For Lewis Black, it’s a full day of back-to-back interviews with Canadian media, but when this writer offers the 60-year-old comedian a chance to hang up after the allotted 15 minutes, he cheerfully declines, saying, “If I don’t keep talking to you, I’ll just have to get up and wander around or find some other way to occupy myself.”
Nice-guy ribbing from one of comedy’s most curmudgeonly characters? It makes sense when you think about the company he keeps: Known associates include Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, fellow Comedy Central funnymen with politically-minded crosses to bear; and Black’s rise to fame can be attributed largely to frequent guest spots on Stewart’s The Daily Show, where his comedic mini-tirades, performed under the title “Back in Black,” hint that he’s just one injustice away from a coronary.
WE caught up with Black over the phone from his home base of New York City, where he was rant-ready on everything from legalizing pot to American Idol.
This tour is called Dual Citizenship. Do you have a secret wish to be Canadian?
Black: At times I’ve had more than a secret wish, starting the first time they were picking numbers in the draft lottery [for the Vietnam War]. The night before, when I went to sleep, I thought, “I hope I wake up and I’m in Calgary.” Especially after the last eight years, I’ve always had that wistful, “Ohhhh. Oh, Canada.” Also, things like the Trailer Park Boys: I know a few of them now, and if I could only have been a Trailer Park Boy! Those guys kill me.
How much of your material focuses on Canada?
Well, the nice thing about this tour is that I’m finally in Canada for a length of time, so my hope is that by the time I get to Vancouver I’ll have a good 20 minutes on Canada. [Laughs] I mean, I just heard that your Minister of Science [Gary Goodyear] is a Creationist. Holy... I mean, that’s five minutes for me! Nothin’ better than a Creationist in charge of science. I had all this respect for you people, but I think it’ll crumble. I’ll be lookin’ to get citizenship in... oh, God knows. What country’s left? Costa Rica. I’ll move on.
The global economy has crapped out, and I wanted to talk to you about California pussyfooting around the idea of legalizing and taxing marijuana.
Yeah, good for them! For the first time, I’m pushing that in my act: pushing legalization. I’ve never pushed for anything, but I’m sick of this, and I don’t even smoke it. But, come on! My generation has not accomplished anything. The least we could do is legalize pot. We can’t even get medical marijuana done! It is stupid — profoundly stupid — when your largest cash crop in three to five states is marijuana. What’s the matter with you? A country of morons. Fucking how dumb are you? And we’ve got Hillary Clinton goin’, “Oh, it’s our insatiable drug needs.” Well, yeah! What are you gonna fuckin’ do, Hillary? Go door to door and talk people off the ledge?
Yeah, you know what it is? A gateway to the fuckin’ refrigerator. You know what that fuckin’ is? It’s like going back to Reefer Madness. People don’t smoke pot and go, “Oh boy! What’s next?” They go, “Where can I get another bag of this shit?” But fine, you don’t wanna legalize pot? Fine, you gotta stop drinking. That’s it. Then I’m moving to France where I can drink my wine. [Laughs]
You’ve called yourself a socialist. What does being a socialist mean to you?
I got tired of the Democrat and Republican models. I’ve always felt, for a long, long time, that everyone only needs a certain amount of money. The argument’s always been, oh, if you can only make a certain amount of money, where are they going to get their drive? Well, maybe if they enjoyed what they’re doing, they’d have drive, you asshole! I was broke for most of my life, and I never had a problem with drive, and it wasn’t so I could make money; it was so I could do my stuff. Especially over the last 20 years of my life, the greed level’s just risen exponentially year by year.
What’s the most evil thing in pop culture right now?
American Idol is a disturbing, giant, gaping hole. If you were flying in an airplane at 30,000 feet and the door came off and people were sucked through the door — much like that is American Idol. And they’ve pulled the door off of the plane and music’s been sucked out. This is the way you’re discovering people? Are you fucking kidding me? I did comedy for years, and I didn’t even start ’til I was 40, but I went out there every night, and that’s what you do. You don’t fucking do a week’s worth of work and get a hair stylist and sing love songs. This is the way you discover talent? Talent really does everything it can to learn about its talent. There’s no learning experience. You can have a certain amount of star quality, but presence comes with taking a bunch of punches, so that when you’re performing you can go, I’m in charge here. I’m on stage, so shut the fuck up.