NICK DANLAG – STAFF WRITER
To prepare for stand-up, Lewis Black used to rip out sections of newspapers that made him angry, things he thought were crazy. Onstage, he would pick up one clip and yell. Then another, then another, and then another.
One night, his friend said Black should yell the whole show and see what happened; “and it was life-changing, because I’m funniest when I’m angry,” he said in a Q-and-A with Geoff Edgers of The Washington Post.
“Always had a bit of anger, mostly sarcastic, but anger would kind of come to play at times,” Black said. “(I) was born and raised Jewish. There was a lot of yelling. And my mother is still around and still yells about stuff at 102, so I always thought that anger was a form of love.”
And at 8:15 p.m. Monday, July 26 in the Amphitheater, Black, a Chautauqua favorite, will step up to the mic again. Though he spoke here in 2017, 2018 and 2019, this will be his Chautauqua stand-up debut. Chautauqua is also the first stop on his “It Gets Better Every Day” tour, and will be his first live performance since the onset of COVID-19 early last year.
His list of accomplishments is long: over 200 shows annually across the world, writing more than 40 plays, overseeing development of more than a thousand, being the longest-running contributor on “The Daily Show,” voicing Anger in “Inside Out” and winning two Grammys.
Black began his career as a playwright, and his one-act play The Deal is set to be performed at 1 p.m. Thursday, July 29 in the Performance Pavilion on Pratt. The reading, like the entire week, is presented in partnership with the National Comedy Center, where Black sits on the advisory board of directors.
Born in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 30, 1948, Black learned early on from his parents, a teacher and a mechanical engineer, the necessity of education and questioning authority. He considers himself more of a social commentator or satirist than a political comedian.
His brand of satire is on full display during his stand-up specials, bringing attention to life’s many absurdities. On his podcast, “Lewis Black’s Rantcast,” viewers write to him about everything in the world that are making them angry. He reads them aloud, sometimes prefacing with comments: “It’s short, it’s sweet, and she’s pissed!”
Black has a more serious side, as his most recent Instagram post shows. It’s of him holding his mother’s hand and has been liked by over 5,000 people.
“Had a wonderful afternoon with my mom, Jeannette, the 8th wonder of the world,” Lewis wrote in the caption. “I told her that I had a show this Monday (at Chautauqua). She said as I was leaving, ‘The show is not important, people are.’”