Lewis Black

Lewis Black could only watch in amazement as sunshine poured into the room through the windows of a converted Jewish community center in Rochester, N.Y., where he performed last year. Then, he discovered the microphone didn’t work.

“It was unbelievable!” Black railed to Pollstar. “You just don’t do comedy while the sun is out, okay? Unless you’re doing an outdoor venue. It was one thing after another.”

Was this the notorious hall Black raged against, the one with half a toilet seat and the distinctive aroma, during Pollstar’s Concert Industry Awards at Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre last February?

“I’m not exactly sure where that was,” Black said, denying suggestions he was merely being diplomatic. “I hate to accuse somebody of having half of a toilet seat. But there’s plenty of venues out there that could panic over it!”

Behind the perpetually pissed-off public veneer, Black is gracious and thoughtful in conversation. He earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale Drama School, written some 40 plays and still finds time for the theatre between touring his stand-up show and venting his spleen on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”

Besides his “Back in Black” segment on the Jon Stewart-hosted program, Black recently starred in his own HBO special, “Black on Broadway,” which he co-produced with his manager, Joanne Astrow. He also filmed “Educating Lewis,” a sitcom pilot he’s shopping to television. His third CD, Rules of Enragement, was recently released by Comedy Central Records.

“They’re really good,” Black said of his colleagues at Comedy Central. “Jon (Stewart)’s great. Jon understands what’s going on with my career.

“The problem is, ultimately, if you want to keep touring, whether it be clubs or theatres, you need face time. And I can’t beat the face time. It’s what (audiences) know me for, and Comedy Central pushes me. It’s like having somebody advertise you.”

Black may be playing theatres these days, but he will always make room for clubs in his schedule.

“I have to go back to the clubs, because that’s where I really work on a lot of material,” he explained.

Black will take a club jaunt in September, warming up for a fall excursion, his agent, APA’s Nick Nuciforo, told Pollstar.

“We’ll play a lot of casinos, corporates and colleges that we haven’t done in the past, then we’ll do some hard ticket dates, mainly in major markets,” Nuciforo said. “With the timeliness of this being an election year, it should be a good strong fall.”

Lewis Black

Between the upcoming election and January’s Super Bowl halftime fiasco, Black has plenty of material to work on.

“I’ve worked up 35 minutes on Janet Jackson alone,” he chuckled.

As can be expected, the recent flap over indecency is a subject that causes Black’s bile to rise. And reviewers who whine about his language have a special place in Black’s heart.

“I’ve been talking like that for years,” he fulminated. “How else do you express anger? What words do you use? Pussyfeathers? I mean, that’s the bottom line to me. It’s an expression of anger. Dirty words do not make dirty material.

“I mean, this is why America is going to hell,” Black continued. “And I say the bottom line is, if these idiots want to play this game, play it. They’ve no sense of history. If you want to make it worse, crack down. It’s going to come back at you tenfold, not the way you want it, and without any responsibility whatsoever. There’s this thing called the Internet, and it’s going to stick it right in your ass.

“It’s astonishing and, ultimately, it’s just punctuation, you know? If those people who wrote those reviews were to actually come to my show and see the audience, they would be shocked. It’s full of families! I get 14-year-old kids who buy the CDs and then give them to their parents, who bring them to my shows!”

It might seem like a bit of an anomaly for the 55-year-old Black and his topical humor to appeal to the kids. But they’re the ones driving the success of his live show, he said.

“I was very impressed with the business he was doing on the club level and his ability to connect with a young audience,” Nucifero said of first seeing Black’s nightclub act. “He really captures the voice of frustration that a lot of Americans feel, and I really connected with that.”

APA, which repped Black in other areas, began booking him on the club circuit.

Clear Channel Entertainment produced a tour for him, too, which might seem a bit ironic considering the company’s radio arm has called for a “zero tolerance” policy against profanity, exemplified by its firing of no less a star than Howard Stern.

“There’s a huge gap between Clear Channel radio and promoters. If there weren’t such a huge gap, we’d sell more tickets. I can guarantee you that,” Black said, laughing.

“You have to tip the hat because they’re the ones that asked to take me out. Nobody else was saying, ‘Lewis, let’s do this.’ Geof (Wills) has been very good and he’s also put me together with an excellent tour manager named Bjorn Wentlandt.”

But Black, who will be back to bite the hand that feeds him for a third straight year as host of the Concert Industry Awards February 4th in Los Angeles, ultimately spares no one.

“Clear Channel is so big at times that certain things do just fall through the cracks,” Black said. “There are guys that we hook up with in certain cities … I mean, sometimes you just have to go, ‘Wow.’

“Like the Rochester thing … “