Lewis Black rants about Michele Bachmann, Farmville, Twitter
The New York City comedian, famous for losing it on stage in a flurry of finger pointing and through a clenched jaw, reflects the social and political frustrations of most Americans who once felt they lived in a somewhat sane country. But things have ballooned to a special kind of crazy, and it's without coincidence that it's happened right alongside Black's own career.
He's been one of The Daily Show's most popular commentators and even launched his own Comedy Central gig, Lewis Black's Root Of All Evil. With Black coming into town this weekend to record a cable special at the State Theatre, we wanted to check in with him about coming to town as well as current events, and of course, his own state of mind.
It's hopefully the next special. If not, I'll go from town to town and sell them. It got to the point where I can't wait. With the last special, I was waiting around for HBO but they switched their hierarchy and decided that people who had shows on other networks -- like me with Root Of All Evil -- couldn't have a special on HBO. So I waited and lost it. Then I thought we'll shoot it in September but I realized I had the material together already. So we're coming to Minnesota.
Partly it was luck this time because I decided, "Let's go do it." The State is a great theater to work out of. I've not been in Minneapolis in some time. I've been out at the casinos and stuff but not downtown. We were coming back anyway and I love playing there. I did one of my first CDs out of Minneapolis at the Acme. There's a history of comics coming out of the city for quite some time on their own, there's a smart audience there. Denver comes to mind, too. Chicago used to be more like that.
Well there's no blizzard here to greet you this time, so that's good, right?
Yes, that is good. That's another reason why I wanted to do it. Let's just hope the whole city's not barbecuing.
We know comics use a loose outline but do you do any part of your standup totally on the fly?
I don't write anything down, so in a sense it's all off the cuff. I write on stage. For days now they've shut the government down and I finally said the fault must lie with poor people. It's always them. We always go after them in the end. Somehow, they're to blame, so I said it we could just get rid of them. Rich people aren't the problem, they do so much for us. If we could just ship the poor people off to places where there are people poorer than them, we'd be better off. Okay, I get the welfare thing but in a country like this, to go after safety nets and to go after the arts is criminal. A friend of me sent me a great quote the yesterday. Churchill was told they were going to cut the arts budget during the war and he said, "Well then why are we going to war?"
I picture you watching the news and yelling at the TV.
I yell more now because CNN has lost its mind. FOX is insane. They all do this thing where they're posting tweets from people. I'm not watching the news to hear what Harry from California said about whatever topic, I don't care. They stop the show to tell you what America's thinking. It's not what America's thinking, it's what 6 people are thinking. Stop it. It's not news. You need that time to get me information. Spend the next 24 hours explaining what Republicans want to do in terms of Medicaid. And if nobody watches it, shit, I don't care.
Where do you get your straight-up news that you trust?
My mother sends me stuff, I read the Times, a lot of it comes from editorials because those guys are culling stuff. They're actually finding facts and I don't have time to read 300 things a day to try and figure stuff out. We've got more information that anyone can imagine but we've got no facts anymore.
The message can get noisy, especially with the advent of social media. I wanted to see if you were on Twitter but there's a a fake you on Twitter. Do you ever see yourself joining?
In the last special I yelled about it so much and I yelled about it on TV and in interviews when it first broke. It angered me so much that I can't ... I would really be hypocritical to join. And I don't have the time.
Kathy Griffin once told me she thinks Twitter is perfect for comedians, each tweet is a joke.
I don't find it perfect, I think it's just a form of advertising. Quite simply. A lot of it is about advertising-- "Follow me on Twitter." What are you, a TV show?
What about Facebook?
I don't like Facebook. I'm on it and I don't like it. I like my personal life to be my personal life. And it's opened it up on certain levels that I'm shocked at. If someone posts a photo of me in a group, it goes to all of these people and you don't know.
I guess you have to want to be really public.
I'm public enough. I'm on TV, there's enough of me around. Nobody's interviewing me asking me about how I've adopted three Nigerian babies - I don't have that life. So I"m lucky in the sense that my celebrity is such that it's fun but FB took it to a realm I didn't want it in. There were people on there acting as though they were more friends with me than they were. It's a little much. I didn't know that it was like a broadcast when you update.
You talk a lot-- and angrily -- about politics. We have some politicians here that tend to make many of us angry, one in particular. What you think about Michele Bachmann?
