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LOS ANGELES (Reuters Life!) - Comedian Lewis Black has been making people laugh with his take-no-prisoners approach to whatever pops up in his cross-hairs -- government, milk, official tips on how to survive a nuclear blast.
Black, 61, has tapped into the youth market thanks to his blistering social and political commentaries on "The Daily Show," and now he is unveiling his first theatrical concert film, "Stark Raving Black," which will hit movie theaters in 20 U.S. cities on Friday and 14 in Canada on October 29.
He spoke to Reuters about the film, the David Letterman sex scandal and comedy's role in society.
Q: Any surprises making "Stark Raving Black"?
A: "We shot it in Hi-Def with 10 cameras at the Fillmore Theater in Detroit in August, and the big surprise for me was the quality. It's more immediate than most specials, and the Hi-Def makes a huge difference."
Q: How long did it take you to hone the material for it?
A: "Nine months to a year. In the best of all worlds I would do a special every year, and one of the reasons I did this one on my own was because HBO, who I'd done two specials for, kept me waiting for the third. They never got behind it, so I just felt, if I've got to do it on my own, I'll do it that way."
Q: You keep up an insane touring schedule of over 200 stand-up gigs a year. You're 61 now. Why don't you slow down?
A: "Because I'm an idiot! No, I love it and I'm in my tour bus which really helps. I have everything I need, so it's just like home in a way. And when I'm not running around like a complete maniac I'm home for three days, then touring for three days, and that makes a big difference."
Q: Are you still doing your weekly segment "Back in Black" on the "The Daily Show"?
A: "Yes, but not as often, partly because of my touring and partly because of scheduling. Ideally I'd like to do it every three weeks."
Q: What's your take on the Letterman sex scandal? Many people feel it's hypocrisy for him to throw darts at other's sexual misconduct when he's apparently been no better.
A: Here's the difference. A -- it's his job to do that. And B -- it just shows people don't really know what the story's about, which is the extortion. It has nothing to do with sex. And we're idiots when it comes to sexuality. We still think if you're single, you're a slut, you're awful! You should get married. People have sex! That's it. It's not the end of the world. It's really no big deal."
Q: You tour all over the world. Do you adjust your material for foreign audiences, or does it play the same?
A: "I had to make a slight adjustment for awhile, especially early on. Basically, the more comfortable you are on stage, the better the performance, so it's also experience. I've played Ireland a lot, and I noticed going back there recently -- and to Britain and Sweden of all places -- that everyone now accepts we're all in the same boat. And they pick up on every single reference. I've played abroad for 10 years now, and people are really up on all the references now."
Q: Does comedy help change society, or is it just an escape from the daily pressures of life?
A: "I don't think it changes anything. In the end, comics just focus on getting the laughs. I'm not there to pontificate, just to make 'em laugh. Ultimately, we're like housing insulation. We help fend off the cold and the heat."
Editing by Patricia Reaney