Gee, where to begin? Lewis Black is best known as a loud, abrasive stand-up comic. He has No Indoor Voice. While the bulk of his work is based around political humor, including a recurring "Back in Black" segment on The Daily Show, he's also known for his angry observational humor. (Those shaking fingers? That's not palsy, he's just really really pissed.) He had a high profile role in the film Accepted, and has appeared in a number of other films and television shows, including a guest spot on (where else?) Law & Order: SVU.In 2008, he got his own show on Comedy Central, Root Of All Evil. While he takes a back seat to the episodes' guest comics, he still inserts his trademark angry rants. A number of his acts include bits of Self-Deprecation, about himself and his fellow Jewish people, sometimes edging on J Word Privileges.And of course, Lewis Black is king of the Cluster F-Bomb, using, in his own words, the word "fuck" like a comma.
Lewis: There are people who believe that humans and dinosaurs co-existed, that they roamed the Earth at the same time. There are museums that children go to, in which they build dioramas to show them this. And what this is, purely and simply, is a clinical psychotic reaction. They are crazy. They are stone-cold-fuck nuts. I can't be kind about this, because these people are watching The Flintstones as if it were a documentary.
Lewis: I happened to have a spoon handy, and I shoved it up my ass. You might be wondering why: To distract myself from the pain. Because if I'm going to hurt that much, I'm going to do it to myself.
He also mentioned this in "Black on Broadway" when discussing how uncomfortable it is riding on an airplane for fourteen hours:
Lewis: What they should do, I think, just take all the coach seats out of the planes, and give everybody a five-foot stick. That way, you can sit wherever you want. You just take it, shove it up your ass, spin around. When you get bored, then after twelve hours, you can just beat the shit out of each other.
In a third joke about this, he says it's the only practical use for a dreidel.
Beat: In the "Red, White, and Screwed" special, Lewis talked about the Old Testament, and how that book apparently wasn't good enough for Christians (who also have the New Testament). His sentence features a long beat, though in fairness largely due to the audience reaction:
Lewis: But that book, wasn't good enough, for you Christians... (audience laughs/applauds) ..........Was it?? (audience laughs again)
Berserk Button: Occurs in every special. Some are more intense than others. A particularly memorable one was in "Red, White & Screwed" when he derided the people who claimed George W. Bush was "involved" in Hurricane Katrina.
Lewis: YOU JUST CAN'T FUCKING SAY THAT! YOU CAN'T! YOU CAN'T! And it's just- and there HAS to come a point, where Republicans and Democrats, where we see a piece of footage and we just agree on what the fuck reality is! And the fact is- (audience applauds) You can't show footage of a Land Rover running over a cat and then say the cat was trying to kill itself.
Black Comedy: Frequently used in his specials. In "Black on Broadway", he told anyone who was thinking of traveling to New Zealand in coach to kill themselves.
Blatant Lies: In the "Red, White, and Screwed" special, he didn't believe the universe was created in seven days, claiming that the Jews (who wrote the Bible) are good at bullshit:
Lewis: This was a wonderful story told to the people in the desert, to distract them from the fact that they didn't have air conditioning.
In "Black on Broadway", Lewis is annoyed that the Small Pox vaccine eventually wore off over time:
Lewis: I can't believe it wore off and they didn't tell us, because that means my whole life has been a delusion. Because every day, I'd wake up, and I'd go, "Well, it's gonna suck today, BUT AT LEAST I'M NOT GETTIN' SMALL POX!"
Bowdlerize: One of his routines is about how frustrating it was that he wasn't allowed to swear when he did the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner.
At least the first half of his Madness Mantra, "If it wasn't for my horse, I wouldn't have spent that year at college" tends to pop up again later in his act at the end of a different, unrelated story.
After ranting about the cold, he switches to explaining how the economy could be improved by a public works project. His suggestion: a wall across the entire border of Canada. "Because that's where the cold air comes from!"
Broken Record: In "Red, White & Screwed", he mentioned all the movers and shakers at the White House Correspondent's Dinner (where he did his act), which included "lobbyists, lobbyists, lobbyists, lobbyists, lobbyists, lobbyists..."
Brown Note: "If it weren't for my horse, I wouldn't have spent that year in college." Thinking about that sentence for more than three minutes will cause your brain to violently shut down or blood to shoot out your nose.
