September 07, 2008

Lewis Black Bursts Your Bubble While He Busts Your Gut

Remember vinyl? Remember how, if you wanted to play one particular song on a 33 1/3 RPM record, you had to pinpoint the exact groove in which to drop the needle? The attentiveness and precision required for this feat were enough to drive the most docile person into an apoplectic fit.

As Lewis Black recalls, though, fidgeting in vain to find “Lay Lady Lay” on Nashville Skyline was also enough to squander “the mood” of losing his virginity. This and other anticlimaxes inform the context and the comedy of Black’s latest stand-up album, Anticipation.

In other bits
about golfers, the holiday season, and why his concert routines tend to depress the hell out of audiences (even when they laugh ‘til they choke) Black contends that nothing ever lives up to people’s expectations. Elation, he suggests, comes in looking forward to a certain moment or experience; disillusionment arrives the instant that moment occurs. Once one reaches the top of that proverbial hill, the only direction to go is down.

Sure, it’s a rather dour line of reasoning, yet Black translates it into perceptive, intelligent, and substantive comedy.

What’s more, it takes a particularly qualified comedian to not only make people laugh but to make them laugh at their own ridiculous rituals and behavior. “When I was a kid, Thanksgiving was the day that the family gathered together,” he says in wistful reminiscence. It was not, he indignantly retorts, a mere respite before an onslaught of indulgent, pretentious Christmas shopping. “When did the American economy become tied to Santa’s ass?” Good question.

With the holiday season fast approaching, perhaps consumers will consider what Lewis Black has to say on the matter. Maybe, though, they’ll simply want to laugh while he ponders and ridicules absurdities that they too find amusing. They’ve heard that Anticipation is a terrific and hysterical album, but they’ve also read somewhere that nothing ever lives up to people’s expectations.

As such, deciding whether or not to purchase it creates quite the theoretical conundrum. Still, for what’s worth, unlike sex, golf, and shopping for that special someone, at least buying this album won’t leave you questioning your own performance.