“I’ve seen the end of the universe. It happens to be in the United States, and oddly enough it’s in Houston Texas.”
It’s one of my favorite routines by one of my favorite comedians, Lewis Black, who’s performing Saturday, April 28, at Revention Music Center downtown, a few miles from where the universe ended for Black around 2000.
I had Black on the phone, and, since he doesn’t do “The End of the Universe” in his act anymore, I asked how that bit started and evolved. You can find it online. I promise it’s a beautiful, hilarious three minutes. And because it’s set in Houston, you’ll know exactly what he’s talking about.
“I was in Houston performing at the Laff Stop [on West Gray] one night, and between shows, they drove me to a restaurant nearby for dinner. As we drove, I noticed a Starbucks, and right across the street, there was another Starbucks. I couldn’t get that out of my head,” Black says.
“During the second show that night, I just started screaming, ‘What the hell is wrong with you people?’ I just yelled for five minutes about it. Then I thought about it and did a little more the next day about setting it up, crafting how to tell the story. I did that for a couple of weeks. I typically write a lot onstage. I’ve never had the precision that George Carlin did. He focused on every work. I come close to it on certain pieces, I’ll hone it, throwing in something else. But I’m always messing around. That’s how the Starbucks routine happened.”
Black’s performance shines most brilliantly when he switches from everyday observations, like the silliness of bottled water or the butt- and mind-numbing experience of spending 19 hours on a plane to New Zealand, to his anger-bursting rants about Donald Trump and everybody else in the swamp.
If you’re a supporter of the president, strap yourself in; it’s not going to be pretty.
“You can only deal with so much blowback from morons,” he says, “someone who shows up to see me and then is stunned that I’m saying certain things. By this time, it shouldn’t be a shock. One would think, even if you’ve never seen me, how can you think, ‘This guy, I wonder what he does?’”
President Trump has made life difficult for political comedians, according to Black.
“How do you satirize something that already is satiric? I keep wondering, ‘How do you talk about this?’ This is a different form of a presidency. There was a group of people who voted against someone, not for someone. This was totally different. You had one candidate who didn’t want to win against somebody who didn’t know how to win.
“Trump really doesn’t have a political movement, it’s a fan base, people who like his TV show. And it’s a better TV show than the Bush or Obama TV shows. To have a president call certain countries a ‘sh*thole,’ are you kidding me? I think that’s something that presidents may think, but they never say it.
“He says it, that’s what I find humorous. How do I make that even funnier? Well, what if he did this two days before Martin Luther King Day? Well, he did! He topped himself!”
That’s a Lewis Black performance, back and forth between attacking the very institution of government and going crazy on Taco Bell.
Here’s a twist that makes his shows even funnier ... and riskier. Black now streams his shows on his website and opens the floor for online comments, questions, and suggestions. So if you’ve got anything to say about Houston (“even if you just want to call someone a douchebag”), let Black know and maybe he will respond during his show at Revention Music Center.