Lewis Black's Root of All Evil



10:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 10
Comedy Central

This here is a rather ingenious little concept bolstered by the at once self-mocking and self-important intellectual comedic sensibility that we've come to identify with Comedy Central.

"Lewis Black's Root of All Evil" has middle-aged comic treasure Lewis Black's fearless stamp all over it, showing him setting up an ersatz trial pitting various individuals and entities of popular culture against one another to determine which is the most downright wicked. In the opener, it's Oprah vs. the Catholic Church. In the second installment, it's Donald Trump vs. Viagra. The close match of the two subjects is obvious enough. Both Oprah and the church embody purported Godliness; Trump and Viagra are, well, pretty much one and the same; it's just that one of the pills has hair.

Black serves as judge, jury and executioner (as well as blustery moderator), while comedians including Greg Geraldo and Paul F. Tompkins (in the premiere) along with Andy Kindler, Kathleen Madigan, Patton Oswalt and Andrew Daly play barrister "advocates" to make a case for their subject standing as the evil incarnate. Oprah simply is not going to be happy about this. Trump, welcoming publicity in all of its forms, no doubt will praise the show's merits.

The half-hour is driven by the same loud and aggressive tone that is Black's hallmark. A studio audience stands witness as the advocates make their case in statements by turns bold, malicious, spiteful and controversial. To say that it's all in good fun depends upon how one feels about the institutions being savaged.

And I mean, talk about subjective. How does one even begin to assess the malevolence of Paris Hilton and Vice President Dick Cheney (a case being debated later in the season)? Black, a thinking-man's blowhard, carries the concept off with shameless aplomb, while his debating helpers are equal parts witty and wise. It isn't immediately clear what the winners/losers of this non-binding proceeding receive, other than a huge dollop of personal outrage. But that's OK. "Root of All Evil" is not only audacious and politically dicey but cleverly wrought. It further underscores the point that Black comedy has rarely been more in vogue.




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