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Q&A: Lewis Black on the U.S. Election and the American Dream



As a general rule, we refrain from using exclamation points, but if you know and love the comedy and commentary of Lewis Black like we do, then you'll allow us the extravagance just this once. 

Lewis Black is the host of Just For Laughs: The American Dream? which is on CBC TV this Sunday, November 4th at 9pm (9:30 NT), featuring the political insights of Lewis, Kathleen Madigan, Alonzo Bodden, John Wing and more. 

We caught up with Lewis by phone to talk about the special and his feelings on the Tuesday's U.S. election. 


CBC Live: "You yell so we don't have to," is what we say about you... so, what are the frustrations Americans and you yourself are feeling right now as we get so close to the election?

Lewis Black: For me, it's the fact that I feel like this election has been going on since I was 12-years-old. And each time I go through this I get this fear that by the time I get to the voting booth and actually have to vote - that'll be the moment that I drop dead. It'll have completely snapped me of my will to live! 


CBC Live: You're famous for your passion as a performer, so what do you think about Obama's cool attitude, especially in the first debate?

LB: The attitude, I think, was the problem. I can only watch parts of the debates and the conventions because eventually I feel flu-ish and that it might be West Nile Virus. 

He just needed, like, a cup of coffee. He did something that very few comics do... after you've done it a thousand times, you know if you're going to fly into Denver, you fly in the day before because you have to remember that Denver is a mile in the air and there's no oxygen up there. So, if he'd done the debate from an oxygen tent, it might have been better. 

And they're not telling us anything. I mean they're not debates, they're ping pong matches at best. I don't know how long you guys let your leaders  debate, but two minutes? It's like, if you wrote a satire about a country not letting its leaders really have a debate, we're the satire! Two minutes and then a rebuttal?  What, are you nuts?! These are complex, difficult, economic issues. 


CBC Live: The election is Tuesday, what will you be doing?

LB: I fly back that day and then I get dropped off at the voting place in the afternoon and then I sit in front of the TV set. 


CBC Live: Even though you joke about how voting makes you feel impotent, you have been encouraging people to vote via your Twitter account and sharing voting information. What other advice do you have for people between now and Tuesday?

LB: My advice is to gird your loins, get up and go do it. I don't care if the rest of the country or the news media doesn't feel like your state is really involved in this election; you've got to go do it. You're not just electing a president, we've got a congress to elect - that group of clowns. We got a 10% approval rating for these people out of 100%. I mean, you've got to go do it! Otherwise you don't get to bitch. 


CBC Live: I noticed you follow a lot of great comedians on Twitter and Jeopardy and some TV networks, but none of the campaign accounts. 

LB: No, there's no need. They can't tell me in two minutes, now they're going to tell me in 140 characters? 


CBC Live: Who do you like on Twitter?

LB: I like Patton Oswalt. Andy Borowitz is good. My friend Kathleen Madigan is really great at it. And this is really a compliment - it's the guys who write really good punch lines, really succinct punch lines. It's 140 characters. By 140 characters I'm just starting to speak.

CBC Live:  Why is the special called "The American Dream?"? Was that a Just For Laughs call or did you have a hand in that?

LB: That was a combination. They wanted some sort of commentary on the election so we went through a couple of things. And it's always been a question mark [laughs].

CBC Live: What do you like about working with Just For Laughs?

LB: Well, you know what I really like is the fact that it lets me talk to people in a country where they get through paragraphs without panicking. 

It really has been a good relationship. It was kind of where the folks down here finally found me [laughs]. You know, for years people in the United States -  the industry people - have gathered up and wandered to Canada to find people who are in their own backyards  and it's been amazing. 

You can follow Lewis Black on Twitter, visit his website and make sure to watch the hilarious sneak peek from Sunday night's special above.