Comic Lewis Black sounds perpetually aggravated as the featured player on The Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart, with his AC/DC’s “Back in Black” segment laser focused on what is currently grinding Black’s gears.
In person, he’s a stand-up comedian who happens to be a stand-up guy. According to Fast Company’s latest interview, in his book’s acknowledgments he thanks 177 people by name.
Black set out as a scribe and playwright after graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, later a stint at Yale School of Drama. Friends urged Black to open mic and encouraged him to feature his rants which killed audiences. Black was known for closing his set by instructing the audience to generously tip the waitresses.
British actor Rupert Everett has a kindred spirit in Black regarding corporate behemoth java slinger, Starbucks, which actually inspired the title of one of Black’s CDs: The End of the Universe.
In Houston, he encountered two of them across the street from each other–a violation, apparently, of the natural order: “If there was a just and loving God, he wouldn’t have allowed that kind of s–t to go down!”
In stand-up, Black is the reigning king of rage. On Comedy Central’s The Daily Show and his HBO specials, he is the “Man on the Edge of an Aneurysm”
Black, 58, has established himself as a proxy for the rank-and-file citizen. He stated in his Fast Company interview: “My life,” he says, “has boiled down to this: Get me there as soon as possible so I can start to bitch. It’s sad.” Black does 250 stand-up gigs a year, lives a life of canceled flights, long lines, and missed hotel wake-up calls.
Hugely popular in the US, Black’s latest HBO special was “Red, White & Screwed,” in August the paperback version of his best-selling memoir, Nothing’s Sacred, was published. On deck is Barry Levinson’s Man of the Year, starring Robin Williams and costarring Black, opens in October, one of four movies he’ll appear in this year.
“The beginning of the end” of customer service, Black declares, “was when they took the simplest service of all–‘Hi, I need a phone number’–and put a machine in. You’re a phone company, F–KER!
I mean, I’m really sorry they divided AT&T and all that, but C’MON! Just tell me, ‘One of our representatives will be with ya in a minute.’ Don’t have this machine that you’re refining and refining until it can guess every voice in America.”
Black has given lousy service a lot of thought (back in the day he used to provide it–as a bartender who “didn’t know how to bartend”). He jabs his meaty digit at the root of the problem. “From the time I was born, every waking moment in American business has been devoted to the bottom line.
I don’t think companies think about service as service. They’re worrying about whether the company’s growing at 9%. But a company can grow and–hey, Enron GREW, you f–king morons!”
Black has simply had it with incompetence, apathy and mass lying.
Black’s salty patois is a cathartic banner for everyone fed up with mass slung B.S. Says Black: “They say, ‘Sir, you can’t use that kind of language.’ I say, ‘Have you got language that works for this kind of INSANITY?’ “
Insanity like the credit-card company that canceled his card while he was in Europe: “They say, ‘You should have told us you were going.’ I go, ‘You’re not my MOMMY!'”
Add the insanity that is cell-phone service: “When I was in Europe, using a phone to call the States, my carrier neglected to tell me that it doesn’t consider Scandinavia to be in Europe. That was a $1,500 mistake. But it was good for 10 days of screaming.”
Or the uber-insanity of health-insurance companies wrestling with Black for so long over what procedure was covered in a bill, that he finally just paid the doctor himself: “F–KERS!” Reported by Fast Company.