Angry rants and seething diatribes are staples of Lewis Black’s act, as the perpetually-pissed off comedian has been performing his brand of rage-fueled stand-up for over three decades.
While the veteran comic is set to turn 66 in August, that hasn’t stopped him from embarking on his latest tour, “The Rant Is Due,” which comes to New Hampshire and Connecticut in September.
Before he heads to New England and other cities around the U.S. later this year, Black will be taking his tour to the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal on July 23-24. The former Grammy winner is excited to head up north for the final week of the fest, as he enjoys performing in front of international crowds.
“The great thing about playing in Canada is you’re not appearing in front of Democrats and Republicans or the Tea Party,” Black told Boston.com in a recent phone interview. “They don’t bring that kind of filter to a joke, they’re not looking at it from that perspective. These people are looking at it totally as if it were a reality show that they can’t believe is on the air.”
In an effort to embrace today’s social media and techno-culture, Black has added some new elements to his latest tour, such as live streaming select shows on his website and taking rant suggestions from fans in the audience and on Twitter.
Black first tried streaming his sets during a pair of performances in California earlier this month, and the results turned out better than expected.
“Technically, it went astonishingly well and it was the first time that I was convinced that the medium really does work,” Black said. “It was insane the quality of the video we were sending out.”
Currently, not all of the comedian’s upcoming dates will be streamed live over the web, however, he will be integrating audience questions into his sets throughout the tour. The back-and-forth sessions will be filmed and used for a variety of online projects.
“I’m not a really good techno-person. This is the only way I can embrace it,” Black said. “What this allows me to do is to get what I do out and, since I don’t have a TV show, at least it’s a way to appear on some form of digital video.”
While Black has started to incorporate technology and social media into his work, the stand-up star still has his fair share of critiques when it comes to these new mediums. He’s especially critical of how people will quickly react to stories they see on the Internet, even though they are completely unaware of the background and context of situations.
Black cites Aflac’s firing of Gilbert Gottfried in 2011 over apparently offensive tweets as an example of online outrage gone awry.
“Gilbert Gottfried does that joke about the Japanese, about the tsunami, which I can’t remember the joke, but he’s doing it for his audience,” Black said. “Then people pick up on it, send it out, and it’s not his audience. Anybody who knows Gilbert and likes Gilbert and enjoys Gilbert’s comedy knows that he doesn’t have a racist bone in his body. To him, it’s a joke. And it’s kind of the same thing. Joan Rivers does that thing and everybody goes who-ha, and you go, ‘C’mon!’”
This lack of background and context seemingly contributed to SiriusXM’s recent firing of Opie & Anthony co-host Anthony Cumia. The radio personality was let go from his show due to public outrage stemming from a string of tweets that were interpreted as “racially-charged” and “hate-filled.”
Despite Cumia’s claim that the Twitter tirade was directed solely at the woman who allegedly assaulted him while taking pictures in New York City, the media pretty much overlooked this aspect of the story in order to capitalize on the more sensationalized parts of the controversy.
Black, who’s collaborated with Cumia in the past, was saddened by the news and frustrated by the media’s treatment of the story.
“I don’t know the story, so until I get the story of what happened, I’m dealing with nothing,” Black said. “Like everything else in this [expletive] country, nobody is giving me facts.”
While he sympathizes with his friend’s plight, Black understands that you have to be careful with what you put out on social media. It’s just too easy to be misinterpreted — even if you’re only telling a joke.
“I do Twitter, but I’m not a great one-liner guy,” Black said. “By the time I get to 140 characters, I’ve barely got the joke started.”