What stuns me is that she comes from Minnesota and that she was elected out of there. Having spent time there and performed there, I'm stunned. I don't get it. On the basis of what, that she's got a law degree? From where? Who gave this woman a law degree? I find the whole thing completely extraordinary. That thing recently that the war started in New Hampshire. And she stood up to read from the Constitution but she was reading from the Declaration of Independence. I mean, those are gaffes, but a lot of this is just beyond my comprehension. It literally makes it hard for me to breathe. To her credit, at least she ran, got into an office, deals with it, and stands in public. As I say in my act now, I would accept Sarah Palin as a candidate for president if she ran from Farmville.
I'm surprised you know what Farmville is if you're not on Facebook all the time.
You know what all this stuff is because even if you ignore it, someone's going to turn around and tell you. I mean, I was offered two pigs.
Do you think the economy, which you've criticized and rightfully so, will ever really bounce back?
You know, I think so. It will. How much money do we really have? How broke are we really? If you took everybody and their money, we have tons of money. We have tons individually and company-wise and it's more much than the debt is. So that gives me a certain amount of hope. And we're in a huge transition phase. That's really the thing to me, what's really happening. You see it in my business where they haven't figured out if we're going to be watching a television or a computer, and if we're going to be watching one or the other, how do you generate ad revenue that pays the actors? The union stuff that goes on with that stuff is extraordinary. When I do a contract for me, it takes 8 months. I do the TV thing or the movie thing and I don't sign a contract until 3 months after the thing is done, because they haven't figured out who gets the money. It's occurring in its own fashion in other businesses. If FB is really worth 50 billion, wouldn't that mean that food is worth a gazillion dollars?
What's an issue that's really got you up in arms these days?
We've had a massive crisis in education that we haven't dealt with until I got out of high-school. It becomes less and less important to pay attention to it and you didn't want to pay teachers. You have to pay these people for what they do and they've stopped doing it. Pay people to motivate them to go and teach. That's what it used to be. The middle class doesn't exist but it's not tough to figure out that if you give them a liveable salary, they'll teach. I could go on for days.
And it seems to be absolutely vital that Wal-Mart needs to be on the upswing. They have to make thee percent more every year? NO they don't. They all seem to want to do that, that's capitalism and to me, a flaw. Yeah so they only made a gazillion instead of a gazillion plus three percent. Before Target became a hip place to go shop again, Target was giving credit cards to people who were shopping at their store, and the reason they were shopping there was because they can't get a credit card, you idiots. And they almost went belly up because of it.
What was the worst heckler you ever had?
Not in a while. I get drunks where they shout stuff out. They don't know where they are. I've been there, so I understand it. But they shout stuff randomly.
What do you do when that happens?
You deal with them and if it's severe you have them thrown out because these people are paying too much money. They didn't pay that money to sit and listen to some shmuck. You play clubs long enough in small confined spaces and it becomes easier to deal with them.
Do you ever get nervous on stage?
I don't get nervous, really. I get nervous if I I do live TV, but not the Daily Show. If I'm doing Craig Ferguson or even interviews, when it's live there's no going back. You want to be as good as you can possibly be. That'sthe only place I get the nerves, otherwise I'm really pretty good about it.
Do you have any one memory of The Daily Show that sticks out to you?
Not really. Mostly it's just fun to do. It's the easiest job anyone's ever had outside of Andy Rooney. Sitting there with Jon at the end is great and having the guys who wrote the thing come over when it went really well.
You ever think about the censors?
No, but I do find that I have to take the profanity section and put a lock box on it for seven minutes.
What is the best and worst thing about living in Manhattan?
The best thing is that everyone has an opinion. And that's also the worst thing.
Craziest thing you've ever seen on a sidewalk?
The craziest thing I saw was in a subway where a guy came toward me and was yelling and screaming at me, it was nuts. He didn't really run at me, he just kind of walked toward me and was really focused on me. I responded by going crazier. I went completely batshit. I said, "Really? You think you're nuts? Well fuck you, you're not even as close to nuts as I am. So don't fuck with me! And don't do this little 'I'm crazy, I'm crazy' bullshit. Get back upstairs and get back where you live!' And I watched his head clear and he walked away.
LEWIS BLACK plays at the State Theatre on Saturday May 7 at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.