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Lewis Black lightens up the Clay Center

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Thursday night, the Meier Performance Hall at the Clay Center howled with laugher as comedian, actor and writer Lewis Black held court for almost two hours.

The comedian got a pretty good house, too, with only a few seats here and there on the lower level and the first balcony turning up empty. Charleston was in the mood for some good laughs and Black kept them coming at an easy pace.

Starting off the evening, and as a kind of surprise, Black brought with him comedian John Bowman, as his opening act.

Not all comedians travel with opening acts and it is an unenviable job to open for a comedian as well known as Black. Bowman had to work harder to earn laughs that probably came to Black with a lot less effort, but he got laughs, although clearly not as many.

Bowman was funny. His bits with the ukulele were cute, but not everything he tossed out seemed to land evenly with the audience. He was bit darker than Black.

Black's set was good, but not a particular revelation. He didn't go anywhere unexpected. He covered topics familiar to long-time viewers of his segments on Comedy Central's Daily Show or fans of his comedy specials.

Some of the best comedians are street-level philosophers, and Black's material was all solid social commentary, although very personal to whom Black presents to the public.

He's a liberal, by default a Democrat, but he thinks both political parties and the tea party are lunatics. He's simultaneously impressed and repulsed by our technological advances -- he says we work the hardest to solve the problems that aren't that big of a deal.

He hates cellphones. He really, really hates cellphones and Facebook -- even though he carries one and said he uses the online social media service.

He's also frustrated by our inability to improve our own lives, even though we seem capable of it -- at least, theoretically.

As expected, Black was abrasive; Black was profane. From time to time, he erupted in gorgeous explosions of profanity. No one seemed to mind. If anything, the audience loved him for his roiling comedic rage. It's part of what he's known for, but underneath all of that and the jokes, Black seemed to be quietly making the case that we could do better.

It probably didn't seem particularly likely that we would, but he was maybe putting it out there for consideration.

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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