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Interview: Lewis Black, new special, "In God We Rust," premieres midnight tonight on Comedy Central

Lewis Black's
Lewis Black's "In God We Rust" premieres tonight at midnight on Comedy Central
Stark Raving Black Productions

Tonight Comedy Central will air comedian and social critic Lewis Black's special, In God We Rust, at midnight. In God We Rust, once released as media, will be Black's tenth CD since 2000, an impressive body of material by a comedian who has clearly defined his style, effectively cornering the market on apoplectic rage for over a decade.

Here we are in the midst of another election cycle, the perfect time for another politically-tinged special from Lewis Black, who has consistently been providing commentary on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart." He's also been performing plenty of contemporary material, as noted at Comedy Central's "Indecision In The Park" show in Central Park a couple months ago, along with John Oliver, Kristen Schaal, Wyatt Cenac, Al Madrigal, and John Hodgman. Because we se him so regularly on TV, it was a bit of a surprise to learn that In God We Rust was recorded almost a year and a half ago in Minneapolis.

While this would be a cause of concern with other comics, don't forget that we're listening to Lewis Black, who was prescient enough about his material to include topics that would have resonance in this election cycle: the War on Terror, the iPhone, and abortion, to just name a few.

The unedited CD and DVD of the show will be available next Tuesday, September 11th, but Comedy Central's late showing tonight will leave the material relatively unscathed.

We spoke with Black last week to find out more regarding In God We Rust and his take on current events.

Was there something particularly different you wanted to show in this special?

Lewis Black: The set that you see, and this was my tour manager's idea, is based on something that my father painted. My father painted, well into his 80s, what he called hard edge abstractions, so we made a 3 D representation of one of his paintings. It's really cool, a giant red cube. One of the best things about the special for me was that we could do this, I really like how it looks.

Material-wise, what were topics you really wanted to address?

Lewis Black: I really wanted to talk about the War on Terror and say that both sides were completely incompetent [in addressing it]. You can't blame the other side when you're involved in it. How is it humanly possible that we couldn't get a list of the names of terrorists out? You know that terrorist on the plane, you know the one with all of the moles, the one who was going to blow his crotch off, that idiot, the 50th guy on the bench?There we were, 7 or 8 years after 9/11, we were still unable to get the list of terrorist names out, how is that even possible? OK, let's forget about sending it out by computers, did a mimeograph break down? Did we stop Xeroxing? You could have put the list on a boat down in the harbor, put a whole bunch of donkeys on the boat and strap the list to them, push the barge away from shore. Eventually one of those donkeys would have wandered into an airport somewhere.

I also talk about phones, you know the whole thing with the iPhone, and the new phones, and the "this" phone and the "that" phone. I had an iPhone and a Droid and both of them were miserable pieces of equipment so I compare them and tell you why. Also my hate of Apple has moved into a hate of Facebook. But I must tell you, go to an Apple store, the reason you go there is to find out what life is like on other planets. The Droid I had actually seemed to have free will, which I thought was interesting. I elaborated on these themes quite a bit, in what will eventually be in the new special which you will see sometime in the year 2046.

I start on a theme, I hammer on a theme until I'm tired of it and the audience is tired of it. I just been listening to the same [political] arguments over and over again, I've heard these since I was a child and we've never resolved them. The language has been refined so that the other side comes over and says, "Oh yeah, now I get you, now that you've changed that word." That's the way we do it. The big thing I talk about, because you can't joke about it, is something that I've heard about since I was a child, but even more so now, is the argument over abortion. I'd say that word [on stage] and you could hear every anus in the room snap shut. If you want to get an audience quiet, just say "abortion" and everybody shuts up and the tension in the room is spectacular. For 60 years, my entire life, we've been going through this nonsense. Every other civilized country has determined when life begins and it's something that eludes us. We've got things that have to be done! "We didn't fix that bridge because you are all down at the meeting house discussing abortion again."

It's certainly a part of this election.

Lewis Black: It's a distraction, which is a sad thing for something that important.

