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‘King of Rant’ Lewis Black brings ‘Naked Truth Tour’ to Columbus

Comedian Lewis Black will perform at the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts on Saturday.
Comedian Lewis Black will perform at the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts on Saturday. Submitted photo

Lewis Black says he might like to star in a situation comedy someday.

“I don’t know if that will happen,” he said in a telephone interview last week.

But the comedian, who is bringing his “The Emperor’s New Clothes: The Naked Truth Tour” to Columbus on Saturday at the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts, has done about everything else.

The 67-year-old Black, known as the “King of Rant,” has Grammys for his comedy albums “The Carnegie Hall Performance” in 2007 and “Stark Raving Black” in 2011.

He has won an Emmy for a regular feature he did on “Inside the NFL on HBO” and was nominated for his HBO special “Red, White and Screwed.”

A longtime regular on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” he has performed live in packed theaters throughout the United States, Canada and Europe, winning the award for best male stand up at the American Comedy Awards in 2001.

He has written three best-selling books, “Nothing’s Sacred,” “Me of Little Faith” and “I’m Dreaming of a Black Christmas.”

He has also appeared in films and is well known as the voice of Anger in the award-winning animated feature “Inside Out.”

“On the alphabet of fun, that was an ‘A,’” he said of the cartoon experience. “I’ll be remembered as this little red guy who yells and his head goes on fire.”

He has also written more than 40 plays, many of which have been produced around the country.

“When I was in school, I never dreamed this is the way my career would go,” Black said, laughing. “I figured I would be teaching playwriting at some southern school for girls.”

A native of Washington, D.C., who was raised in Maryland, Black fell in love with drama at an early age and his goal as he studied at the University of North Carolina and the Yale School of Drama was to work in that field.

While at North Carolina, he began doing stand-up comedy at the Cat’s Cradle comedy club.

“I loved writing and it was a way to hear some immediate reaction to what I was writing,” he explained.

Soon, he was performing in other clubs while serving as the playwright in residence at the West Bank Café’s Downstair Theater in New York City. There, he oversaw the development of more than 1,000 plays, some by noted writers such as Aaron Sorkin.

He first drew national attention when in 1996 he created a weekly segment for Comedy Central’s The Daily Show in which he would deliver a three-minute segment about what was bothering him at the moment.

He said his comedic inspirations were George Carlin and Lenny Bruce. “Those are the ones I gravitated toward,” he said. “Also, Bob Newhart and Lily Tomlin.”

He said Kathleen Madigan, Nick DiPaolo and especially John Bowman, who will appear with Black in Columbus, are comedians who make him laugh now.

“Very funny,” Black said of Bowman.

Black does more than 100 shows per year. At most, he performs for about an hour and then receives questions and rants from audience members as well as an audience on the Internet. The Saturday show will be streamlined on his website lewisblack.com or livelewis.com.

He told the Washington Post that he is a “happy person but an angry citizen.”

Audience members are sure to hear from Black about this year’s presidential election, which he calls “absurd.” He said it is difficult to bring the campaign into the act.

“How do you satirize something that is already satirical?” he asked. “This campaign has been the biggest distraction ever. No other country in the world submits itself to something like this.”

He called the conventions pep rallies and said both parties nominated “someone they do not trust.”

Much of his material comes straight from news headlines. He mentioned the mayor of Jackson, Miss., who said he believes people can “pray away potholes.”

“You can’t make this stuff up,” he said.

And watch out, Black said, because he may find something that angers him in Columbus.

Larry Gierer: 706-571-8581, @lagierer

If you go

What: Comedian Lewis Black

When: Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Rivercenter for the Performing Arts, 900 Broadway in Columbus.

Admission: All tickets are $39. The box office is open 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and one hour prior to a show. Go online at www.rivercenter.org for tickets.

Guide: This show features adult themes and language. It is not for children.

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