After decades of working along the margins of show business, Lewis Black has become a bona fide star of standup comedy, a turn of events that seems to puzzle him as much as it pleases him, judging from his 2010 album Stark Raving Black. In his bit "Mainstream Comedian," Black marvels at the fact his bitter, apoplectic rants are now considered acceptable entertainment for the masses and goes on to describe a benefit gig in which he was sharing a bill with Vince Gill and Amy Grant, a combination that previously would have been considered some sort of practical joke. As fate has smiled on Lewis Black, he's begun to moderate his trademark anger just a bit, and while there's no shortage of foul language or cranky bellowing on Stark Raving Black, he seems to be leaning more on dynamics, and trying to let his quiet moments speak as clearly as his full-on blasts of venom. It's telling that Stark Raving Black was recorded during a show in Detroit, a city hit especially hard by America's economic downturn, and the precarious state of the nation's finances and leadership sets the stage for much of the material. This might account for the lighter touch Black applies on some of his routines, but when he twists the knife as he talks about the infinitesimal differences between Republicans and Democrats, the irresponsibility that led to the collapse of the housing market and the lack of support for alternative energy, Black is as powerful as ever, and remains one of the most potent standup comics at work in the 21st century. Stark Raving Black may find this master comedian lining up his shots with a bit more care and caution, but when he pulls the trigger, his kill count remains truly impressive.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming