Me Of Little Faith

When comedian Lewis Black gets going, he can — and often does — work himself into a frenzy. His staccato speech gets louder and louder. He gestures wildly. And he punctuates almost every other word with profanity.*

Lewis Black may not have invented the rant, but he certainly has perfected it. In clubs and concert halls, and on Comedy Central, he hasn't been shy about letting us know what he thinks.

Having tackled politics, popular culture, and history, Black has turned his attention to religion. He'll join us today, for the whole second hour of our show, in front of a live audience in our performance studio, to talk about his new book, his keen comedic sense, and his new show, The Root of All Evil.

What questions do you have for him? We're especially interested in your questions about religion, faith, and spirituality.

* According to Lewis Black's publicist, when the comedian is on live radio, he never uses expletives. (Our fingers are crossed.)

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"According to Lewis Black's publicist, when the comedian is on live radio, he never uses expletives. (Our fingers are crossed.)"

This is very true. I've seen and heard him many times on regular TV and radio (Letterman and Larry King come to mind) - the anger and insanity stay within the stage act. I believe he described it as "feeling like you're living every day on the Titanic and being the only one who knows what will happen".

Sent by Leigh Cutler | 2:26 PM | 6-10-2008

I think that your nights at the West Bank in NY were close to religion for me. We sat around drinking and looking at what was going on in the world and questioning it. The opposite of organized religion where you sit our and don't question it!

Sent by Stan Trout | 3:17 PM | 6-10-2008

The canned laughter is killing me.

Sent by Rayna | 3:21 PM | 6-10-2008

Mr. Black, Do you believe in the flying spaghetti monster or pastafarianism?

Sent by Tim | 3:24 PM | 6-10-2008

I admire the role religion has played in fighting for the rights of the poor and working class. I wonder if your book addresses any of this?

Sent by Holly Koppenhaver | 3:28 PM | 6-10-2008

While shopping for a puppy recently I ran into an ad for Labradoodle puppies "raised in a Christian home." Why would anyone care?

Sent by Janet | 3:29 PM | 6-10-2008

I'm an atheist and actually believe I have a great sense of humor. The last caller says you degrade our society. I think your humor UPGRADES our society by making people think. And most of us laugh our butts off listening to you. Thanks!

Sent by chris burchard | 3:30 PM | 6-10-2008

I value the judgment of a room full of NPR employees, over "Steve".

Sent by Mark | 3:30 PM | 6-10-2008

Mr. Black, you are a rare jewel and I tremendously enjoy your performances, keep up the great work and don't mind morons like the one that called a while ago.

Sent by Brad Turner | 3:31 PM | 6-10-2008

I was going to invent the tax break Church of the Agnostic but no one else believed in me. So it never got done.

Sent by Bruce Dalrymple | 3:31 PM | 6-10-2008

I was a huge fan of Mr. Black until this interview. I find him on your show to be an incredibly ignorant borish unhappy ugly person. I agree with your caller, he's quite militant!

Sent by No longer a fan | 3:32 PM | 6-10-2008

Hey thanks for coming to Kandahar last December -- it was a good birthday present.

How do you deal with audience members that might be upset at certain lines -- I can imagine religion would have a lot of trigger points. Do you just bull through, or do you ever find yourself pulling back a little and changing direction?

Sent by James | 3:33 PM | 6-10-2008

Lewis,
Don't let the viral militant get on our nerves. I'm much cooler than he is!
I wanted to thank you for the laughter you provided to my family and I several years ago at a little place called the Comedy Cabana in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. At the time my father was on the transplant list and incredibly ill. His chances of survival were 50/50, which was no laughing matter. My mom, husband and I took Dad to the beach to cheer him up, but he was so sick that he stayed in the room all day resting.
Then we saw an article in the newspaper about your performance that night, so we bought tickets for our family. During your show, we laughed out butts off. Your style of (sometimes) angry comedy was just what the doctor ordered! We literally laughed so hard that our stomachs and cheeks hurt for 24 hours afterwards.
The good news is that my father is not only alive, but incredibly healthy today. Do you want to claim your comedy as the cure? Go ahead! Perhaps laughter truly is the best medicine. Thank you for treatment.

