Lewis Black's Irreverent Judaism
On the outside, Lewis Black features a gruff voice, thick-rimmed glasses, and gyrating neck jowls. On the inside? Insightful chaos. Unlike many comedians, Black has shied away from humor intended to shock audiences, but rather leave them walking away with a sense of both irreverence and education.
Straight outta Silver Spring, Maryland, comedian Black epitomizes the word “curmudgeon”. In his book, “Nothing’s Sacred”, the Jewish-raised comedian chastises the name of the town where he was Bar Mitzvahed in 1961 as lacking both “the seasonal spring” and a “single silver-miner”. Small irritations such as these have led Black to have an enormous career in comedy that has spanned over thirty years.
His screaming commentary on American politics have been a favorite of Jon Stewart, who has featured Black’s rants countless times on “The Daily Show”.
And for two seasons, Black hosted his own television show on Comedy Central. ”The Root of All Evil”, which aired in 2008, pitted the pros and cons of topics such as Olympic Games vs. Drinking Games, NRA vs. PETA, and High School vs. American Idol.
In this 2008 video of Black at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue in DC, he describes what it was like to be the first Jew his roommates had ever met at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-o1SwGK8Gf4 (Warning, language is rated R)
He turns 65 years-old this High Holiday season. While well-versed in the traditions of Judaism, Black has offered his own sermon for the community:
"There are things about the Jewish religion that I carry with me to this day. Chief among them is Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, as it’s so happily called. It had a profound effect on my innocent young mind. The service opens with the organ playing “Kol Nidre,” one of the spookiest pieces of music ever written. You hear it and literally are surprised bats and shit aren’t flying around.”
Perhaps a jazzy Kol Nidre melody would suit Black’s mood better (because despite all of his blood-pressure-raising anger, Black’s music of choice is not thrash metal, but contemporary Jazz.
He is almost always on tour. Check out Lewis Black’s website for more information: http://lewisblack.com/.
Article originally published on August 14, 2013 on www.GatherDC.org.