By Dawn Watson
Acerbic, opinionated and frequently profane, Lewis Black might not be for fence sitters or the faint of heart. But for the people who love to laugh at the absurdities of life, he’s the comedic king of blistering social and political commentary.
Addressing hot topics such as mental health care, the NRA, activism, social media and fiscal entitlement, the two-time Grammy Award-winner and creator of the “Back in Black” commentary segment on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” will not shy away from what he sees as the problems facing the world today during his “The Rant is Due Part Deux” stand-up routine at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Friday, March 27. There, he’ll share his opinions, and hear those of East Enders, via a new, live interactive portion of the performance at the end of the night.
“It’ll be upbeat, happy, optimistic, joyous, almost Christian-like,” he joked during a telephone interview last week.
Since his tour schedule includes approximately 200 gigs a year, the comedian’s set list is fairly fluid, he said. It also promises to be peppered with tales of his experiences on the road, he reported during a brief stay between shows at his Manhattan home. And of course, since the performance will be here in the Hamptons, he’ll be sure to share his opinions about the 1 percent.
“They know what the score is,” the prolific and successful comic, actor, playwright and best-selling author said of high earners. “I know what the score is. I know that we have an advantage. It’s as simple as that.”
When it comes to philanthropy, the Yale Drama School graduate puts his money where his mouth is. A staunch believer in giving back, he supports a slate of charitable organizations, including the 52nd Street Project, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Autism Speaks, Wounded Warriors, the USO and The Brady Center. He is also heavily involved in the Ron Black Memorial Scholarship Fund, created for his late brother, the Rusty Magee Clinic for Families and Health and a slew of other education and arts programs. Additionally, he’s lending his name and the weight of his support to Flushing-based Vassilaros & Sons coffee company, which he says is “a miracle in a cup.”
The comedian is helping his friend John Vassilaros to put out a signature coffee line, the proceeds of which will benefit veterans, Black reported. After the point was made that it might seem ironic that he of the exaggeratedly tightly wound persona is the voice for a coffee company, he laughed.
“Works for me,” he said.
Paradoxically, the passionately outraged performer, who calls himself more “pissed-off optimist than mean-spirited curmudgeon” is also quite popular in animated television shows and films. He’s voiced characters on the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated” and “The Penguins of Madagascar,” among others. His latest role is that of the emotion Anger in the upcoming Pixar film “Inside Out,” which also stars the voice talents of Diane Lane, Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling. Working with Pixar, he said, “was one of the greatest experiences of my life.” Black’s next voice role is in Pixar’s animated “Rock Dog” with Luke Wilson, J.K. Simmons and Eddie Izzard.
Splitting his downtime between homes in Manhattan and North Carolina—where he earned his undergraduate degree at the University of North Carolina—the comic relishes his days off the road, he said. Traveling half the year via tour bus for work is one thing, he added, but making the nearly 100-mile schlep out to the Hamptons regularly is an entirely different undertaking.
“It’s just too far. How do people do it?,” he griped.
Trekking out to the Hamptons every weekend is definitely not for Black. Instead of participating in the hours-long traffic nightmare, he’s come up with his own solution that makes a lot more sense for New Yorkers who miss the ocean.
“They should just take sand and spread it around on Park Avenue and the Upper East Side and the let people sit out on their beach chairs so they don’t have to drive around for 2 hours,” he said, adding that he sympathizes with year-round East Enders, who should put up blockades to keep the seasonal crowds out. “I really don’t know how you guys allow it,” he said of the massive summer influx.
And though he did admit to enjoying a visit to Sag Harbor every once in a while, the comedian said he plans to stay put in New York City. If not for his peace of mind, then for his career.
“Sag Harbor is beautiful and serene,” he said. “I couldn’t live there though. I wouldn’t get anything done.”
Lewis Black will bring “The Rant is Due Part Deux” to the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Friday, March 27 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $95, $125 and $150 and are available online at www.whbpac.org.