Lewis: What they played was not music. What you heard was the sound of chaos. I know that sounds strange, but it's true. Because I could hear the sounds of pigs being slaughtered! And women were weeping, and men were gnashing their teeth! I heard sounds that were so horrible, if I were to repeat them to you, you would flee from this room in horror!
Call Back: In the second Comedy Central Presents special, Lewis said that 2000 was the worst New Year's ever, because everyone was convinced Y2K would destroy the world: "Don't go outside! We don't know what's gonna happen! We don't know! There could be giant ticks everywhere!" Later, in "Black on Broadway", he mentioned the "giant ticks" again in relation to Tom Ridge talking about the terror alert levels soon after 9/11.
Cluster F-Bomb: "I don't know if you realize, but I use the word "Fuck," so that I can think of other stuff."
"Say FUCK! Say FUCK! *To the tune of Jingle Bells* Fuck fuck fuck! Fuck fuck fuck! Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck! Don't say fuck! He said fuck! You can say fuck too!"
If you ask him, it's environmental: "I'll tell ya, in New York City where I've lived far too long, 'fuck' isn't even a word, it's a comma."
According to one of his routines, it kept him from being allowed to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. because someone had bothered to count the usage of the word 'fuck' in his act and determined that forty-two was too many. So he performed at the Warner Theater instead, which "has an eighty 'fuck' limit."
While performing at Carnegie Hall: "I'm only allowed to say 'fuck' twelve times." He ends up using the word and its variants around 75 times over two hours.
Crappy Holidays: In his third Comedy Central special, he had a whole section on how he's disgusted at the amount of time the Christmas season gets every year, starting as early as Halloween. Nevertheless, he wanted to celebrate it as a kid, because as a Jew, he got Hanukkah instead.
Lewis: First night you get socks. Second night, an eraser, a notebook. It's a Back-to-School holiday!
In the "Red, White & Screwed" special, he claimed humans were the idiots while primates are intelligent; while we humans built a concrete jungle for ourselves, and go to a monotonous 9-to-5 job, and in general deal with bills and all the idiocies of modern life, all primates have to worry about is "shitting and masturbating".
In "Black on Broadway":
Lewis: The second [rule of health] is: If you masturbate twenty times a day, you'll never make it out your front door. You might make it to the door, but when you squeeze the handle, you'll pass out. Let me just say that I did that experiment in my own lab wearing a white lab coat with a rectal thermometer in my pocket. Now, for women, my belief is it's probably thirty times a day, but I can't find a woman to come to my lab!
Deliberately Monochrome: He had a routine about how North Koreans are the most evil people on the planet. He knows this because whenever we get footage from that country, it's in black and white. "It's not the film. These people are so evil, they have no color."
Eagleland: Rails against the obnoxious "Greatest Country in the World" attitude with the following analogy: "If you were in an office, and there was someone there who came in everyday and said, 'I'M THE GREATEST FUCKER HERE AND ALL YOU SNIVELING SHITS WOULD DIE WITHOUT ME! AHAHA!' I can guarantee by the end of the week, you would have killed him. And eaten him...just to try to possess his power."
Fail O'Suckyname: One routine on The Carnegie Hall Performance talks about some of these Lew has heard before, including Asshole (pronounced uh-SHO-la), Shithead (sha-THAYD), and Abcde (AB-sa-day).
Fridge Logic: Invoked. During the "Black on Broadway" special, he pointed out the illogical '50s educational film strips about hiding under school desks to be "safe" from a nuclear bomb:
Lewis: ...And I'm sitting there thinking, the adults in the community have said that I could protect myself from A FIRE-FUCK-BALL by hiding under wood. I'm hiding under kindling. Maybe I can get some sticks so I can burn faster!
Played with in "Stark Raving Black" when discussing Barack Obama being elected:
Lewis: When President Obama was elected, I'll never forget the next day. Everyone everywhere said, "I can't believe this could possibly have ever happened in my lifetime," which made me wonder, who voted for him??
Good News, Bad News: Played with. In the first Comedy Central Presents special, he discussed the Monica Lewinsky scandal:
Lewis: It was announced that the president of the United States may, or may not, have had oral sex with a 21-year old in the White House, and that that, and now I'm quoting, "wasn't the bad news". (audience laughs) What was the bad news?? The bad news was, he might have made her lie. (sarcastically) Ooooooh.
He Also Did: Black is also an accomplished playwright, having written over forty of them. And not all of them are about things that piss him off.
