He#039;s here, he#039;s angry

by Beacon Staff • September 20, 2006

The stage was set in typical stand-up-comic fashion.

A wooden table and stool topped with two Emerson water bottles stood behind a single microphone stand.,Lewis Black made a special afternoon appearance at the Cutler Majestic Theatre last Friday to impart some words of wisdom upon Emerson students.

The stage was set in typical stand-up-comic fashion.

A wooden table and stool topped with two Emerson water bottles stood behind a single microphone stand.

It completed the holy comedic trinity.

Black took the stage wearing an open tan shirt, jeans and sneakers.

"Oh yeah, there's microphones out there," Black commented as the applause died down. The sardonic comedian-who has made a career out of yelling and finger wagging-seemed incredibly calm as he settled onto his stool and disposed of the gum he was chewing.

"Here's lesson number one when you're talking to people: you take the gum out of your fucking mouth," Black said as he began to clench his teeth, a signal that he had finally slipped into his trademark irritated disposition.

"I don't know exactly what this is supposed to be, I just said yeah," Black admitted. "Any opportunity I get to shape young minds, I take that chance." Black went on to give a lecture on comedy's role in the performing arts.

Black subordinated his acerbic comedy for a moment to say, "I think that comedy is really important and has been treated by the academic community as if it doesn't exist and it's really nuts. Emerson is one of the few schools that has actually begun to treat it more and more as a kind of an aesthetic."

Perhaps he was alluding to the previous night's celebration of "30 Years of Comedy at Emerson College," which included Denis Leary, Eddie Brill and Steven Wright.

"Most schools, including the one I went to [The University of North Carolina] at Chapel Hill, treat comedy as if it was one step away from being in the Barnum and Bailey Circus, and it's much more than that. It's a real craft, and it's a craft that works its way through all sorts of disciplines. It's a muscle that I believe has to be developed. And we don't, in school we don't."

Black went on to explain his theory of exercising the comedy muscle, "It'd be like saying, well, gee, you don't have a gym class-why do all the kids weigh five hundred pounds? It's because they don't exercise. Well that's the thing with comedy. The basis of the way I teach is that everybody has a funny story to tell. The way in which we relate to other people, I think, is initially through comedy."

Black encouraged the audience-especially the freshmen-to use comedy as a primary tool for connection.

"[Comedy] is the way in which we kind of get to know each other," he said. "And yet, in no way, shape, or form, is it given any stature in the academic community. I think that's really important. Once it does become a part of the academic community, I think it'll make a huge difference."

After those four minutes of solemn guidance, Black discussed one of his jobs outside of stand-up comedy. Black has a segment on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" every Tuesday night aptly titled "Back in Black," in which he satirically rants about the popular headlines of the week.

Black wondered aloud in his mocking, smug, nasal voice, "How come everybody watches "The Daily Show?" Why do you think all these kids are getting into "The Daily Show?" Isn't that a tragedy? The reason that you guys watch "The Daily Show" is in part because it's on at 11 o'clock. So the chances are . you're studying."

When the laughter from the last comment abated, Black continued, "But that's for a reason. If it were on at five o'clock in the afternoon, you'd be going home. And you watch it because it's funny. That's the purpose that we serve; we make the news funny. The news is not funny, and at this point, most of the time it's terrifying. What 'funny' provides is kind of a ventilation system so that you can laugh about something, and by laughing about it, you can step away from it and you can deal with it."

Switching gears slightly, Black said "The only other thing I'd like to tell you is: pursue what it is that you want to do. Don't let your parents influence what it is that you want to do. Go do what it is that you like to do; your parents aren't doing it. If you set out to do what it is that you want to do, you will end up doing something that you want. You don't want to wake up, at my age, and go 'Fuck! Didn't even try that.' You want to do it now, when you're young and when you still have energy and when you can deal with disappointment. That's my advice."