Lewis Niles Black (born August 30, 1948) is an American stand-up comedian, author, playwright, and actor. He is known for his comedy style, which often includes simulating a mental breakdown, or an increasingly angry rant, ridiculing history, politics, religion, trends and cultural phenomena. He hosted Comedy Central's The Root of All Evil and makes regular appearances on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart delivering his “Back in Black” commentary segment. When not on the road performing, he resides in Manhattan. He also maintains a residence in Chapel Hill, N.C. He is currently the spokesman for Aruba Tourism, appearing in television ads that aired in late 2009 and 2010. He was voted 51st of the 100 greatest stand-up comedians of all time by Comedy Central in 2004.
Black is the son of Jeannette, a teacher, and Sam Black, an artist and mechanical engineer. He was born and raised in a middle-class Jewish family in Silver Spring, Maryland, graduating from Springbrook High School in 1966, summa cum laude. Black claims in his book that he scored highly on the math section of his SAT exam and later applied to Princeton University among others. Black enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he studied playwriting and was a brother of Pi Lambda Phi International fraternity and a member of Student Congress. He earned a Masters in Fine Arts at the Yale School of Drama in 1977.
Black's career began in theater as a playwright. He served as the playwright in residence and associate artistic director of Steve Olsen's West Bank Cafe Downstairs Theatre Bar in Hell's Kitchen in New York City, where he collaborated with composer and lyricist Rusty Magee and artistic director Rand Foerster on hundreds of one-act plays from 1981 to 1989. Also with Rusty Magee, Black wrote the musical The Czar Of Rock and Roll, which premiered at Houston's Alley Theatre in 1990.
Black's stand-up comedy began as an opening act for the plays as he was also the master of ceremonies. After a management change at the theater, Black left and began working as a comedian as well as finding bit parts in television and films.
Black's style of comedy is that of a man who, in dealing with the absurdities of life and contemporary politics, is approaching his personal limits of sanity. Sarcasm, hyperbole, profanity, shouting and trademark angry finger-shaking bring emphasis to his topics of discussion. He once described his humor as "being on the Titanic every single day and being the only person who knows what is going to happen." He claims that he doesn't write his jokes down, he merely starts talking about something that makes him angry until he has to move on before he has a stroke.
Black has described his political affiliation as: "I'm a socialist, so that puts me totally outside any concept...the Canadians get it. But seriously, most people don't get it. The idea of capping people's income just scares people. 'Oh, you're taking money from the rich.' Ooh, what a horrifying thing. These people really need $200 million".
Black lists his comedic influences as George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, Lily Tomlin, Bob Newhart and Shelley Berman.
In 1998, Black starred in his first comedy special on the series Comedy Central Presents. He starred in two additional episodes of the series in 2000 and 2002. He starred in another special for the network in 2002, titled Taxed Beyond Belief.
In 2000, Black and fellow comedian Jim Norton were arrested for their involvement with "The Naked Teen Voyeur Bus", a specially designed bus with acrylic glass walls containing numerous (18 and 19 year old) "teen girls". This bus rode around Manhattan while being broadcast on the "Opie and Anthony" radio show. Unfortunately, radio station management did not inform the O&A show that the bus' route was also the route that President Clinton was taking that same day. Twenty-eight hours after the arrest, Black and Norton were released. Black appeared on The Daily Show the following night where he stated he was exercising his constitutional rights. He then joked that the location of this particular right was unclear, but that it was "between 'all men are created equal' and 'don't shit where you eat.'" Additionally, at a fundraising event for New York Attorney General candidate Mark Green on June 28, 2006, Black talked about how he was unable to attend a previous fundraising event for Green because the arrest occurred shortly before.
Since 2003, Black has hosted the World Stupidity Awards ceremony at Montreal's Just for Laughs comedy festival for the three years the awards have been presented.
In 2004, he had an HBO stand-up special titled Black on Broadway. That same year Black appeared in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as a shock jock. He also released his autobiography, Nothing's Sacred, in 2005. Since November 9, 2005, Black has been making appearances in small segments on The Weather Channel. In December 2005, he appeared in an animated holiday special The Happy Elf, as the voice of the extremely tightly wound elf, Norbert.