Hearing Voices: In the first Comedy Central Presents special, he ranted about Bill Clinton's denial that he had sex with Monica Lewinsky:
Lewis: "Can you define the word "alone"?" HE'S GOTTA KNOW WHAT THE WORD "ALONE" MEANS, HE'S THE PRESIDENT! If he doesn't know what the word "alone" means, that must mean he thinks the voices in his head are other people.
Hope Spot: Lewis Black hates candy corn. Nevertheless, every year he tries it in the vain hope that it'll taste better. It never does.
Lewis: Candy corn! Corn, that tastes like candy! I can't wait! (eats it) SON OF A BITCH!!!
Hypocritical Humor: In "Stark Raving Black", Lewis told the audience, "And if you're on Twitter, fuck you." Kinda hypocritical, considering Lewis has a Twitter account of his own.
Lewis, on the tax code: If I wanted to be bored by 6,000 pages of unreadable dreck, I'd read War and Peace four times.
Interspecies Romance: In "Red, White & Screwed", he said that the Old Testament was designed to get the Jews to straighten up and fly right, because they were out of control:
Lewis: They needed to know that marriage takes place between a man and a woman, because they were wandering into camp with camels going, "I'm in love!" I don't give a fuck WHAT you are! You can't marry a snapping turtle, asshole!
Is Nothing Sacred?: Lewis's first book is a largely autobiographical work entitled Nothing's Sacred.
J Word Privileges: He takes full advantage of his ability to mock Judaism. "If you have any questions about the Old Testament, there are Jews who walk among you. And they, I promise you this, will take time out of their Jewy, Jewy day to answer any questions you may have... and we will do this if, of course, the price is right."
Los Angeles: Doesn't like the place. Has stories about how the first time he went, there was an earthquake, and about the time CBS flew him there to audition for a character derived from his stage persona.
—On H.R. 3687, intended to expand the definition of "profane broadcasts".
Mind Screw: The sight of a Starbucks coffee house across the street from another Starbucks coffee house did irreparable damage to his sanity.note Now you can too!
While that video is also a Mind Screw, the specific location he refers to is in Houston, Texas, down the street from where long-standing comedy club the Laff Stop used to be.
Also the "If it weren't for my horse..." quote noted earlier.
Misery Poker: Inverse example. In "Red, White & Screwed", Lewis read a true story about George W. Bush visiting soldiers who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, who were mostly amputees. Bush proceeded to tell the soldiers about how he had a "fight" with a tree. To quote Bush: "The tree won."
Lewis: To men who have lost their limbs, he is saying this. It's my firm belief, that if you're the president... you absolutely must know where you are in the time space continuum.
Mood Dissonance: Referenced; Lewis claims that one reason George W. Bush is nuts is because when he speaks, his words don't match his face:
Lewis: You can't talk about the war in Iraq with a smile on your face. He does it constantly. You have to- if you're the president, you have to say, "We're gonna talk about the war. I must have a frowny face." The only time he can have a smile when he's talking about the war in Iraq is when you go, "Well, two Iraqis walked into a bar..."
New York City: "I love New York City. The reason I live in New York City is because it's the loudest city on the planet Earth. It's so loud I never have to listen to any of the shit that's going on in my own head."
No Indoor Voice- Not just limited to speaking. As Jon Stewart pointed out, Black can somehow manage to yell in print form.
At the start of the "Black on Broadway" special, he steps on stage before the show and does the Is This Thing On?, without a microphone.
Noodle Incident: He claims to have overheard someone say "If it weren't for my horse, I would never have spent that year in college" in an IHOP, and to have been baffled, enraged, and driven to insanity. One of his rants tells of a long-winded story which ends with him repeating this phrase just before he passes out.
Only Sane Man: Most of his rants rail against the stupidity that the rest of the world seems to take for granted.
Orphaned Setup: A recurring bit in his specials, where he will simply say a name and he won't even have to deliver the joke because the audience laughs at the name. From "Red, White and Screwed":
Lewis: Dick Cheney. (audience laughs) ...And that's all I've gotta say. Isn't it great that we've reached that point? You don't even have to say, "Dick Cheney, the vice president who shot his friend in the face while hunting"; I say "Dick Cheney", everybody goes, "HO HO!", and we move on.
Lewis: Two guys walk into a bar... Michael Jackson.
Perfectly Cromulent Word: In "Black on Broadway", he had a bit about how he used to be able to drink water from the hose as a kid. He said he could do it whenever he felt "thirsty", NOT "hydrated" ("they fucking made that word up!").
