IF YOU GO
What: Comedian Lewis Black.
When: 8 tonight.
Where: Tivoli Theatre, 709 Broad St.
Admission: $47.50 and $57.50.
Phone: 642-TIXS or 757-5050.
Politicians have long provided ample material for comedians and humorists. More than a hundred years ago, Mark Twain wrote, "Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."
So you might think a presidential election would make life easier for comedian Lewis Black, who appears at the Tivoli Theatre tonight.
"It's been harder this time," he said.
"I try to be more insane than what's around me, and this a real test ... As funny as some of it is, it's just as appalling and so disturbing.
"If this is the best they've [the Grand Old Party] got and they've had all this time to find someone and they can't even find someone they like, what hope is there?"
Black, who rose to public consciousness in 1996 as a guest commentator on "The Daily Show," is an equal-opportunity offender. Among his more famous one-liners is "A Republican stands up in Congress and says, 'I got a REALLY BAD idea,' and the Democrat stands up after him and says, 'I can make it [worse].' "
Black said he's had to raise his game in recent months, but audiences come ready to laugh. It also helps, he said, that people can still be shocked by what he says.
"I shout louder ... and say things I probably shouldn't say, but I have to search for a way that [current events] can be put in perspective," he said.
He's lucky, he said, because those in the audience seem so desperate to laugh that "they seem to give me a lot of room."
Black is an author, TV and movie actor, but watching him onstage, you get the impression that if he didn't have such an outlet, his head might actually explode.
"That's maybe true," he said. "If I wasn't doing this I'd probably be teaching. That is what I was headed into."
He got his master's in playwriting from the Yale Drama School and spent nearly two decades writing and working in theater. He is currently collaborating with the theater company in Williamstown, Mass.
Black was born and raised in Washington, D.C., so it seems natural that he would be interested in politics.
"Our local news was the national news," he said. "Our field trips were to all these national and historical places like Congress. It was completely inspirational, and then you had all these guys doing all they can to undermine the inspirational stuff.
"You've got slums right behind Congress. You would think there would be some compassion, but they did nothing."
He said his first real moment of clarity that something was amiss came during school when his classmates practiced putting their heads between their knees under a desk as part of nuclear attack drills.
"That was the beginning where I knew authority wasn't all it was cracked up to be," he said.
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...