Living In Fictional Times: A Political Conversation with Lewis Black Hyatt Grand Salon, Montreal QC, July 28
Published Jul 29, 2016Lewis Black has been the flabbergasted face of political standup comedy for about two decades now. A realist in an idealist's clothing, Black's disappointments in his country's frosty political situation are boundless to the point where even he — a man who worked on The Daily Show for years and who has devoted his life to political satire — was willing to claim "it's not funny anymore" in front of some 300 audience members at Just for Laughs.
As the facilitator of the conversation — it became almost immediately clear that he wasn't the interviewer, as things took on a conversational tone right out of the gate — Greg Proops was as intelligent as he was funny.
Black discussed his early days in comedy as a bit of a struggle as he became more political. He described being turned away from performing at Just For Laughs for years (with only faux bitterness) and having major difficulties getting on The Late Show with David Letterman in the early '90s because according to the show's producer "politics just [weren't] funny." Oh how far we have come.
Conversation then turned to the reasons for political comedy's massive rise in popularity. Black blames all the major news networks, arguing that CNN, MSNBC, Fox and the rest were light on facts and long on footage — footage referring to hours of innocuous shots of Trump's plane landing with ill-informed talking heads speculating meaninglessly overtop, for instance. He suggested comedy shows like John Oliver's Last Week Tonight and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee rely on collecting and presenting facts in order to be funny. In this light, he didn't find it surprising that a massive amount of young people rely on comedy shows for the news. He did admit to finding that thought rather scary.
Time and again the conversation wound its way back to Donald Trump. Black described America's stance on Donald Trump ingeniously — in his eyes, the Trump dialogue consist of "people who think Trump is a homophobic, racist, know nothing, narcissistic bully, and people who think those are negative qualities."
Every year at Just for Laughs, there's at least one topic on the end of everyone's tongue, and a whole lot of comedians who want to have the best joke about it. Last year the piece de resistance was a Bill Cosby joke or a Caitlyn Jenner zinger. This year, it's Donald Trump. Lewis Black is definitely in the running for the best Trump line of the fest, and he wasn't even joking.