Sent by Rosalie | 3:33 PM | 6-10-2008

I write as a person who believed for about 50 years, then for no good reason I found I no longer did. Odd.

I wonder if we are on an inexorable trajectory in the west toward narcissistic religious disengagement.

I wonder how you can get to the optimism you claim if there is no evident direction to history? I struggle because I fear there is a direction to life nad history, and I really don't like it. Can you believe in the basic goodness of people?

Just curious. I personally find that My current beliefs are close to what I hear you saying, and I find it depressing and hopeless.

Do you think your book would help me find some humor or joy in a godless, meaningless universe?

Sent by Jim | 3:33 PM | 6-10-2008

Saw your HBO special on the plane flying to paris and watched it twice and laughed until I cried...love your work
the hell with Steve....
matt

Sent by Matthew J. Hoey | 3:34 PM | 6-10-2008

What a jerk. I listen to TOTN nearly every day...this is one of the rare days that I turned it off. Surely, TOTN can get more respectable, more reputable people as guests who actually contribute something positive to society. This guy is a black hole.

Sent by M Wilcox | 3:34 PM | 6-10-2008

i'm a christian, and i think you are the funniest man on tv. i love your work. the bit about two girls at the ihop talking about how the horse changed one of their lives, was that true?

Sent by Jerry Fulcher, Oklahoma City | 3:34 PM | 6-10-2008

The way they treated the critic to be really unfair. Lewis Black just got through cutting on Scientologists, then said he didn't do such things. The criticism could have been handled more intelligently rather than demonizing the caller. He had a valid point.

Sent by Jen | 3:34 PM | 6-10-2008

I appreciate your frankness and honesty Mr.Black. Regarding the caller who called you militant, I don't understand why an institution as powerful and influential as organized religion should be free from criticism. Those who are so offended by religious critic are the true militants.

Sent by Matt | 3:36 PM | 6-10-2008

Love your humor. Your political humor is great, and there is no problem with your comments on religion. Some people take things a bit too seriously, they obviously take their own opinions a bit to seriously. They need to get over themselves.

Sent by Michele | 3:36 PM | 6-10-2008

I love Lewis Black but don't enjoy his use of the F word. It was a pleasure to listen to him on NPR this am without his use of expletives which I find unnecessary to get one's point across. He is just as funny without them.

Sent by A Barritt | 3:36 PM | 6-10-2008

I was in South Georgia on an internship. I do not believe in religion and the effects that it has on mankind. I had a staff doctor take me out to lunch. His comment to me was, I had one thing to overcome that would lead me forward with my life. He said that I had to keep an open mind about God. He said if I could just keep an open mind that God does exist. I said alright lets put the shoe on the other foot. Then would you do me a favor and keep an open mind that he doesn't. The discussion was over.

What do you think about people who try to force religion on someone else and are complete hypocrites doing it?

Sent by Troy | 3:37 PM | 6-10-2008

Lewis, how do you feel about the recent hooplah of Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama? Why do you think people are so painstakingly obsessed with the religious beliefs of politicians?

Sent by Jay from Portland Oregon | 3:37 PM | 6-10-2008

I'm a LDS Christian that attends church and prays all the time. I Need lots of help.
I love Lewis Black. Keep up the good work.

Sent by Sydna Uteg | 3:37 PM | 6-10-2008

What about unitarians?

Sent by Jon | 3:37 PM | 6-10-2008

I am shocked by NPR's insensitivity to the fact that mockery and ridicule of Judaism and Christianity might be offensive to some listeners. It is this myopia that betrays NPR's personality and, in truth, saddens me. I enjoy most of your programming but this is characteristic of the progressive intolerance of all things religious. I would have expected more of Neil and the TOTN staff.

Sent by kurt stagner | 3:37 PM | 6-10-2008

Why do christians put so much trust in a book? Especially one with so many flaws?

Sent by Brian | 3:39 PM | 6-10-2008

Growing up in small town Connecticut, and later moving to Oregon for college is hard when you suddenly realize, there are different kinds of religious people, and you aren't any of them. It seems to me there is atheism coupled with some sense of spirituality, and the atheism to which I subscribe that makes it hard to even sit through the spiritual elements of yoga class.

