Trump, Technology And Kurt Vonnegut: A Conversation With Lewis Black
This post originally appeared on The Campus Citizen.
With partisan politics, fake news, and the rise of President Donald Trump, there’s plenty of potential material for comedians and entertainers.
On his current “Rant, White & Blue” tour, comedian Lewis Black, in typical fashion, isn’t holding back. The 68-year old comedian takes the stage to discuss issues ranging from social issues to mental health. Using humor and satire, Black both entertains and informs his audiences on the absurdities of the world.
Throughout his nearly three decade career, many of these absurdities haven’t significantly changed.
“It’s appalling. It’s really kind of sad,” Black said. “You’re always going to have people who can’t let go of the past. You just have to figure out what to take with you and then move on. It’s like being a nomad. You gather a few things in your sack and you move on.”
After his Indianapolis set at The Old National Center on April 29, Black will attend an after party hosted by the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library.
Julia Whitehead, founder and CEO of the KVML, is excited about the collaboration with Black, who is an honorary board member.
“We’re very excited that he values the work we do, he has become a friend and someone I personally value and hold in high regards,” Whitehead said. “He cared very much about Vonnegut and his work, and it’s nice to have someone out in the world that can share the good news about our organization.”
“I have a big interest in that library because he had a huge effect on the way I see the world,” Black added. Like Vonnegut, Black uses humor and satire to make sense of the changing world. “All of a sudden, I went ‘Oh, I’m not crazy.’”
With Trump in the Oval Office, there’s an influx of new material every day.
“He’s writing it,” Black said. “I don’t know how you’re supposed to satirize what’s already satirical. Or as my opening act so wonderfully says, ‘It’s like Vonnegut is writing the play at this point.’”
“There’s such an insanity in the whole thing,” Black continued. “And, he just makes shit up. There doesn’t seem to be any real adults around to say you have to stop this.”
Despite his angry persona, Black’s more recent sets are toned down, while still tapping into what makes him tick.
“I’m funny when I’m angry, that’s the deal. And they’ve certainly done nothing to make me less angry,” Black said.
“I think I’m growing as a comic. I’m starting to modulate more where the anger is coming from, and it changes on any given night. I find other ways to express anger that I think actually show more anger than when I’m just being big and blustering. What I get is the blow-back from some of the audiences like ‘Oh, he got tired.’ Fuck you. I don’t think you really heard what I was saying. It’s just as angry, I’m just not yelling.”
“All of a sudden, I went ‘Oh, I’m not crazy.’”
That being said, the new administration is adding fuel to the fire.
“What Trump brought back was, for me, it was like ‘Okay, you want to see that?’ Well, you picked the guy to send me off the cliff, that’s for sure.”
With fake news on the rise, Black finds hope in the front pages of The Washington Post, millennials, and the future of technology.
“The main source of facts is usually the editorial pages of The Washington Post and New York Times, and there are really good conservative writers on both,” Black explained. “And I find most of my facts, because they do the actual research.”
As for technology, Black sees the current generation as a source of hope for the future.
“We’re being governed by a group of primates that have no idea how technology works. I’m certainly out of the loop. I use Twitter when I think of something funny, which is about once every three weeks. We’re literally between an industrial age and a technological age. And the people who are leading are from the industrial age. I think things will improve, if not from the millennial generation, from the one after, when technology will be integrated in society. The thing they did was they dropped the computer into the whole scheme of things. I’m sure it is the greatest invention on Earth. It’s also like a drug, you fucking morons. It’s the younger generations that are learning to function with the drug.”
In his upcoming Indianapolis show, and all of his shows for that matter, Black will incorporate rants from audience members that submitted their own issues and concerns online on his website.
“There was one written by a guy about how he realized that now that Trump was in office, he was going to die with the things being passed, and he was willing to accept that because he didn’t want to live in this world,” Black explained. “And that was startling. And then there was a woman who wrote a rant about pickles that was brilliant. I’m good at ranting, send me your rants. I don’t work in an office, I’m not in the Army, and I’m not driving to work. I don’t know any of this stuff anymore. I live in a bubble. On a certain level, people need a voice. This is the way I can serve this, and it’s fun.”
Despite the anger and the tension Black brings to his comedy set, he looks to bring people together through his jokes. No matter how divided the nation becomes he sees comedy as way to bring people together.
“I don’t know what it is,” Black said, “but the unifying thing is that there is something comforting in shared laughter.”
Lewis Black will be performing at the Old National Center April 29 at 8:00 p.m.