Lewis Black On Sharing His (And Your) Angriest Thoughts With The Rest Of The World

Clay McBride/Shutterstock

Longtime fans are familiar with Lewis Black’s rants, but not everyone realizes just how much of a workhorse the typically angry comic is. From making frequent appearances on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show and Trevor Noah’s Daily Show, to constantly touring to promote his latest stand-up hour, Rant, White & Blue, the comedy stalwart is seemingly unstoppable. Hence his latest project, The Rant is Due, a new series on Audible through which users can submit their own tirades to Black.

As the 68-year-old comedian explains to Uproxx, he selects the best submissions — be they long treatises or short questions — and delivers them while on the road. Black isn’t performing The Rant is Due en lieu of his own material. Live audiences who attend the comic’s concerts will see Rant, White & Blue and his latest material, of course, but Black spends an additional 20 minutes or so debuting the fans’ latest ire from the Audible series. And it all came about, he says, because the seemingly angriest man in the room wanted to interact with everyone else around him.

How did The Rant is Due come about?

About three years ago I was thinking, “You know, it’d be fun to do a Q&A with the audience.” We started doing it about two years ago, and once that happened, I realized I was just getting little things about what was going on in their city. All the things they thought were psychotic, you know? If something was being done that was completely ass-backwards, and made no sense, we’d hear about it. Then people started sending in these things online, so I started telling people at shows, “If you’ve got something to get off your chest, just go ahead and send it in.” It started very slowly, but now it’s kind of snowballed.

Fans love sharing their own jokes — or in your case, frustrations — with comics.

There’s been a certain amount of that, yes. For the ones who tell you jokes, you could shoot yourself because they come up to you and say, “I got one for you.” That’s usually the beginning of it. I always try to smile and focus whenever that happens. The other thing that happens is when people come up and say, “Did you hear about this?” or “Do you know about that?” It’s always about something. So yeah, there’s always been that kind of thing after shows. Mostly things like, “I’m glad you’re doing this because I’m as angry as you are. I just don’t let it go.” It’s not that difficult to note there’s been a lot of anger in this country lately, and we’ve just been sitting on it. This is just a way to let it all out.

The other thing about anger is, people always ask me how I do it every night. I am able to do it because it’s not just anger about whatever the larger issues are. It’s also about little things, like trying to use your phone to get something done. Like trying to get a prescription because most places are forcing you to go online. You can’t go to your local pharmacist anymore. You have to go to their special place. And then it comes down to access. “I can’t get on the website.” “What do you mean you can’t get on the website?” “It doesn’t work.” “We’re going to send you the ID.” It goes on and on, and the next thing you know, a day and a half has passed and you’re still not on the website.

At which point you’d probably be dead.

Right. There’s such a high level of frustration because we live in a society in which everything should be solved in a second, but the solutions always take much longer. Well, how the fuck is that possible? The shortest distance between two points is not a machine. I think we’re learning that finally.

I don’t know if we’re actually learning, though.

That’s true.

You shrugged off fan jokes earlier, but you seem to really enjoy many of the submitted rants you read.

Here’s the thing. I don’t really like to laugh at my own stuff. I’m not good at it. I mean, sometimes I’ll say something I didn’t know I was going to say and I’ll surprise myself. Or, I’m trying something for the first time. Though I don’t usually laugh at new material when I’m really trying it out for the first time, which is about 20 percent of the act. But if I’m reading somebody else’s stuff, I can laugh at it. That’s part of the reason I’m reading those particular submissions. They made me laugh.