This interview courtesy of HIGH TIMES.
In the classic film Network (1976), news anchorman Howard Beale screams to his TV audience: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” The line instantly became a national catchphrase expressing our deep dissatisfaction with our government, our leaders and, sometimes, our lives.
Comedian Lewis Black has taken Beale’s sentiment and elevated it to an art form. No standup performing today has connected to his audience in quite the same way; Black’s anger and frustration illuminates our own. In the end, he makes us laugh at ourselves—at our maddening inability, or even unwillingness, to alter our condition. Ergo, the expression: “So funny it hurts.”
Lewis Black feels your rage. In June, he released a new DVD, Stark Raving Black, and in November his new book, I’m Dreaming of a Black Christmas (Penguin Publishing), will be on the shelves. Which just goes to show that Black humor is now in vogue.
HT: Your mother was a teacher. What did she impart to you about education?
LB: Her thing was that you have to stay on top of these kids: “You go in there, you got to stay on top.” She was really funny. I think the thing that was interesting about my mother was that she started teaching in a district when it was still a segregated school system. She was teaching in a black school; she taught math. How she’d teach was, basically, they’d pretend to have $100, and she said, “I want you to spend the hundred dollars,” so they would see the practical side. Her whole thing with education was, in the end, it has to be practical. Connect to the person.
You were in college during the era of antiwar activism in the ‘60s. How do you view modern college life?
As far as activism, everybody is kind of like, “How come they’re not doing this or that?” The thing I think people miss: There is a huge difference fighting a war with a volunteer army, when you have done everything you can to separate the mainstream of the country from the war itself. It’s a buzz in the background. Most people don’t know somebody in the military. I mean, I didn’t—not until I did the USO Tours. I had friends who were in Vietnam, but I didn’t have a friend who became a military person. So to expect them to rise up like college students in the ‘60s…
On a practical level, they went out and got Obama elected. They were the whole drive behind that. They seem…