On Oct. 28, big name comedian Lewis Black visited VCU’s Stuart C. Siegel Center courtesy of Comedy Central. But he brought with him a friend who was equally funny, but lesser known, a guy who reminded me of that other wryly, bug-eyed comic/actor, Steve Buscemi. This energetic act calls himself John Bowman.
Bowman opened like all no-name comedians due for the big shots. His opening however, nearly stole the night, because it was almost an hour long. It was worth it though, the man has a gift for humor. And he’s the type of comic for whom the CDs won’t do justice. You have to see the man live.
Bowman left the mic on the stand, because he acts everything out. Plus, he has a little penchant for jumping off stage and just yelling out his material. Once, he ran up the center aisle of the crowd and picked on random audience members and made them part of the show. This improv is what separates the men from the boys in the comic realm.
Bowman did a number on Texan rednecks with his “Ford Truck man” skit. He also talked about all those crazy yuppies out there who turn on fans when it’s not hot, to provide their rooms with “white noise” for relaxation.
Bowman was a class act, but he was indeed rightfully placed at the front of the show. When the big man came out, it was obvious who was the superstar.
The thing that sets Lewis Black apart from his comic colleagues is not his proficiency in the art of cursing and lewd displays. It’s in his politics.
Black is clearly of the liberal persuasion and he likes to slide political punchlines into what originally seem like apolitical jokes. Sometimes this comes out awkward and forced, even if you agree with his slant. There were even times when Black just talked politics, preaching to the crowd essentially the Democratic platform, not even trying to be funny. He even came out and asked the crowd for a show of hands of who was voting for whom. It was clear by the display that his fans agree with him and his liberal ideology.
If Black wanted to convince the public of his liberal views through comedy, he did best when it was more subtle, like when he discussed gay rights.
“Why is everyone afraid of gay marriage? They say it’s gonna destroy the American family. What do they think, that the gays are gonna get married and then run into suburban homes across America, at dinner time when the family’s saying grace, and suddenly start (having sex with each other)?”
Nevertheless, Black’s real talent showed when he steered clear of politics and pulled a more G rated Seinfeldian routine on candy corn, which was also seasonally timely for Halloween.
“What’s the deal with this stuff? Candy corn is the only candy in America that is not advertised, yet, every Halloween, it just appears,” he said.
He went on, not giving the laughing masses a chance to rest.
“I remember the first time my Ma gave me candy corn. She said – in a high-pitched New York accent – Lewis, try this, it’s like corn but it’s candy! I tried it – motions like he’s eating- blah! What is this crap! I thought maybe if I just eat the yellow part it would be like sweet corn. Nope. I just took the two pieces, put them upside down and stuck them in my mouth like I was Dracula,” he said. And then he questioned the audience, “Whose idea was it to mix a vegetable with candy?”
The other highlight of Black’s show came when he forgot his punchline and just blurted out, “Michael Jackson!
“See, you don’t even need to remember the punchline. Whenever you forget it, you just say Michael Jackson, and everyone laughs.”
Toward the end of the show Black appeared shook off his hyper political trend and said he felt quite disillusioned about democracy in general. He said Nov. 2 of an election year is the worst day there can possibly be. “I can wake up any day and think, today’s gonna be s—–, but at least I don’t have to vote.”
Both Black and Bowman played the grumpy old man. Yelling, with what seemed like furious rage, during some of their acts was key to their respective personas that their loyal fans know and enjoy. Both deserve much praise, if not for their incredible sense of humor and skill at inciting laughs, for the sheer fact that, together, they both memorized nearly three hours worth of material.