Black to the Future
starring Lewis Black
Stark Raving Black Productions
Political satire became obsolete when they awarded Henry Kissinger the Nobel Peace Prize. Tom Lehrer
I love Lewis Black. Since Bill Hicks died, and Jon Stewart went off to raise llamas in New Jersey, Black has emerged as the leading “angry white man”, full of righteous indignation at the world around him, ranting and raving like a crazy person. So, when I got Black to the Future, his latest DVD, I was stoked.
Until we watched it. Now, make no mistake, it’s classic Lewis. He goes off on crazy pet owners, gun control, Copenhagen and more. His take on mental illness, as it relates to a man holding a “Bark Mitzvah” for his dog, is pee yourself funny. If you’ve never seen him live, it’s basically his Daily Show segments writ large…without bleeping. Funny stuff.
The problem is, this was taped during the presidential election of 2016. Before Donald Trump was elected. Before the nation was forced to accept a racist failed businessman as our “Commander in Chief”. Before we woke up each day more stressed than the day before, more scared of the news, more embarrassed by his buffoonish blather, more sickened by his deliberate ruination of our countries norms and values. As Black opens the show, he remarks “What is my job?” How can a satirist make sport of such a gruesome scenario as this? Lehrer’s quote looms large – reality has outpaced satire, been rendered moot by current events. Once we realized that 45 was indeed our “president” (in quotes, because he’s no more presidential than our crazy dog), my wife and I starting watching The West Wing just to remind ourselves that at one point, actual grownups were in the Oval Office (and yes, it was a fictional show, but based on real people). Grownups who respected their oath, who treated the job and people fairly and intelligently. It was soothing that for an hour a night, we could watch things as they should have been, instead of how they actually were.
But we binge-watched the entire span too quickly, and now we’re stuck with reality again. And the reality is, 45 is our president. He didn’t want the job, is completely unequipped to do the job, and for the first time in my life, may well get us all blown up with his bloated ego. This is not normal, none of it is. Beyond the fact that he somehow got elected is the fact that millions of people were so fed-up and depressed, so frightened of change, of people who looked different from themselves, that they voted for a hat. Out of spite, or the temptation to “make a statement” or simply because they loathed Hillary, they cast their vote for a “fucking moron”, and now the world has to live with the result. The most upsetting realization from the election is just how nebulous and fragile are the institutions and norms that we thought protected us. We shouldn’t have elected someone who wouldn’t show his taxes, who lied every time he opened his mouth, who mocked the disabled, who slandered his opponents and demagogued entire races. And all of that was before he even won the primaries, mainly because the GOP was, and still is an incredibly weak party, only in power due to gerrymandering, Fox News and the folks that carry Tiki torches to “protect our heritage!” Every day he serves up another half-dozen or so fresh examples of cruelty, fecklessness and total disinterest in anyone but himself. In the face of all that, how can satire survive? How can comics ever try to best it or even remain topical when the world awakes fearful of checking the news?
Now, I’ve seen Lewis Black since, and he gives 45 his due, as you would expect. And it’s funny – Black can’t be anything less than hysterical – but it’s not enough. Satire is not enough. Jokes about 45’s hair or his golfing, it isn’t enough. Because we’ve elected an evil, disinterested maniac whose narcissism may well get all killed. Because he’s set back our country, perhaps forever.
Because none of this shit is funny. At all.