not many places for young writers and artists to raise their things. And we offered that opportunity. It wasn’t like you had to go to Yale or something. It was as if someone knew someone and they were really good.

AP: You described a disappointing experience in which you had a musical play that you wrote at the same time and a production by a regional theater that took you to the comedy. You did stand-up in college, but how did you turn it into a career?

Black: I was open for each of our performances (at the Lower Theater Bar). And then on Saturday nights we did a free show where I stood and then I went on a tour of the city to catch the Rising Star and a number of other clubs. The cast (in Rising Star) was me, Kevin Mini, Mario Canton. These are the guys I’ve worked with in general and it was great because I learned something from each of them. I went through a comic that never worked in a club and now I had to take everything I did on stage to make it work in the club. Dennis Leary was a little addicted to smoking and it was amazing. A little bit about smoking was one (insulting). So, I smoked a little.

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