John Walker's Electronic House

Lewis Black’s The Root Of All Evil

by on Mar.13, 2008, under Television

Lewis Black is a funny guy… the first time you see him do the material. The second time, on a different show/CD/DVD, it’s ok. The third time, you begin to realise he’s a man who shouts a lot without much to say. The weather’s messed up you say Lewis? Yes – you were shouting that a decade ago, with the exact same words. (Kim is so going to kill me for Black hating). So, he’s got a new show, which is, and you can just hear the meeting at Comedy Central, Lewis Black complaining about things. “You know my stand up act I’ve done on your station for the last decade? I want to do it again, but stretched out to half an hour, with guests.”

The concept is awkward, but not inherently bad. Black is the judge of a nonsensical battle to find out which of two subjects are the “root of all evil”. Guest comics present the argument for why their subject is said root in the form of stand up/pre-recorded VT. It’s a neat way to get topical comedy into a half-hour format. Except, on your launch show, maybe the subjects Oprah vs. the Catholic church are a tiny little bit miserably tired and obvious.

Oprah? OPRAH? Is it 1992? And not some new insightful commentary on recent actions, but that she’s fat, and gives away cars. The Catholic church? What could it be?!! Shockingly, “boy fucking” and having tortured people hundreds of years ago. Yes – medieval topical comedy!

Except of course this is Comedy Central – a channel that so desperately wants to be free, but is rammed so far up Viacom’s backside that it bleeps out the word “ass”. So it’s not jokes about “boy fucking”, but about “boy BLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP”, screeching far more offensively than any curse word ever could. If you have an FCC-based system where you’re not allowed to swear, then for crying out loud, don’t swear. Add The Root Of All Evil to The Daily Show for programmes that make you think you’ve got tinnitus.

So once Black’s shouted, joke-free opening monologue is over, the two comics perform their routines. Which is fine. The subjects are pathetic, but the material is reasonable. The highlight would be visiting a high school to ask the students whether they’d prefer a new iPod or a $46m school, after Oprah announced she would be building a school in South Africa because she believed the kids of America would rather the toys. Her stupidity was pleasingly highlighted as the inner-city high school kids all picked the school.

But then, halfway through, the format takes over. Black goes back and forth between the two comics asking them to defend their positions, in a horribly over-rehearsed and under-written sequence, that descends desperately to crappy puns. From there on there’s no reason left to watch, as the prescribed banter reads itself out loud until the credits roll. Of course Oprah is the greater evil over the Catholic church, because, er, she’s fat?

It’s a Comedy Central love-in, and reeks of long-term contracts that needed a show to justify them. Perhaps if they can find some topics to cover that aren’t between 2000 and 20 years out of date, it may fare better.

3 Comments for this entry

  • km

    You’ll be shocked, but I agree with you about his stand-up. I have the show TiVoed for when we return, but I expect it will be crap.

  • mathew

    Hmm. I don’t really like Lewis Black either, but I do have to note that in terms of distubing omnipresence, Oprah, even here in Canada, beats the Catholic Church by a country mile.

    There’s just something… Off about her.

  • Steve W

    I think his point is that Oprah may well be… off… but that saying so isn’t exactly cutting edge topical comedy.

    IIRC, I watched Red, White and Screwed after it was recommended here. Largely disappointing, but maybe that was because I’d already seen half the jokes on The Daily Show.

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