DVD Review: Lewis Black - Stark Raving Black
Lewis Black, one of the angriest comedians working today, really broke out for a lot of people with his ‘Back in Black’ segments on The Daily Show. I quite like his comedy, less because it’s angry (though people who know me well will certainly see a connection between Black’s animated, furious ranting and my own), but because it’s so smart. Black is a very intelligent, informed man (he used to be a playwright!), and much of his comedy is based on what’s going on in the world. Which isn’t to say he’s a political comedian, but rather that he’s a comedian whose material goes deeper than pointing out the differences between men and women or the perils of the dating scene.
Stark Raving Black is a pretty solid package, especially for fans. It’s got an 80-minute stand-up special, as well as a 50-minute documentary called Basic Black about his life and career. The special itself is quality stuff – Black is very funny, and like a lot of my favorite comics, he’s particularly good at long, involved stories that don’t follow the traditional stand-up comic joke structure – covering topics as diverse as the economy, politics, his parents and his own bizarre career path to the mainstream (which culminates in a fantastic story about him following Vince Gill and Amy Grant at a benefit show). I’m not sure if it’s the sort of thing that will win over non-fans, but as a guy who enjoys Lewis Black, I quite liked it.
Basic Black, the documentary, was much more comprehensive than I expected. It’s a fairly insightful look at the man, covering his life and career as a playwright and how and why he transitioned from that into comedy. It’s got a lot of the expected clips of friends and colleagues talking about how brilliant he is (as well as Vince Gill's reaction to Black's bit about him), but it’s also a nice look into his process (which seems to largely consist of him reading the newspaper, getting really angry, and generating a bunch of material based on that). It’s also got lots of footage of Black performing in the ‘80s and ‘90s, where he seemed much angrier and less accessible (which only made me like him more). And at less than an hour, it doesn’t overstay its welcome.
On the whole, Stark Raving Black is an excellent DVD for fans of stand-up comedy fans, and if you’re a particular fan of Lewis Black, it’s essential viewing.
Labels: comedy, DVD review