Thirty-some years ago, Yale Drama School graduate Lewis Black and several friends drove cross-country to Colorado Springs to reclaim a dilapidated theater. "All of a sudden, we see the mountains," Black recalls. "It was astonishing. Suddenly, like in a movie, the song 'Rocky Mountain High' comes on. We're fucked, I thought. We had figured out this incredible secret, and then this jackass gets on the radio and tells everybody. Every asshole in America was going to come to Colorado after that."
Now the comedian, whose stint here was brief, will get a chance to decide for himself if he really is thrilled to return. Expect fireworks when Black, who was named Best Male Standup at the 2001 American Comedy Awards, takes the stage this weekend at Denver's Comedy Works. A regular on Late Night With Conan O'Brien, the sniping sourpuss is probably best known for his "Back in Black" segment on Comedy Central's The Daily Show, a venue that allows him to spray his social and political scattershot.
But Black, who has performed standup since college, is also passionate about theater. During a break in his current Comedy Central tour with Dave Attell, he's overseeing the casting of his latest play, One Slight Hitch, a marriage satire. The show, which will open in Los Angeles, marks only the second time the playwright's work has made it to the Left Coast. His writing debut several decades ago earned a magazine critique opining that "no play by Lewis Black should ever be produced in California again."
He isn't worried. "I like standup and theater the same. It's like liking fire as opposed to electricity," says Black, who is calm when he speaks about the stage -- a far cry from his exasperated on-screen persona.
Broach the subject of politics, though, and his indignant rants ensue. "I can't believe the stupidity in this country," Black raves. "There is a disgusting lack of people taking responsibility for their actions right now -- 9/11 happens, and nobody loses his job? Hel-lo. If I showed up to a show and just lay on the stage and cried for an hour, I'd be fired."
Instead, he'll be fired up.