Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Back in Black at the Calvin

By Justin Surgent

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Flickr/Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

“It’s not going to be that exciting,” Lewis Black said flatly as he walked out to thunderous applause, “ you’ve come with an energy I can’t respond to.” But for a 64 year-old man, Black kept up pretty well with the young and zealous Northampton crowd Friday night at the Calvin Theater.

Black is a comedian known for his witty commentary and his comfort with vulgarity. With prompts stemming from political, social and economic standpoints, his humor finds itself at home within a wide range of audiences. The night was not without his customary angry rants and unique finger-wagging accusatory remarks, both trademarks of Black’s style.

Although funny, Black’s humor is noticeably dark. His apparent view of the world via his humor is far from uplifting, but it’s his cynical nature that gives birth to his best material.

John Bowman, a fellow comedian and friend of Black, opened the show. Bowman is the producer of Black’s “Root of All Evil,” and he spoke for about an hour on all different topics, ranging from his travels on tour to his missed medication of the day.

“I take pills,” Bowman said to the audience, awkwardly shifting his feet as he did so. “I missed a little blue one today, which isn’t important, but reminds me to take the pink one which is (expletive) crucial!”

Bowman was gracious towards the Northampton crowd and was well received in his tacky old style western shirt and cowboy boots that he told the audience he got in Texas. Bowman explained how touring across the United States opened his eyes to how many towns were completely forgettable.

“It’s a real pleasure to be here,” Bowman said, “and it’s nice to be able to say that and not be lying.

Black walked on stage after a brief intermission in a black suit coat, straight-faced and collected with a newspaper in hand. Accompanied by only a stool and two bottles of water on the stage, Black was ready for business, pacing slightly as he spoke.

“Keep in mind, nothing is going to change,” Black said early on in the show. “Tomorrow we’ll wake up and be in the same river of crap, but fortunately as you get older you lose your sense of smell.”

After setting the audience straight about any social or political change in the near future, Black named the problem for the United States’ apparent lack of progress: an overwhelming case of nationwide Attention Deficit Disorder, or A.D.D.

“In the past 12 years we have gone nowhere,” said Black, “The reason we don’t get stuff done is … we have A.D.D.”

Black soon after stated that television is the reason for this nationwide A.D.D. epidemic, saying that when he was a kid there wasn’t the overwhelming plethora of entertainment options young people have today.

“You kids couldn’t even live under (those) conditions,” Black said, “It’s like a North Korean prison camp. Three channels, no ‘Clifford’.”

One of the trademark aspects of Black’s comedy is his buildup to the punch line. He gives the audience a backstory first so they understand the full context of the joke, then follows with a witty wisecrack at the end. This makes him as much a storyteller as he is a humorist, something that demonstrates his background as a student of theater. And true to character, Black did this with all his pieces throughout the night.

Black spoke on the impending doom of Social Security and his belief of pointless attempts at alternative energy. The bitterness he felt towards the organizations were present in his dialogue, laughing at young members of the audience who pay for Social Security but will never see it returned to them and summing up Social Security as “a whole lot of long division.”

Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter were not spared in Black’s comedic rants, becoming targets to his rage and his humorous old-man approach to new technologies.

“I, unlike many, found Facebook to be a completely horrific experience,” said Black during his show, to which he followed up with jokes on investing in Facebook and the nearly forgotten cult classic “Farmville” game.

The night was not without its disruptions, however. At multiple occasions during the show, hecklers attempted to knock Black off topic.

“Shut up, you’re going to shut up,” Black said to one disruptive member of the audience. “I’m delighted you came but you’re not going to say anything used to heckle.” Members of the audience cheered in support of Black against the heckler, keeping him quiet the rest of the evening.

With the political debates in the recent past and the impending election on everyone’s mind, Black made sure to bring up the topic of politics, speaking about the debates, elections and the so-called “ridiculousness” of the Republican Party candidates.

By the end of the night, the audience was laughing and cheering at all of Black’s jokes, fully engrossed at the political and social satire he was providing. He left the audience with one overwhelming message by the end of his political rant, which closed the night – a message he said prospective voters should keep in mind:

“If you don’t vote, you don’t get to bitch.”

Justin Surgent can be reached at [email protected].

 

 

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