'King of the Rant' recalls local connection; no four-letter words included
Lewis Black said one of the benefits of his no-holds-barred, hair-on-fire delivery in his stand-up comedy routines is the health benefits.
“My blood pressure is perfect,” he said, laughing, in a Friday afternoon telephone interview. “I don’t keep things bottled up.”
Black, who spent part of his youth visiting friends in Chambersburg, is the author of the current comedy production at Totem Pole Playhouse, “One Slight Hitch.”
In some circles, Black is known as the king of the rant. He yells a lot, and skewers, as his website (www.lewisblack.com), says, …” anything and anyone that gets under his skin.”
So famous are Black’s rants that Rowan Joseph, producing artistic director at Totem Pole, has told audiences not to worry about the language in “One Slight Hitch.”
“He is known for his four letter words,” Joseph said. “I made him promise that all the words in this play have at least seven letters.”
Black is so widely known for his on-stage rage that last year he voiced the character “Anger” in the Academy Award winning film from Pixar, “Inside Out.”
Perhaps surprisingly to some, Black has written more than 40 plays, many of which have been produced around the country. “The Deal,” a dark comedy about business, was made into a short film in 1998 and picked up by the Sundance Channel. In 2011, “One Slight Hitch” was produced at the Williamstown Theatre Festival and then again in 2012 at both the ACT Theatre in Seattle and The George Street Theatre in New Brunswick, according to the comic’s website.
Joseph said that sometime during the July 8 – 24 run of "One Slight Hitch." Black will be at the theater to see his brainchild performed.
Somehow, between a heavy touring schedule, regular TV appearances and movie roles, Black has managed to write three best-selling books: “Nothing’s Sacred” (Simon and Schuster, 2005), “Me of Little Faith” (Riverhead Books, 2008) and “I’m Dreaming of a Black Christmas” (Riverhead Books, 2010). All did well and spent time on the New York Times best sellers list.
Black started his theatrical life in Manhattan, at an 80-seat venue called “West Bank Café’s Downstairs Theatre Bar.”
Joseph said it was THE hot theater in the city at that time.
Joseph should know: he was there. Black was the playwright-in-residence. “One Slight Hitch” Director Rand Foerster was as well.
Black wrote the plays, most of them performed in a single act, and started working on his stand-up routines.
The little New York theater was a kind of nexus of budding theatrical talent at the time. During Black’s tenure there, he oversaw the development of plays by “West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin, “American Beauty” writer Alan Ball, and others.
Black left the West Bank in the late 1980s to pursue stand-up full time. As much as he loved theater, he was tired of the brutal work schedules and other pressures.
“Working in American theater is like being in an abusive orphanage,” he said.
He said it’s a strange life in a way.
“Your whole day is taken up knowing that for two hours that night you’re going to be someone else. Then, when you have been somebody else for two hours, you put away the costume and head for a bar,” he said.
“Yeah, well there has to be some compensation,” he said, laughing again.
He said he never had any trouble getting his real self mixed up with the people he was playing.
“I hung up the costume and hung up the character with it,” he said.