Sent by David Kline | 3:39 PM | 6-10-2008

Regardless of whether you believe that Jesus was the son of God or not, do you think the philosophy of life he left the world, if followed, can make the world a much better place to live?

Sent by Wayne | 3:40 PM | 6-10-2008

Do you believe in polygamy? I am recently re-married & recently discovered you. A brilliant funny guy and some what attractive. Good men are hard to find.
Thanks for the comedy.
Michelle

Sent by Michelle Shaw AZ | 3:40 PM | 6-10-2008

Happy Shavuos. What commandments have you broken today?

Sent by PS Love | 3:40 PM | 6-10-2008

anyone reading this should check out http://www.venganza.org/ . its Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and its really interesting.

Sent by rose forest | 3:40 PM | 6-10-2008

your comment on tv ministers that have you hold your credit card to the screen to bless them if you send a $1000 seed

Sent by cynthia | 3:41 PM | 6-10-2008

Who were you influences as a comedian?

Sent by David | 3:42 PM | 6-10-2008

Lewis' enjoyed you in the movie Accepted tell us a little about Blake Lively, is she as cute in person an she apears

Sent by gene | 3:42 PM | 6-10-2008

Lewis,

I am so glad to have a chance to say how much I appreciate you bringing intelligence back to comedy routines. I don't know why people laugh at people who's routines are just based on dirty words and stereotypes. Your humor is more like George Carlins' whom I hold in high esteem and enjoy very much. Keep up the good work. Start teaching comedy a little. Our nation needs your gifts.
Sharon Maribona Lincoln City, OR

Sent by Sharon Maribona | 3:42 PM | 6-10-2008

What are your thoughts on the church of the flying spaghetti monster?

Sent by melissa | 3:43 PM | 6-10-2008

I was enjoying the interview with Mr. Black until he teed off on the caller who had the temerity to tell him he, the caller, did not find Mr. Blacks work amusing. Instead of talking with the caller he attacked him using all the tricks of a man unable to accept his opinion isn't law including yelling, not letting the caller get a word in edgewise and being exceptionally rude.

Ed

Sent by Ed Machak | 3:43 PM | 6-10-2008

Lewis: You are among my favorite comedians, and if anyone wants to accuse you of "degrading the culture", then you among the ranks of people like Mark Twain, Will Rogers, Lenny Bruce, The Smothers Brothers -all of whom were accused of doing the same thing yet somehow managed to make this world a better place to live in. What's your view of the DaVinci Code?

Sent by Jack Frydenlund | 3:45 PM | 6-10-2008

Lewis, I had a friend who was in a motorcycle accident and the scar left on his leg, he thought, looked like the mother mary. He concluded that she saved his life. Can you tell me why Mother Mary didn't stop the accident in the first place?

Sent by Lawrence | 3:45 PM | 6-10-2008

What do you think of Buddhism? Is life really just all suffering?

Sent by Kashif | 3:45 PM | 6-10-2008

Besides Islam, is there any areas of religion that are off limits?

Sent by Joe | 3:47 PM | 6-10-2008

Are you familiar with George Carlin's description of god as the "invisible man living in the sky, who always need money;" and Sartre's "Hell is just other people."?

Sent by Melissa in San Antonio, TX | 3:48 PM | 6-10-2008

I am an agnostic Buddist, if there is such a thing. My mom's family is So. Baptists. In trying to explain to them about the Dalai Llama they keep equating him to Jesus. Any suggestions on how to guide them down the right path?

Sent by Alexis Paterson | 3:48 PM | 6-10-2008

Hey Lewis Black! Our entire family loves you so much, we named our beautiful black cat after you. Anyone who comes to our house, gets to meet and pet Lewis Black.And we say, Bleep 'em if they can't take a joke!

Sent by Elizabeth Leavell | 3:48 PM | 6-10-2008

Lewis, I have a question for you. If you believe in Intelligent design can you have plastic surgery.

Sent by Chris Simonsen | 3:48 PM | 6-10-2008

Don't you listen to that moron, Lewis.
Keep tellin' it like you see it.
Without opinions are we not a bunch of mindless nazis?
My opinion: God never created religion; Man did! Is it not all to obvious how badly we screw up everything else.
With our track record how the hell could we ever get God right?

