Armed with a similarly scathing wit as George Carlin, and screaming at about half the volume of Sam Kinison, comedian Lewis Black has made numerous appearances on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, starred in his own HBO specials, and has written three books.
His first book “Nothing’s Sacred” was released in 2005, and while it’s a chance for him to preserve some of his trademark stand-up comedy in print form, it also doubles as a makeshift autobiography, and a rather heartfelt one at that.
It is peppered throughout with his trademark wit. And, unlike the title would suggest, there is quite a bit in Black’s life that is, in fact, sacred: his mother and father, his brother Ron, Martin Luther King, listening to music on his first radio, taking drugs with friends during his college years during the late ‘60s, the Holocaust, and his childhood.
Other topics, such as religion, are fair game. Black savages Protestants in one short chapter, and sums up Catholicism by saying, “If you took somebody with no religious leanings whatsoever and locked that person in a psych ward with nobody around and no stimuli, the Catholic religion is exactly what he’d come up with.”
With regards to his own religion, Judaism, Black is a little more lenient, but he does have some criticisms and suggestions for improvement.
Black recalls many instances of the world damaging the innocence of his childhood. The most traumatic incident is probably when he learned at synagogue that God has both a Book of Life and a Book of Death.
Upon learning that the name Lewis Black might be inscribed in the Book of Death, Black did everything he could to prevent this from happening, at least for a while. He ultimately ended up wishing this fate upon everyone else.
Black has a deep, abiding hatred of government, and of both Democrats and Republicans alike, but he came about it honestly, having grown up in Silver Spring, Maryland, with Washington D.C. practically in his backyard.
He also briefly had a government job during the Nixon administration in an agency called the Appalachian Regional Commission. He was an administrative assistant for two women in charge of bringing child care centers to Appalachia.
He writes, “I didn’t know shit about children or care or Appalachia. Therefore, in the land of government service I was considered an expert in all three.
On the topic of showbiz, Black mostly covers his formative years learning the craft of theater and stand-up comedy, as well as giving hell to the sacred institution that is the faculty of the Yale School of Drama.
He tells an anecdote about almost landing a role in a sitcom starring Joy Behar. Black seems to consider it his introduction to the pleasant and two-faced ways of Hollywood.
In the chapter titled “Auditioning to be Me,” he writes of auditioning for the role of himself as a history teacher who tends to rant in front of his students. The writer, producer, and director all thought Black was perfect for the part, but the role ultimately went to a different actor.
“They had auditioned a couple of other actors and found one who was a really terrific me,” he wrote.
Ultimately, the pilot show was never picked up, but Black is still a little bit bitter about the whole experience.
Black ends his book poetically, thanking his friends and bemoaning the recent tendency of Americans to “continue to rapidly homogenize ourselves into a neutered oblivion.” In an attempt to craft a Mamet-esque nugget of wisdom of his own, he wrote, “The good die young, but pricks live forever.” If that is indeed true, then Lewis Black is one of the good pricks.
5/5 stars –– For those unfamiliar with his work, this is a fine introduction to Lewis Black. The die-hard fans will appreciate it for the extra material he wouldn’t be allowed to use on The Daily Show.