If Lewis Black seemed uncharacteristically less angry than dispirited onstage Monday night, who can blame him? Performing at Broadway’s Marquis Theatre, the comedian mused that, in the light of the yearlong insanity that has been the current presidential election campaign, he just might have to find another profession.
“I don’t know what my job is anymore,” he whined, as if aware that his brand of comedy has been rendered nearly redundant.
Fortunately for his longtime fans, Black’s threat to retire and open a gun store in “Bumf—k, Arizona” is unlikely to materialize. He’s currently performing in Black to the Future, a weekly stint on Monday nights when the theater, which houses the hit Gloria Estefan bio-musical On Your Feet, is dark.
Not surprisingly, the race for the White House constitutes the evening’s major theme, with the comedian complaining that it’s been “the longest election cycle of my lifetime.” Pointing out the difficulty of making a fresh Donald Trump joke when everybody in the audience probably has dozens of their own, he asked, “How do you satirize something that is already satire?”
“We are living in fictional times,” Black boomed.
The saturation point that’s been reached with political humor no doubt accounts for some of his material seeming less than fresh. Although his imitation of Ben Carson and evisceration of Ted Cruz are certainly funny, they seem past their sell-by date. “At what point do you stop Rick Santorum from running?” he asked while commenting on the plethora of Republican candidates that crowded political stages in the last year. But the reality is that he no longer is.
You can’t blame the comedian — people are there to see him eviscerate the candidates, and Black surely doesn’t want to disappoint them. But he was actually far funnier when delving into other topics, such as mental illness (he pointed out that most people learn about bipolar disorder “through dating”); a bus ad in Copenhagen that featured bare female breasts, which prompted him to actually follow the bus; and, most hilariously, a true account of a lactating German woman who robbed a pharmacy by squirting her breast milk at the sales clerks.
The latter is an example of Black’s talent for ferreting out bizarre news stories, such as how Americans spent $647 million last year on Valentine’s Day gifts for their pets, and fulminating about them with an outrage that barely masks his delight.
Black doesn’t seem as demonstratively angry as he used to be. He’s getting older, after all, and that shtick could wear thin at a certain point, although he still sporadically employs it to excellent effect. It could be that he’s tired — “I can’t do it anymore,” he moaned at one point — or maybe it’s that, as he put it, “I wake up every morning brimming with optimism.” It’s a dubious assertion coming from this master of the comic rant, and he quickly amended it by saying that the feeling lasts only until he opens his morning newspaper. It’s fortunate for us, because, after all, if Lewis Black ever stopped being angry, where would the rest of us be?
Venue: Marquis Theatre
Performer-writer: Lewis Black
Additional material: John Bowman
Lighting consultant: Timothy Reed
Visual consultant: Susan Hilferty
Sound consultant: SCK Sound Design
Presented by James L. Nederlander