So, per your assessment: How f---ed are we?

Lewis Black: How long can we go without real leadership? It's like an experiment. It's [a problem with ] both parties, it's beyond belief. I just celebrated my [64th] birthday, so I know I'm older. I had to watch the Republican stuff which makes me feel even older than I am. By the time I get through the Democrats, I may be dead. I don't know how much older I can get. I have this insane optimistic streak that the American people prevail over the stupidity that the leadership exhibits time and time again, and I think that's the truth. I'd ike to think that all of this nonsense will put us back where we belong which is back in the middle, and that's how we govern ourselves. But as much as I may have this belief, it isn't the way my government works. My government works like a, like a, well, what does a tortoise in heat look like? What're you going to do with this tortoise to rev it up? Are you going to give the tortoise Viagra? The tortoise moves very slowly, it moves towards whatever the goal is, to keep a democratic capitalistic society functioning.

What do you say to people who are just checking out of the process? The people who are not going to vote or participate?

Lewis Black: I think you have to [vote] and the reason you have to go vote is an important one, and that is because the day you vote is the day that you will feel the most ineffectual you will feel all year. You do that so that when you leave, you realize when you wake up the next day, although it may be a horrible day, you can say "Well, that was a lousy day, but at least I didn't have to vote." 

That's great advice.

Lewis Black: None of this seems to affect the leadership, that people don't go out to vote, that they don't feel the need to go vote, that they already feel disenfranchised. It's not just Obama's fault or Clinton's or whomever's, it's all of them, the whole collection of clowns I've had to sit through. They take no responsibility for the fact that they can't inspire people to go vote and that those people feel by voting that nothing will happen, and who the f--k can blame them? Because literally, I've come to believe that next time, I'd like the campaigning to be about all the things they're not going to do. Just tell me what you're not going do! Don't tell me what you're going to do. Just say "I'd really like to do solar energy but I'm not going to be able to. I really want to dig holes everywhere in the country but I really won't be able to do it because people seem to think that maybe my water will be screwed up." Just don't even mention to me what you think you're going to do because I'm tired of hearing about it. Then maybe people will vote, "By God! He's not going to do that, I can't wait to get to the polls!"

I had seen a quote from you that you were a socialist, and I saw that you are about to head to Canada soon. I have the feeling that you will have a lot of contemporary, timely material to bring to Cananda and then down to New Orleans later in September. How do you approach these events that are so present, the conventions, the hurricane, etc.?

Lewis Black: It's a slow unfolding. I hop on something and then I kind of dissect it. Sometimes I'm lucky, and I can get right on it, when something happens and I just nail it. A lot of the times I'm looking at something that I discover is part of a larger framework and not just a couple jokes. I see that it's a set, a story that I'll be telling. Sometimes I get lost in that. I can jump on certain things easily, like Paul Ryan or that schmuck Todd Akin. Forcible rape? I'd like to know what seductive rape is.

Going up to Canada is great because I'm not dealing with people carrying their agendas into the room. I'm lucky because 97% of the people who come to the show know who they are dealing with, whether they are on the left or the right, we're sharing the same frustration. The people who are still thinking on the right, the people who are thinking on the left, people who are interested in facts, it's all an approach on how to deal with a problem. In Canada I'm not dealing with people who are bringing in baggage, they just get it. But New Orleans will be a bit different. If there's a group of people who have a right to be bitter, it's the people of New Orleans.

You'll be coming to LA in late November, so that will be an interesting time as well.

Lewis Black: Yes! The election will be over - we'll be back to who we are, which is just static. For all the chatter about it, we don't govern month to month, you don't deal with economics month to month, it's crazy, what they're doing is literally crazy. It hasn't happened in my lifetime but over the past 15 years, I continue to think that a military coup isn't so bad, you know, just for a couple of years.


Lewis Black's special, In God We Rust, premieres on Comedy Central tonight at midnight. In God We Rust will be released as a CD and DVD, next Tuesday, September 11.