Black was the voice of "Manobrain" during the third season of the Cartoon Network series "Duck Dodgers". He was the inventor of a diet pill which was stolen while he was in college. He blamed the theft on his college friend Dr. I. Q. High, not realizing that the actual thief was Duck Dodgers. The theft set Manobrain on the path of evil.
Black played the character of the Deadly Duplicator in Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law, on Adult Swim. He appeared in four episodes before the show ended. He played the part once more in the Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law video game.
On April 21, 2006, Black performed at the Warner Theatre in Washington, DC for an HBO special, Red, White, and Screwed. It aired on June 10, 2006, and a DVD was released October 3, 2006. When explaining his choice of venue, Black said that "some asshole" was paid to count the number of uses of the word "fuck" from his previous HBO special, Black On Broadway, and that the original location, the Kennedy Center, wanted him to cut back on its use. Black was told the number was 42, when actually it was approximately 78.
In the film Accepted, a film about high school graduates who create a college when they fail to get accepted into any, he plays Dean Ben Lewis of the school "South Harmon Institute of Technology" or S.H.I.T.; as the Dean, he talks about his views of the world. He also appears in the 2006 films Man of the Year and Unaccompanied Minors. Black hosted Comedy Central's Last Laugh '06, which aired on December 10, 2006.
On February 11, 2007, Black received a Grammy award for "Best Comedy Album" for his album The Carnegie Hall Performance.
On June 18, 2007 he sat in with Southern rock/Jam band Gov't Mule at the 6th annual Bonnaroo music festival, where he had performed earlier that weekend, for what was to be a quick joke. A member of the audience threw a bottle at Black, which struck him. Black was upset and he encouraged the audience to boo the heckler before leaving the stage in disgust, while shouting obscenities at the heckler. This act was seen in an episode of "Lewis Black's Root of All Evil" titled "YouTube vs. Porn".
On June 29, 2007, Black gave a benefit show at Springbrook High School, his alma mater, in the school's auditorium for 1,100 alumni, faculty, and students. He performed in his usual style, stopping at points to remark how good it felt to use that language on that particular stage. At the end of the show he was given a Springbrook football jersey, and cursed at one teacher for giving him a B and causing him not to graduate first in his class.
Black did the voice-over for an oxpecker named Ted in Cartoon Network series My Gym Partner's a Monkey, appearing in "Hornbill and Ted's Bogus Journey." The character is portrayed in the same fashion as his comedy shows, though without the profanity. In addition, the bird's clothes, looks, and mannerisms match those of Black himself.
Black hosted the Comedy Central television series The Root Of All Evil in 2008. The show pitted two people or pop-culture topics against each other as a panel of comedians argued, in the style of a court trial, which is more evil, e.g., "Paris Hilton vs. Dick Cheney" and "Internet Porn vs. YouTube". After hearing arguments from both sides, Black, acting as judge, made the final decision as to which is more evil.
Black hosted Comedy Central's Last Laugh '07, which aired on December 2, 2007 along with Dave Attell and D.L. Hughley.
In mid December 2007, Black went with Robin Williams, Kid Rock, Lance Armstrong and Rachel Smith, Miss USA 2007, on a USO trip to support the troops in Iraq and Kuwait. They then wrapped it up on Dec 22nd at the U.S Naval Station in Rota, Spain.
Comedy Central's "Stand-Up Month" in January 2008 features specials originally presented on HBO by Black, along with programs featuring Dane Cook and Chris Rock.
In January 2008, as part of Comedy Central's "Stand-Up Month", Black's routine finished at #5 on "Stand-Up Showdown 2008", a viewer-based countdown of the top "Comedy Central Presents" routines.
On February 18, 2008, Black hosted History of the Joke with Lewis Black, a 2-hour comedy-documentary on The History Channel.
Black helped create the annual Carolina Comedy Festival at his alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Black is currently[when?] on tour touting his latest book Me of Little Faith. He is also currently doing a stand-up tour called "Let Them Eat Cake".
On August 2, 2009, Black filmed two shows at the Fillmore Theater in Detroit, MI. These shows were the basis for a concert film called Stark Raving Black, which appeared in theatres for a limited time in October. It will also be released as a CD or DVD June 15 th 2010 .
At the end of 2009, Black returned to the History Channel to host Surviving the Holidays with Lewis Black, in which he discussed the year-end pressures of Thanksgiving, Channukah, Christmas, and New Year's.
Beginning in January 2010, Black embarked on a new tour called "In God We Rust".