Lewis Black on socialism, Louis C.K. and the new NRA app
The most common byproduct of politics is high blood pressure, and no one experiences that kind of pre-stroke madness like standup comedian Lewis Black. With his shaky hands, bulging eyes and unbuttoned suit, Black often appears as an out-of-work schmuck who writes angry letters to the White House and TMZ. Thankfully, he has his regular "Back in Black" segment on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, along with a constant cycle of standup gigs and comedy specials, to keep his kettle from truly boiling over, saving us all from the wrath of his neck-bulging madness. Black will be delivering a set of his characteristic rants at the Ellie at the Denver Performing Arts Complex on Friday, January 18, and we recently caught up with him to discuss his views on the fiscal cliff, topical comedy and when being too angry on stage freaks people out.
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Westword: How's your day going?
Lewis Black: [With thick sarcasm] Oh, great, spectacular, each day is better than the last. Because we're really moving along as a nation, really putting our mind and energy together to move toward a better tomorrow.
Absolutely. Did you hear about the NRA's new iPhone app for kids? It has assault-rifle simulators, listed as "for ages four and up!" It was released on the one-month anniversary of the Newtown shooting.
[Note: This interview was conducted the morning of January 15, and in light of heavy criticism, the NRA has changed the rating of their app to "12 and up."]
I didn't. But that's good.
Were you surprised to see the gun-control debate resurrected?
It's never died, really; it's been around for my entire lifetime. There have been groups in this country that have raised funds in order to push for gun-control legislation, like the Brady Group, which I've worked for. The assault weapons ban happened because of them. The debate won't go away, it keeps coming back. You've got 270 million guns in this country; I mean really, at what point do you stop and think about that?
Why do you think fear of gun-control is such an affective campaign strategy for conservatives?
The two biggest paranoid fantasies of my generation were that vaccines caused autism, and that the government is coming for your guns. Nobody's coming for your guns -- no one! There's no upside for Obama to talk about it, you just get a torrent of abuse. All we're saying is, you can keep your gun, but now can we set up a system where crazy people can't get a gun? How nuts are you? I mean, 75 percent of the NRA wants background checks [for weapons purchased at gun shows].
With the Republicans backing down and Democrats seemingly getting what they wanted during the fiscal-cliff negotiations, do you think we're entering a new era of Republican timidity, with the Dems becoming more aggressive?
No. I think the Republicans are going to take the debt ceiling and go psychotic. They had to back off the fiscal cliff thing because even they knew that there was too much traction against them. I think it's reprehensible that they couldn't get the work done before Christmas. We don't have time for this; we don't have time for these people.
And the Democrats are always going to be the Democrats: They're like a giant turtle stuck on his back that can't flip over.
Continue reading for more from Lewis Black.