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Lewis Black – Off the Rails
February 9 @ 8:00 pm
Lewis is one of the most prolific and popular performers working today. He executes a brilliant trifecta as stand-up comedian, actor and author. Receiving critical acclaim, he performs over 200 nights a year to sold out audiences throughout Europe, New Zealand, Canada and The United States. He is one of few performers to sell out multiple, renowned theatres, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Brooks Atkinson Theatre, New York City Center and the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. In August 2007, he was the first stand-up comedian to ever perform in concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.
Lewis’ live performances provide a cathartic release of anger and disillusionment for his audience. Lewis yells so they don’t have to. A passionate performer who is more pissed-off optimist than mean-spirited curmudgeon. Lewis is the rare comic who can cause an audience to laugh themselves into incontinence while making compelling points about the absurdity of our world.
Lewis was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Silver Spring, MD. Colicky as a baby, it seems he was destined to be angry and easily irritated. His mother, a teacher, and his father, a mechanical engineer, instilled in both Lewis and his younger brother Ron the importance of education and the necessity to question authority; lessons which have influenced Lewis throughout his private and professional life. When Lewis was 12, his father took him to his first play and he quickly fell in love with the theatre. This ultimately led Lewis to pursue a career in drama. Degrees followed from the University of North Carolina and Yale Drama School, with a stint in Colorado owning a theatre with a group of friends in the interim. During his tenure at UNC, Lewis first ventured into stand-up, performing at Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill. Stand-up continued to be a steady presence as he pursued his career in theatre.
Lewis eventually settled in New York City and became the playwright-in- residence at the West Bank Café’s Downstairs Theatre Bar. Lewis oversaw the development of more than 1,000 plays, including works by West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin, American Beauty writer Alan Ball as well as his own original works. In addition to overseeing the works on stage, Lewis emceed every show. As the West Bank grew, so did Lewis’ skill as a stand-up and eventually, the fulfillment of performing stand-up outweighed that of working in the theater. Having found his public voice, Lewis left the West Bank in the late 80’s to pursue stand-up full time.
In 1996, his friend Lizz Winstead tapped him to create a weekly segment for a show she was producing on Comedy Central called The Daily Show. The segment, a three minute rant about whatever was bothering him at the moment, evolved into Back in Black. It became one of the most popular and longest running segments on the show and also created a long and successful relationship with the network. Since then, Lewis has taped four specials for the Comedy Central Presents series, co-created Last Laugh with Lewis Black, presided over Lewis Black’s The Root of All Evil, and continues to perform Back in Black on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. His popular appearances on Comedy Central helped to win him Best Male Stand-Up at the American Comedy Awards in 2001.
Increased exposure from The Daily Show eventually generated a record deal with Stand Up! Records. His first CD, The White Album, was released in 2000 to much critical acclaim. Lewis followed with eight more, six under the Comedy Central Records label. He has been graced with 4 Grammy nominations and two wins for his work. The first nomination came in 2006 for Luther Burbank Performing Arts Center Blues, the second in 2009 for Anticipation. In 2007 he won the Grammy for Best Comedy Album for The Carnegie Hall Performance and in 2011 his second for Stark Raving Black.
Having developed a strong relationship with HBO, he’s filmed two specials, Black On Broadway and Red, White and Screwed. The latter was nominated for an Emmy in 2007. He had a regular feature for two seasons on Inside the NFL and in 2006 was honored to be asked to participate in Comic Relief.
In 2009 Lewis filmed his first feature length concert film, Stark Raving Black at the Fillmore Theatre in Detroit. The film had a limited run in theaters across the US and Canada in the summer of 2010. At the end of the theater run, premium movie channel Epix picked up the film for its channel along with the accompanying documentary Basic Black. Both are still aired regularly and can be found in the Epix on demand queue.
A much sought after guest for several late-night television shows, he’s been seen on Larry King Live, is a frequent guest on Late Night with Conan O’Brian and has appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman. He’s had numerous, memorable appearances on CNN and is particularly happy to have contributed to MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann.
In the midst of a rigorous touring schedule, regular TV appearances and movie roles, Lewis has written three best selling books, Nothing’s Sacred (Simon and Schuster, 2005), Me of Little Faith (Riverhead Books, 2008) and I’m Dreaming of a Black Christmas (Riverhead Books, 2010). All garnered critical praise as well as commercial success and spent numerous weeks on the New York Times best seller list.
As a playwright Lewis has penned over 40 plays, many of which have been produced around the country. The Deal, a dark comedy about business, was made into a short film in 1998 and picked up by the Sundance Channel. In 2005, Garry Marshall’s Falcon Theatre in Los Angeles produced One Slight Hitch, a play that was later seen in 2006 at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center’s Patel Conservatory.
In 2006, Lewis had a break out year as an actor. He co-starred with Robin Williams in Barry Levinson’s Man of the Year (Universal Pictures), appeared as “the fake dean of a fake college” in Steve Pink’s Accepted (Universal Pictures) and as the harried airport manager in Paul Feig’s Unaccompanied Minors (Warner Brothers). He also lent his voice to the role of “Jimmy” in Bob Sagat’s parody, Farce of the Penguins (Thinkfilm).
In addition to his professional pursuits, Lewis is dedicated to a number of charitable organizations. As a long time mentor with the 52nd Street Project, Lewis was roasted in Charred Black 2007 which drew the largest fundraising numbers in the Project’s history. He’s a member of their Advisory Board, is Co- Chair of their Capital Campaign and in 2000, the Ron Black Memorial Scholarship Fund was created in memory of his late brother. Lewis is also committed to raising funds for the Rusty Magee Clinic for Families and Health. He’s a strong supporter of both the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Autism Speaks and was recently honored by The Brady Center for his commitment to ending gun violence. At the Williamstown Theatre Festival, he established the William Foeller Fellowship, having taught and performed at the festival for more than a decade. Lewis also supports our military personnel and recently became involved with the USO. He toured several Middle East and European military bases with Robin Williams, Lance Armstrong, Kid Rock and Miss America Rachel Smith in December 2007 and hopes to return soon.
Today Lewis maintains residences in both Manhattan and Chapel Hill, NC. Still loyal to his alma mater, he’s worked with UNC students to create the Carolina Comedy Festival, a yearly festival on the UNC campus that not only highlights performances, but also provides workshops and lectures for budding comics, writers and performers. With his involvement at UNC, Lewis continues a life-long commitment to education and the arts.
In his leisure time, Lewis likes to play golf, even though golf hates him.
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