Lewis Black loves Atlantic City, and Atlantic City loves Lewis Black.
For decades, the comedy legend has been performing in Atlantic City to sold-out audiences, with Black even recording his ninth comedy special, “Old Yeller: Live at the Borgata,” here in 2013.
The regular “Daily Show” correspondent returns to Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3, not just with new material but a 2022 Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Album for “Thanks for Risking Your Life,” and he’s in some pretty good company, competing against Chelsea Handler, Louis C.K., Kevin Hart and others.
Black took some time — as he always does – to answer these five riveting questions as only The God of Anger can.
SCOTT CRONICK: Hey brother, how are you? Is it weird getting back on the road or is there a new appreciation to get out and perform after lockdown?
LEWIS BLACK: I am just delightful … couldn’t be happier (with a laugh). When I went out initially, I did one show 500 days after lockdown. During the whole lockdown, I didn’t do Zoom shows — that stuff makes me psychotic — and I am not going to play in a drive-in movie theater. None of that works. I really didn’t hit the road until 600 days after lockdown, and it was literally as if I’d been off two weeks. I did way too much, way too soon, way too fast and way over the top, and I exhausted myself. It was so great to be back, so good to be back that I was way too excited and went way too crazy and got sick.
I was literally acting like if someone said if you went to the Olympics and you haven’t run in 600 days, now go run a mile. Now that I am used to it again, it’s great being in theaters. Audiences are phenomenal. They want to be back, and I want to be there with them.
But it is weird. In certain places, you go in a city and you get a hotel room and half the people who used to serve you are gone like they were kidnapped.
SC: So what is your take on the Dave Chappelle controversy? When did this country start thinking comedians have to be serious at all times? Where is the line? Isn’t that freedom part of being a comedian – that it’s an act — and how do you deal with that? Are people overreacting or is Dave Chappelle wrong for saying what he said?
LB: It all boils down to being subjective and objective. I always tend to go after the idiots in charge, the entitled, those folks. And the thing that bothered everybody is that Dave went after folks who are going through basically a transition. We are in the midst of a massive transition. These are people yelling that we need to understand what’s going on. People my age have no clue as to what is happening. They don’t understand the bathroom situation or any of it.
But that is what Dave wants to do. I wouldn’t have done that. I basically have a totally different group of idiots I go after. I go after the idiots who go after those people.
I am tough at times to judge other people. Is that breakthrough comedy? I don’t know. Is that like (George) Carlin? I don’t think it’s like Carlin.
It’s also not like everybody in the entire United States is listening. They always assume everybody is listening to Dave Chappelle. He said it, and then everyone repeats it. If you thought it was a bad thing, why are you repeating it? That is the thing that drives me completely nuts.
SC: But shouldn’t the stage be a safe place where I don’t have to give my phone to an usher who puts it in a Ziplock bag just because the comedians are worried I am going to record them? Has that changed your comedy at all?
LB: No one seems to care what I say. I think I am grandfathered in … like the ghost of Christmas past. The only time it really affects me is if someone is taking chunks of what I am doing and putting it out there because (I want that saved) for my special.
But the truth is a lot of my audience can’t work a phone and listen simultaneously.
SC: The Kyle Rittenhouse verdict (which came in just hours before on the day of this interview): Not guilty on all counts. Are you surprised? Where are you with this?
LB: Counseling – counseling might have been something. If you are not going to sentence him, if you have a kid who picks up a gun and think he is going out there to help — and it’s not an adult for all intents and purposes — and obviously he didn’t have adult guidance, minimally I think counseling. I am very slow with creating material. It just happened. Some people are great to come up with things on the fly, so when I get to Borgata I will have more on this, but right now my thought is counseling. Couldn’t they have said maybe every other day for like six, eight, 10 months, he should go talk to an adult about what he did?
Even if you take it as self-defense, he shot the guy who didn’t have the gun.
It certainly makes it tougher on the police. It makes it impossible, and now you can have a whole bunch of kids who say, “Oh, now I can wander around with a gun.”
If you are anybody with any consciousness at all, you have to question it. Friends are asking me, “What do I do?” I said, “I don’t know. Be grateful you don’t live in Kenosha.”
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. If this happened, now what happens because of this (verdict) could be more major. If you are a parent of the ones shot or killed, you have to be just flipping out.
SC: I came across two headlines today by Vanity Fair and New York Magazine. One said “Rudy Giuliani is probably screwed,” and the other said, “Matt Gaetz is screwed six ways to Sunday.” Guiliani is basically bankrupt, and Trump won’t return his calls. And more prosecutors have been added to the Gaetz sex crime investigation, which is never a good sign.
LB: It’s always been interesting whenever I have been to Atlantic City, even before Trump was even running for President. I have been playing A.C. for 100 years. I played the Trop forever before I started playing the bigger rooms there, and everyone would always bring Trump up. People at the shows would boo because they have been to a casino of his where they got screwed or something happened. And once I played the bigger rooms and his places went bankrupt, if they had torches they would have gone into the village.
It’s utterly mind boggling they voted for him. My (comedian) friend Kathleen Madigan played there – I think at Trump Plaza — and she said she was afraid to go on the elevator because she was afraid it might not make it to the floor.
Gaetz is weird. The thing about television has always been if someone looks out of their minds, however you think they are presented, that’s how they probably are. If Matt Gaetz looks creepy, he’s creepy. Television doesn’t lie. If someone seems arrogant, they are arrogant. If someone seems like a crook, they are crook.
The only one who has gotten away with it is Trump. It’s really unbelievable, and what was funny is nine out of 10 New Yorkers didn’t like him. I would go on stage and say nine out of 10, and you end up picking the biggest jackass of all the New Yorkers. There are a bunch of us – you didn’t like any of us – but he’s the one you like — the jackass!