Lewis Black has made a career in the comedy business by observing people and pointing out the many idiosyncrasies they exhibit.
At 73, he thought he'd seen just about everything, but he admitted in a telephone interview with the Times Free Press that some of the changes he's seen in people in the last two years have surprised him. "I can't think of another time, really" that that's happened, he said.
Specifically, he noted people's lack of civility, empathy, critical thinking and self-awareness. In past years, all those things would make for good fodder, but "now it's really beyond belief."
An equal-opportunity offender, Black has made a living pointing out some of the foibles he sees in everyday life.
For example, in one bit he says, "If you're working out in front of a mirror and watching your muscles grow, your ego has reached a point where it is now eating itself. That's why I believe there should be a psychiatrist at every health club, so that when they see you doing this, they will take you away for a little chat."
While he doesn't shy away from politics, his barbs are usually directed more toward politicians than parties. "A Republican stands up in Congress and says 'I've got a really bad idea!,' and the Democrat stands up after him and says, 'And I can make it [worse]!'" he says in another bit.
If You Go
* What: Comedian Lewis Black on his Off the Rails tour
* When: 8 p.m. Friday, April 8
* Where: Walker Theatre, 399 McCallie Ave.
* Admission: $35-$55
* Online: tivolichattanooga.com
* Note: Show is for ages 18 and older, and proof of vaccination or a negative test for COVID is required.
He said that if anyone comes to his shows these days and is truly offended or feels that he has taken sides against their guy or their party, they haven't been paying attention.
"I'm all over the place," he said. "They don't really know my politics. They think they know.
"I usually tell people, 'I don't like your president, but I didn't like the one before or the one before that or before that."
Black said he doesn't focus on this party or that party but on their leaders' actions and words. He uses President Trump's promise that the COVID-19 virus would not be a big deal as an example.
"I've had a few people say, 'I used to think you were funny, until you talked about my president.' It's what he said. He said the virus would come and go. He also said the vaccine would be done quickly and be a big help, and I actually thought people would line up and take it. When they didn't, I was really stunned."
Black said he approaches his shows as an opportunity to entertain people for a couple of hours. He's not there to change anyone's mind about anything. In fact, "nothing I've ever said has changed anyone's mind about anything. If anything, things have gotten worse."
In addition to touring and doing shows, Black said he is quickly putting together a show about the last two years and hopes to have it out soon.
"That goes against how I usually work," he said. "I don't try to react to what's happening, but I have this idea and I think I was able to nail it. Plus, I want to do it while I can still remember the story."
As part of his show here, he will continue his "The Rant Is Due' series where he asks people to share whatever is on their minds. No topic is off-limits, big or small. Visit lewisblack.com to share your ideas. He'll choose some of his favorites to share on his "Rantcast."
"One guy the other day said he was really upset funeral homes no longer had those dishes with candy in them. He was upset."