Sent by rick day | 3:48 PM | 6-10-2008

Can we hear your thoughts on Mormonism and it's creation and spread throughout the world.

Sent by Chris | 3:51 PM | 6-10-2008

Do you believe and if so what is your concept of the afterlife? By the way, I love your routines and think that they stem from your very intelligent view of the world relative to how we must laugh at it all to maintain some sanity!
I especially enjoyed your bit on President Bush when you said his face doesn't match what he is saying - something about his face looks askew!! that was hilarious! I have often said that very same thing myself!

Sent by Tessa | 3:51 PM | 6-10-2008

I'm in Tulsa Ok. My friends and I think like Oprah's mind set. We think you are the smartest and best teacher today Ha You Go guy Thanks so much !!

Sent by Nels Sterling Bentson | 3:52 PM | 6-10-2008

Thanks Louis Black!! I've always though that religion and opera are best in a foreign language. (One advantage of Judiasm) Let's have a little quicken test instead of a God test for candidates.

Sent by Miriam FEder | 3:52 PM | 6-10-2008

Lewis was talking about how little he wrote about Islam, and I just have a question about that. He said that there is a group of Muslims who have very little sense of humor, and I would like to point out that I am NOT in that group. I am a Muslim woman, and I thought Lewis was great ever since his first special on Comedy Central. My question is has Lewis seen the Axis of Evil Comedy tour, the four Muslim men who did a show on Comedy Central, and what did he think of it? Also, Judaism and Islam have a lot in common, much more than either of the two have with Christianity. I think it would be great to hear Lewis' thoughts on Islam since he has first hand experience of Judaism.

Sent by Zara Nasir | 3:54 PM | 6-10-2008

Dear Lewis,

I have to let you know that my Rabbi quotes you often. My Congregation last Rosh Hashanah put Abraham on trial for attempted murder of Abraham. Being a group of Jews we have a a high percentage of Lawyers and actors in the congregation. A real prosecutor and a real defense attorney ran the trial, the congregation was the Jury and the Rabbi was forman.
He was acquitted by reason of insanity but was remanded to a halfway house for the "special".
If your ever in Chicago look us up. www.Shir-hadash.org

Sent by Lynne Arons | 3:57 PM | 6-10-2008

This guy is great! I had never heard of him before, but I'm so glad we passionately secular individuals now have some one a bit more light-hearted than Ol' Man Dawkins to help spread the word!

Sent by Justin Meyer | 3:57 PM | 6-10-2008

I liked your comments on rituals: Jewish rituals did not have meaning or had negative values for you; Latin Catholic rituals seemed interesting (if not necessarily meaningful or soothing). What would a religion be like that gave you what you need from faith? What sort of rituals? What kind of beliefs? How often and where would believers gather? Would there be buildings? You say religion is driven by death: what would the funeral be like?

Sent by Linda J. Randall | 4:02 PM | 6-10-2008

Enjoying the interview. As to why does God allow bad things to happen...I agree that it doesn't make sense that a God would create pain & suffering. It's really a strange idea that an all powerful, loving God would subject us to this...but their is another option: What if this universe is the doing of our own nightmares? God is sitting outside of the unhappy dream gently trying to wake us up. He can come into this crazy dream no more than a parent can go into their child's fevered dream to change things. It's our choice to decide to wake-up.

Sent by An Acim Student | 4:03 PM | 6-10-2008

A caller was critical but polite, and Lewis Black constantly interrupted him and was rude to him. Public radio is usually one place without ugly behavior in our culture. If he's allowed on public radio to market his book, he should treat the public callers politely. I wonder if going to church would improve Mr. Black's manners.

Sent by Chris Smith | 4:26 PM | 6-10-2008

Hello, Lewis,
I'm looking forward to buy your book and read. Your sense of humor is amazing, you are very smart man, whose company must be delightfull.
In my opinion religions has been invented by people and have nothing to do with spirituality or God, althought they claim otherwise.
Take care and best regards.

Sent by Barbara | 5:49 PM | 6-10-2008

Mr. Black, what I heard of your remarks I found extremely offensive. Traditionally, with "Jewish jokes" we laughed at ourselves. You are laughing at us, not with us. Your comments on Reform, on the value of religion, were simply insulting to those of us who find something of value in the practice of our religion. "Comfort" was never what Judaism was about. I can only suppose that you are too self absorbed to imagine other values than getting cheap laughs.

