For a man who has structured his on-stage persona as being the last angry man, the modern world is a treasure trove of material for a comedian like Lewis Black. With the world falling apart, political stupidity at an all time high, and willful ignorance an apparent virtue, a learned and vocal opponent has a lot to shake his finger at.
And shake his finger he does. In fact, at one point during the show, when he was getting right fired up, Lewis Black managed to tell an entire joke with little more than just his index finger extended out towards the world, and an all telling scowl on his face. If you are familiar with his Daily Show segments, then you've seen in microcosm what Lewis does when he's on the road: standing on a stage, in a full suit an under the lights, yelling at what needs being yelled at, or about. It's intellectual, and cussy. It's obvious, but enlightening. It's decades of "observational" comedy taken to a personal breaking point. He's mad as hell, and hilarious because of it.
Hit the jump for the brief review.
Before I begin, I want to point out that I've seen many shows in my life. I've been to many concerts, to many comedy shows, to musicals and plays. I've sat in theaters, and fields and hot auditoriums, and to this point, I had ever sat in the front row. For this show though, I sat close enough to Lewis Black that, on the occasion of his dander getting up, my ticket should have read "caution: first row may get spit on." That isn't an observation on the performance, just a personal aside that I wanted to vent. Of course, the dream is front row at Dara O'Briain, but that's something else entirely.
Lewis Black's comedy isn't really anything new. The topics he covers are the same that might, and are, covered by many different comedians. When he talks about long haul bus trips, or kids and modern technology, it's not especially new ground he's breaking. What sets Lewis aside is his delivery: he's angry, about everything. But it never really plays like a bitterness. It's an exasperation. Lewis is saying things how we all, occasionally, want to say them. Not so much "I've had enough!" but rather "what is the matter with you people?"
If there is a thesis to The Rant Is Due, it is one I've heard from Lewis before. In his books (which you should read, as they betray the real Lewis Black, not the sputtering malcontent of stage and screen, but the genuinely concerned artist behind that facade) and in interviews, it's his belief that Americans should all leave America, briefly, and regularly. To get an outside perspective. And really, that is advice for everyone, anywhere. Never get too rapped up in your own demagogy. That is what has happened in Washington, and it's eating the entire American system. Go out and experience other perspectives. Do something you never expected to do, or allow yourself to be shown something new. Find an alternative narrative to follow for a time.
The show begins, and routinely returns, to Lewis' journeys in Europe. First, he recounts how this very tour has taken and shown him things he didn't expect, especially in relation to the larger American influence. Lewis returns us to countries abroad throughout the show, usually as a reflective cool down after one of his larger assaults on his native land (the exception being Russia, who earns as much ire as the States). It goes too far to say that it's an apology tour, because Lewis is just as frustrated at how the US is behaving as everyone else. He's bringing us the outsider's perspective from an insider.
The rest of the show follows no theme in particular. It's another long list of all the things pissing Lewis off, in the here and now. In many ways, it is a reactive show. The content, while well scripted (as you might expect from a former play-write), draws on the currency more so than most comedy shows. The bigger jokes spark with timelessness, but that isn't to say there is no room for NFL scandals and air strike coalitions. And, in a unique twist, the audience is invited before the show, to submit their own prompts or observations for Lewis to peruse live on stage, to conclude the show with a different take on audience participation. Really, it's just another excuse for Lewis to mock the stupid things other people say.
The show I went to started late. Lewis took the stage an hour after the time stated on the ticket, and was even taking into account the warm-up act (whose own act took some time to get going). This late start actually provided him some fodder latter on, so by the end I didn't mind it so much. Once the man himself was on stage, everything went swimmingly, and time flew by. It is an amazingly brisk 90 minutes. Once Lewis gets going on, whether it be the paradise of Tahiti, the stupidity of Putin or the process of getting a colonoscopy, he yells and you follow. Then it's over, all in one go, and you want more. We've not been skimped, the audience just knows a good thing when they see it.