Performance Anxiety: It's unknown if he actually gets this, but he made a joke about it at the start of one of his specials.
Lewis: You guys are... way too excited, and that puts a lot of pressure on me, and I don't respond well to pressure!!
Pet the Dog: If you read his books, there are many moments when he sincerely praises someone or something, in contrast to his default state of rage.
Lewis: I would love to have the faith to believe that it [creation] took place in seven days, but... I have thoughts. And that can really fuck up the "faith" thing; just ask any Catholic priest.
Running Gag: In the first Comedy Central Presents special, he brought up IHOP (International House of Pancakes) a few times: First as part of a main bit on how it's a favorite restaurant of his, then it's brought up again when he discussed his reaction to the president having an affair with Monica Lewinsky ("At that point, I went down to the International House of Pancakes..."), and it's brought up again when he says that he was stuck at home watching the president speaking to the UN due to the fact that IHOP is his health club, which screwed up his back.
Self-Deprecation: In the third Comedy Central Presents special, he said he watches the Super Bowl Halftime Show each year because he's an idiot.
Shaggy Dog Story: Flown to Los Angeles to audition to play himself, passed over for someone who the suits claimed gave a better audition, and then the show was never made anyway.
Speech Impediment: He tends to stutter and use the word "uh" a lot at the beginning of his shows before he gets warmed up.
Take That: Every special has at least someone or something:
Comedy Central Presents 1: Bill Clinton, specifically his affair with Monica Lewinsky
Comedy Central Presents 2: Al Gore, George W. Bush
Black on Broadway: George W. Bush, Bill Clinton (he declared both to be terrible leaders because neither took responsibility for anything)
Red, White & Screwed: Dick Cheney, specifically his infamous hunting accident; John Kerry; George W. Bush, specifically his lackluster response to Hurricane Katrina, but also his inappropriate remarks to an amputee'd soldier; Michael Brown, specifically his role as head of FEMA during Katrina; Rick Santorum, specifically his anti-gay remarks.
Stark Raving Black: Barack Obama (though being that this was early in his presidency, his criticisms were more reserved)
Lewis: And let me tell you, it will continue, no matter what has happened, because of the recent events, I will guarantee that it will continue to evolve the way it has evolved. The halftime show in ten years will literally be just planes flying over the stadium, and dropping shit on people, while an orchestra plays classical music.
In "Stark Raving Black", Lewis discusses fiber:
Lewis: I don't go near fiber. I had an oat muffin ten years ago, and I'm still shitting because of it.
In "Red, White & Screwed", he illustrates what it means to be a comic:
Lewis: My job as a comedian is to go into the audience and take the stick that is wedged firmly up each and every one of their asses, take it out ever so slowly, sniff it... I told you... place it back from whence it came, and then turn to them and go, "You're absolutely right. Your shit doesn't stink."
Verbal Tic: He often shakes his head and blubbers before delivering a punchline. One example, when discussing the Janet Jackson controversy and how many news anchors and analysts were saying the display was disgusting and vile:
Lewis: It's just a tit. And none of those adjectives, blrblrblrblr, really fuckin' apply.
Viva Las Vegas: "The best time to visit Las Vegas is during Christmastime, because nothing beats sitting around, watching people gamble, while they play Christmas carols."
"Those audiences are wonderful. Talk about the most bitter group of people on the planet Earth. For one brief, shining moment, I am Mr. Happy."
Wardrobe Malfunction: Referenced in "Luther Burbank Performing Arts Center Blues" when discussing the Janet Jackson incident. He mentioned how hypocritical it was for the TV stations to keep declaring how disgusting and immoral it supposedly was, only to say "Let's get another look at it."
Worst Whatever Ever: On Y2K: "It was the worst New Year's ever. EVER! And we scared ourselves stupid, so that eight year olds, locked in closets by themselves, couldn't come up with the sick paranoid fantasies we came up with!"
Yank the Dog's Chain: He frequently addresses his annoyance that we still don't have flying cars, as predicted in the '50s and '60s. He mentions it again in the "Stark Raving Black" special, where he predicts that they'll eventually develop flying cars... but it'll be after he dies. He says it'll even be referenced in the obituaries:
Lewis: "Noted comic Lewis Black has passed away. Funeral services Friday, room for flying cars."
You Keep Using That Word: One of Black's many pet peeves is when people use a word incorrectly. He's said it will sometimes be pointed out to him that "a lot of people use it that way, so the meaning of the word has changed." His reaction to that is: