SPITTING TRUTH Lewis Black

The curmudgeon
comedian wants a baptism by proxy.

 

BY RANDY HARWARD

 

To
anyone fed up with the rampant absurdity in our world, Lewis Black’s rants are
as soothing as they are scathing. On The
Daily Show with Jon Stewart
and his own The
Root of All Evil
, the curmudgeonly comedian and playwright spits truth like
he has Tourette’s-or a really nasty hemorrhoid; we bask in it like a cool
shower in the Sahara. He, like Lenny Bruce and
Bill Hicks and George Carlin, isn’t just a stand-up shecky; he’s a
truth-teller, good for a belly laugh as well as food for thought. When he
talks, we listen-for days after he’s done. And when his wisdom sinks in, it
helps society progress.

 

Black’s two recent projects direct his spitting, finger-twisting
rage toward Anticipation (Comedy
Central Records) and religion-the book Me
of Little Faith
(Riverhead). The album’s theme is that anticipation always
trumps reality; maybe it’s better to just think about doing things instead of
actually doing them. Losing your virginity, for example. When young Black’s
time came, he planned to set the mood by playing a particular song. He put on
the record, returned to bed, then realized the song he wanted was on the other
side-and this side skipped. So, “I lost my virginity to, ‘Lay lady
lay-[skip]-lay lady lay-[skip]-lay lady lay.'” In the book, Black makes
observations about a variety of faiths. Since he spent several months in Utah shooting Unaccompanied Minors, Mormonism gets
plenty of attention. BLURT caught up with Black days before he returned to Salt Lake City, where this
interviewer just happens to live.

 

 

***

 

 

You’re coming back to
SLC. How’d you get caught in the tractor beam again?

 

Uh… just luck. Just pure luck. [laughs] I like playin’ Salt Lake.
You know, the ten weeks there was an interesting experience, but I like
performing there.

 

 

 

You say the same
thing about visiting SLC as you do about writing a book-which is, “Don’t.”

 

Yeah. Especially with writing. Writing’s like being married
to a bitch- but you can’t let her go because she’s hell on wheels. It’s like
some weird mistress. But really mean [laughs]… But you just forget. I really
enjoy the process of writing. It’s when you finish and you look and you say,
“Really… is this good?” It’s just a lot of self-torture because you’re alone
all the time.

 

 

Mormons get some time
in your latest book. Wanna hear more about ‘em?

 

Sure. Well, the thing was- Krakauer wrote a book about the
Mormons. That’s the other [influence]: my being there, and the book. He wrote a
very remarkable history of the Mormon religion, very succinctly. In the book,
with credit to him, I just said look, this guy really does it better in his
book.

 

We did this episode of The
Root of All Evil
on Scientology, which I knew very little about, and didn’t
even write about in the book. Everything I tried to write about was personal.
And those people, what they believe,
makes Mormons look like scientists. As
soon as you think, “This is crazy” someone really – But go ahead: please tell me.

 

 

For one, Mormons are
said to believe that God lives on the Planet Kolob with his wives cranking out
spirit babies. So technically you and I are one of those spirit babies.

 

Come on! Is that true?

 

 

Well, it’s the
subject of debate. The Mormon PR machine is famously competent. Have you heard
of baptisms for the dead, or baptisms by proxy?

 

Oh, yeah. That I knew about. And also marrying for eternity,
which is just… [famous Lewis Black
roiling pause
]… as brutal as it gets, I think.

 

 

The Disinformation Book of Lists has a list
of famous people the Mormons baptized by proxy.

 

Who?!

 

 

Albert Einstein… Anne
Frank…

 

Oh, he’d be
thrilled. He wasn’t even that Jewish. Anne Frank? You gotta be fuckin’ kiddin’
me. That’s unbelievable, seriously [laughs].
Anne Frank?

 

 

Genghis Khan…

 

Genghis Khan? Why?
What would possess them to want Genghis Khan?

 

 

Hitler’s on the list,
too.

 

Anne Frank I could-huh? Yeah, that’s a great idea. Real good marketing when you’re tryin’ to
convert a Jew.

 

 

Speaking of which-maybe
you already knew about this, but the list says that they baptized 20,000 to
380,000 Jews who died in the Holocaust.

 

And the others…? Five million…

 

 

Maybe they’re just
runnin’ behind.

 

They’re hand-pickin’ ‘em [laughs].

 

 

I heard you’re a music
nut. Do you collect records?

 

I don’t collect records anymore. I mean, I had a lot-I’ve
got ‘em socked away because I don’t really have the room! [laughs] I mean, I really used to, when records were-I was
crazy. But [my records] were all pieces of shit, really, because I had shitty
record players. Like I say in my act, I used the album covers to separate the
stems from seeds. They were all kinda green,
really.

 

 

What was the first
record you bought and what are some of the jewels of your collection?

 

The first record I bought was-I bought a 45 and it was
either “Louie, Louie” or “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” And I bought a bunch of comedy
albums by Newhart and Jonathan Winters and George Carlin. The ones that
really-the first-you know, that I bought- The Beatles- The ones I remember
going, “I gotta get that” were like CTA,
which was the original Chicago Transit Authority, before they became Chicago. That album was
unreal. I remember going out early, because it was just-and it seems so stupid-

 

Jesus Christ Superstar.
That was like a big deal. I was reading about it and it was nothing like that.
In retrospect, it seems kinda silly. But at the time, it was
really-wow-mind-blowing. Hair!
[laughs] I had Hair, the musical. And
then the Allman Brothers Live at the
Fillmore East
was one of my favorites. Still is. Flo & Eddie, then of
course there was Frank Zappa and-shoo-those are the ones that immediately come
to mind. And the Rolling Stones. And then a whole
bunch
of stuff. Everything fuckin’ out of Motown.

 

 

How about Stax?

 

Yeah.

 

 

Did you hear Isaac
Hayes passed away?

 

Yeah, I was just watching that. He was a Scientologist. That
kind of blew me away. But yeah, it’s sad. Shoo… Him and Bernie Mac.

 

 

Would you ever write
a book on music?

 

I don’t think I’ve got the kinda chops to do that. I have
friends who are so much smarter than me about it that I would hope they’d write
the book. And I would put my name on it. But I wouldn’t mind-I did a thing once
with Steve Earle, I had a great time. I picked the songs out and then we would
talk about why I picked those songs and then he’d play the song. That was a lot
of fun.

 

 

A lot of people use
music to relax. Do you find it soothing? Can it tame the beast within?

 

It
helps. It really does help to get away from it all, that’s for fuckin’ sure.
The sad thing I find about music now is trying to find music. Between American
Idol doing everything it can to destroy the last vestiges of it. And it’s just
tough. They’ve made it tougher. It’s nuts! You go to websites-Pandora helps,
because then you can pick up other stuff that’s bein’ done now and it’ll lead
you in the right direction.

 

But
it’s really amazing how few really great radio fuckin’ stations are left that
are playing-it used to be that’s where you’d turn to. But there just-even New
York: New York’s best radio station is out of Fordham University and I live in
a section of town where I can’t fuckin
get it on the radio. So I have to rely on-I’ve got a friend of mine, Allie, who
does a thing for a website, the name I can’t fuckin’ remember right now. That’s where I try to find the stuff…
I’m tryin’ to find it… [messing with his
iPhone
] No, that’s not it, you fuckers.
Ah, fuck. I don’t have it. That pisses me off.

 

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