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Saturday, September 20, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 65.0° F  Light Rain
Arts
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Lewis Black quivers with rage at the Overture Center
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I've always enjoyed Lewis Black's caustic rants on The Daily Show but wondered how I'd fare sitting through an entire evening of his comedy at the Overture Center. I worried that his explosive delivery and venomous tirades might be grating, but happily Black's "Red, White and Screwed' show was consistently funny, provocative and never tiresome.

If I think too much about what Black said I might get depressed, so I'll cling to the laughter he wrought from the futility and absurdity of our lives.

He considers anticipation far more satisfying than living in the moment since reality so often disappoints. He suggested that we all just "think about what you're going to do and then not do it" -- a strategy he sees reflected in the Democratic Party.

Black's thoughts on a depressing Christmas in Las Vegas led to my favorite bit: a lengthy exploration of Christmas' sprawl (he claims it now lasts six to seven months) and insightful comparisons to Hanukkah. (Christians celebrate their holiday with electricity while Jews use "itty, bitty, shitty candles.")

While sharing his thoughts on his 10-week stint shooting a film in Salt Lake City, Black got in some precise jabs at Wisconsin's obsession with the perfectly crafted brandy old-fashioned. He entered the political realm with his hilarious take on the Cheney quail-hunting fiasco, comparing the Texas ranch to a petting zoo turned into Auschwitz for small birds. When a few jokes elicited politically correct groans, Black went into a foot-stomping tantrum, warning those audience members to keep political correctness on campus where it belongs, since it doesn't work in comedy. ("You are destroying your evening out!")

While eviscerating "Dancing with the Stars" and George W. Bush, he announced, "I've overextended myself this evening." Lucky us! There were a few unfunny moments (a new restaurant in Vegas and faux animal testicles), but the laughs were so plentiful that I can't complain.

Opening for Black was comedian John Bowman, who offered witty observations on the Midwest ("Wisconsin is Michigan looking at itself in the mirror, drinking"), ice fishing, mountain climbing, and the benefits of white-noise-creating fans. If Bowman is using just 10% of his brain, as he discussed, it's functioning at a higher level than most people's. He also threw in some excellent physical comedy: a dead-on impersonation of Black (all wagging index fingers and cheek-wobbling rage) and a comparison of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush striding across the White House lawn.

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