Lewis Black picks up the phone for this interview and asks for a moment to “turn this [expletive] thing off.” The thing is his television, and it’s tuned to CNN.
“Shut the [expletive] up,” he says to it. “Jeez, it’s beyond belief. CNN, but you can go back and forth. It’s all the same. It’s madness. You want me to worry about ISIS, when between the coverage and the candidate, I’m being made brain-dead.
“Where are the goddamn adults?” he continues. “You wouldn’t allow this [expletive] to take place in a high school. Otherwise, everything’s fine.”
I’m on the phone with the comedian — famous for his wild rants on “The Daily Show” — as he makes his return to the Broadway stage with “Black to the Future.”
The comedy shows will run most Mondays from Sept. 12 through the end of October and follow up Black’s last solo effort on Broadway, “Running on Empty,” in October 2012.
“I did it four years ago and it was fun and successful, and I had a good time,” Black says.
His return, which hits in the prime of election season, is not by accident. Black says he was brought back to Broadway by “these idiots,” referring to the presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
While they brought him back, he says that the show isn’t really about them.
“I can get my one or two jokes in about the candidates,” Black says. “But who in the audience — anywhere I go in the country — doesn’t have their own 200 Donald Trump jokes already? And then they’re upset because there’s not 200 Hillary Clinton jokes. ... So I steer clear of them.”
What Black really digs into are issues he feels politicians aren’t addressing.
“It’s really about what affects people than what affects the two of those pricks,” he says.
One of the topics that Black spends some time opining about is mental illness.
“We have a mental illness problem,” he explains, “and not only do we have a problem with people who are mentally ill, the rest of us are being made mentally ill.”
Black is constantly touring across the country, but for appearances on Broadway, he says it will be a different kind of show.
“It’s kind of like the difference between the company that does the Broadway show and the company that tours,” he says. “And so, there’s a step up that I have to bring to Broadway. There’s more of a looseness to the shows I do [touring]. Broadway, I just got to make it tight because there’s a critic who’s going to come in who is going to say something. The fifth paragraph is really where I went off the tracks. It’s just a little looser out here and I have to tighten it up. You just give it less space.”
Beyond Broadway, you’ll soon be able to see Black in Woody Allen’s upcoming Amazon Prime six-episode comedy series “Crisis in Six Scenes,” which debuts Sept. 30. Though you won’t get much out of him about the show.
“Basically, I can just reveal that I have the joy of working with Becky Baker, who I’ve known forever,” he says. “We played husband and wife, and she and I had scenes with Elaine May.
“That’s all I can tell,” he continues. “If I tell you anything else, they come and they shoot you. You can only reveal so much.”
He was willing to reveal his admiration for May, saying that he was a big fan of her comedy work with Mike Nichols.
“Nichols and May were pivotal in my growing up,” he says. “I was listening to them before I understood what I was listening to. And she was a joy to work with. You have your brain go ‘It’s Elaine May!’ You have to stop your brain from shouting that.”