Lewis Black Lights Up Troy with Satire and Sincerity
Lewis Black is familiar to many Americans from his time working on “The Daily Show”, during Jon Stewart’s tenure as an off-the-rails news commentator who would suffer no fools or hypocrites. Thursday night, at the Troy Saving Bank Music Hall, he delivered an exposition of the idiocracy in which we currently live.
The crowd was older and graying and looked like they’d filtered in from affluent suburbs where intelligent satirical comedy is smuggled in like a Playboy Magazine and not talked about in church; think LL Bean outerwear and sensible shoes. The thirty-somethings in the crowd looked like post-doc students with Phish beards just in from Burlington.
Black’s opening act was Jeff Stilson, whose resume includes working as a writer for The Late Show with David Letterman and as a producer and writer for The Chris Rock Show, Da Ali G Show, Last Comic Standing, and The Daily Show. He opened by joking about the historic Troy Music Hall and asked about the Abe Lincoln box seats. Stilson worked clean, peppering in a few curse words and riffing on how the pandemic tested his marriage while living with his wife and four kids, twenty-four/seven, for 500+ days. He made a crack about a priest and an altar boy that was received with laughs and groans in a city with more Catholic churches than Bodegas. He gave a very solid performance that resonated with the 40+ married crowd.
Following a fifteen-minute intermission, Lewis Black took the stage to vigorous applause. He marveled at the beauty of the Troy Music Hall, lamenting how vast stretches of America often miss such cultural gems. At 75, he humorously dismissed any presidential aspirations, boldly declaring, “These are not the best years of your life; fuck that.” Delving into the 2024 presidential race, he likened it to the “Ghost of Christmas past running against the guy with 91 indictments.” A personal revelation about his parents living beyond 100 years added a touch of familial humor.
He went on talking about quinoa as an ancient grain (tastes like sand), Ron DeSantis, and the ironic book-banning antics of Moms for Liberty, a joke that practically wrote itself in opposition to the concept of liberty.
The ban on Romeo and Juliet due to its sex scenes prompted Black to challenge any school board member or politician to decipher objectionable content in Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter. Expressing sincerity in his passion to combat book banning, Black disclosed his role as the chairman of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library Board, actively distributing cases of banned works like “Slaughterhouse-Five” to affected school districts.
Black wrapped up reading actual news accounts of hypocrisy in America. He stated that “shared reality is important for the preservation of democracy”, then he read the headline, ”Man and wife accidentally shot during church gun safety talk”. But he is still hopeful for Americans because of our empathy, which he says is the point where we all share the same reality.
As the audience erupted in a standing ovation, Black graciously called Jeff Stilson back on stage, fostering a shared appreciation for an evening that seamlessly blended humor, societal critique, and a passionate stand against censorship.