Sarah Garofalo spoke with Lewis Black about his Off The Rails tour, his degree in playwriting, his “rantcast” and more! Read on for highlights from the interview, or listen to the full interview below. Tune in to Talk of the Commonwealth with Hank Stolz on WCRN 830AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.
Sarah: Thank you for joining us on Behind the Scenes at The Hanover Theatre. My name is Sarah Garofalo, and today I’m super excited to be with none other but the King of Rant. I’m here with Lewis Black. Lewis, welcome to the show.
Lewis: Well, thank you for having me. It’s always a pleasure to even be theoretically in Worcester.
Sarah: We’re super excited to welcome you back. Lewis Black on his Off The Rails tour will be here at The Hanover Theatre on Friday, May 12. We are very much looking forward to welcoming you back. I saw that you’re shipping out overseas at the start of the summer. In June, you’re headed to Europe. That’s very fun.
Lewis: Yeah, that’s terrific. I do the daily show, I host that. They’re finally letting me sit in the big seat. That’s quite exciting. Then, I’m doing the voice of Anger, which I did in “Inside Out.” They’re doing “Inside Out 2,” so I’ve been working on that.
Sarah: Wow, that’s so exciting. I was definitely going to ask you about that. For those who aren’t aware, which I’m sure everyone has seen the movie but maybe has not made the connection, you are the voice of Anger, as you said. Tell me a little bit about that. What was that like working on a Pixar movie?
Lewis: It was, by far, one of the most creative experiences I’ve had. Here’s a stunner: it takes five years for Pixar to make an animation from the time they decide to do it, to when it’s finished. It’s five years. When I did “Inside Out,” I actually got to see the whole creative process. You get to see the scope of it, which rarely happens if you do a film. Usually, unless you’re a major within the movie, you don’t see the scenes. With Pixar, they kind of say, “We changed this,” and you’d see your character physically change on screen and choices they make and you keep returning. As you return, you get to do stuff to do work on it, you get to see the growth of what you’ve been involved in. It’s really quite remarkable.
Sarah: That sounds amazing. You did mention “Inside Out 2.” Are there any sneak previews you can give us about the movie?
Lewis: Well, there’s some new characters, and some new emotions come on the scene. There’s some very funny ones and real emotions. There’s emotions that we do have, and the way in which they’re represented is terrific. It’s essentially Riley, who was the one whose emotions we saw on the first one. It’s a continuation of her story.
Sarah: I love it. That is super exciting. Thank you for sharing. Yesterday, on your social media, you announced that on May 2, you will be premiering a new YouTube special called “Tragically, I need you,” at 4:20 PM that day. Can you tell us a little bit about that? I know that you’ve been adding some more of your specials to your YouTube channel. Just about a month ago you added “In God We Rust.” Tell us about your new special that’s coming out in May.
Lewis: Well, the new special is kind of the bookend to the old special, which you’ll be able to see on April 28. It’s really the bookend to that one, which was “Thanks For Risking Your Life,” which was literally shot on the final day before the pandemic shut everything down. We were lucky enough to be able to get an intimate special, and then really it’s the continuation of the story. To put it quite simply, on the surface, it’s about the way I dealt with the pandemic. When I was starting out, I was just kind of throwing it out there. When I first went back on the road and telling my story, the audience was laughing which is always key and they really seemed to relate to it, so it turned out to be the fastest special I’ve ever written. I knew the beginning, middle and the end. What it’s really about is empathy.
Sarah: I love it. I think that’ll definitely be something that people are looking forward to and can relate to. You talked a little bit about this at the beginning, your weekly podcast, the Rantcast that you do every Wednesday.
Lewis: Yeah, I basically I do it at the beginning of the week, and we get it out on Wednesday. I have them look at it to make sure that it’s pretty good because doing it by yourself in a room is psychotic. I keep talking like I’m in a cable access studio somewhere doing this alone. I need an audience, otherwise, I feel like I’m just a crazy person.
Sarah: I hear you. I mean, if I didn’t have you here today, I’d be babbling by myself too.
Lewis: It’s really something. We get out the rants that we had done for a long time. When I finally get the time again, I will start reading folks’ rants. Usually, I would do it after the show, but this time I have a longer set. I’m really kind of working on my next special so. I want folks in Worcester to send their rants in, but I won’t be reading them that night.
Sarah: Very fun. I’m sure hopefully people get the word by listening to the show. They can send you something fun to listen to.
Lewis: They can go to if you want if they’re interested in that Rantcast, you can go to LewisBlack.com.
Sarah: Cool. There’s lots of fun stuff on your website, I was poking around in there. There’s plenty of ways to indulge in your content before you come here on May 12. You’ve got the specials up on your YouTube. By the time you come, your new one will be out and you’ve got the weekly Rantcast. Plenty of ways to get your daily dose of Lewis Black. I want to talk about your background in theater a little bit. I saw that you got your Master of Fine Arts at Yale in Connecticut. Tell us, how did you get your start in in playwriting and the industry of theater in general?
Lewis: It really started with when I was a kid. My parents, my father and mother, both had a major interest in theater and they went to a ton of plays. They saw literally everything that you should have seen in the 40s, 50s and 60s, I mean everything. My father, in the later 60s, started taking me to the theater when I was about 12 or 13. I got hooked on it. I got hooked on the concept of it.
There was something really fascinating to me, that essentially a group of people got together and a group of people on stage created a reality in which you live in for two hours.Lewis Black
Lewis: It is way different than a film, the live performance. It’s always been way different than it and you’re all kind of creating this reality together. It’s really kind of extraordinary to me. I became so enamored with it that I felt like it really was what I wanted to pursue when I got into school. I went to the University of North Carolina. I couldn’t direct, I really wasn’t much of an actor at that point, I didn’t want to do tech, I thought about writing criticism which is mildly deranged. But, I thought, “I think I have some idea of how to do playwriting.” I started taking those courses and I graduated with a BA in Playwriting. Once I made the decision to do theater, there was no escaping it. It really is an addiction. There’s no other way to describe it because only an idiot walks into the woods on a beautiful day, sits under a tree and reads Chekhov. That’s akin to a drug problem.
Sarah: Well, I love it. I hope that you enjoy being here at the theater. I’m sure you feel somewhat at home in a theater like this.
Lewis: Oh, yeah. I liked that theater a lot. I literally have watched Worcester evolve. When I first started going there, I was like, “Oh, this is this is a rough town.” Now, the last time I went through this, it was becoming a boomtown. Now that you’re a bedroom community to Boston, it’s pretty remarkable.
Sarah: I agree. We’re definitely an up-and-coming city, and we’re doing great things. Before we wrap up here, I want to ask you, what can our audiences look forward to when they come see you on May 12?
Lewis: The happy-go-lucky comedy that I’ve always been known with the snappy patter. Essentially, you’re going to watch me try to figure out what my new special will be about. We’re a country, no country has more and does less, there is no country on Earth. We’ve got a problem with Social Security, we’ve got a problem with the climate. Do we have a problem with immigration? Yeah. So those are the kinds of topics I talk about, and healthcare.
Sarah: Well, there’s going to be a lot to talk about, I see. It’ll be a very eventful evening. So once again, Lewis Black on his Off The Rails tour, coming to The Hanover Theatre on Friday, May 12. It’s been an absolute honor to talk to you today.
Lewis: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure. I appreciate the time.