Sent by Ina Loewenberg | 9:16 PM | 6-10-2008

I have recently read Hitchens, and he has a lot of good points, but seems bitter and angry. Having atheist comedy I find refreshing. I see comedy as a compromise between the two. Often when comedy takes on an issue we see the chinks in the armor/arguments. What are your thoughts on that?

Sent by Jonathan Judd | 9:28 PM | 6-10-2008

Two questions/comments:

It is easy, isn't it, to demean one's faith when you know nothing about it?

Why is it OK to smear Christianity, but politically incorrect to attack other faiths?

Sent by Larry LaBounty | 10:21 PM | 6-10-2008

Mr. Black's mantra:

Be fearful of Muslims, deferential to atheists, even-handed with Jews, and contemptuous to Christians. Black replaces any gray area that separates prickly satire from mocking ridicule with a bright line. Neal Conan's approving giggles throughout the interview only lead the listener to conclude that NPR endorses such a mocking, elitist agenda. And we wonder what fuels the flames of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and the like...

Sent by Mark Rooney | 10:50 PM | 6-10-2008

So Mr. Black senses "Something Out There!" Wow, whatta deep thinker!

And what a fragile ego! "Militant," phooey! He's nuthin' but a BULLY!

And Rayna got it right--was that really "staff" laughing at every comment, or Lewis' claque, or was it a laugh track?!

Sent by Godless Girl | 11:12 PM | 6-10-2008

You are a mirror of religon, some do not like what they see.
Keep up the truth.

Sent by Preston Wilson | 11:48 PM | 6-10-2008

Lewis, atheists love you because you are able to see all the humorous and ridiculous things about so many religions. Atheists like me see those things and choose not to believe or have faith, yet you see them and can still retain yours. How do you do it?

Sent by Hannah from Bellflower, CA | 1:37 AM | 6-11-2008

Oh dear. I have to make a correction to my post yesterday.. I said my synagogue put Abraham on trial for the attempted murder of Abraham.. I meant Issak! We put him on tiral for attembted murder of Issak!

Sent by Lynne Arons | 2:14 PM | 6-11-2008

I kind of liked Black before this interview. I found him to be struggling to be funny. The host politely laughing at things that weren't funny. It was a very awkward dance highlighted by Black losing it over a caller that criticized his humor. Shows Black's amount of maturity and self acceptance. It almost seems like Black is constantly having to justify his humor and then when someone calls him on it he goes Postal. Generally people that are very insecure of what they are doing, do not like to be called on the carpet and go off defending themselves making things only worse. America must be very hard up for comedy to accept comedians like Black.

Sent by Rock Star | 2:51 PM | 6-11-2008

I Love You. I can't think of anyone who makes me laugh as much as you do. You also have the ability to make people think,,,could be a dangerous combination, especially at a time like this. Kudos to public radio for interview. note to the obnoxious caller who called you a militant...there is a wonderful button on every television and radio ever make. it makes the program you are watching change and you never have to listen to it again,,,,i used it for the brief time you were babbling and it worked beautifully. use it when you hear lewis black,, it will leave more of him for the rest of us who truly want to hear him. thank you for all of the laughter and i am going online to buy your book. would love to see you in a.c. borgata but the tickets are $400. and I can't afford it. you are the greatest

Sent by SCARLET BRUNO | 3:02 AM | 6-12-2008

Let's see...how many listeners can NPR offend with one program? Come pledge time, let all the generous, enlightened atheists out there fill the coffers. Good luck with that.

Sent by Fr. Mark | 11:45 AM | 6-12-2008

Acim Student's posting is real close to Christian doctrine. WE have free will. WE were provided with a pretty good deal, by God. WE were instructed how to live in the world, created by God and WE screwed it up. All Christians are aware of this....all have sinned without exception. It is OUR job to make things right.

Here's a question: If God never allowed anything bad to happen, would we ever know "good" ? Seems we would be little more than complicated, little machines skittering about.

Sent by Larry LaBounty | 9:52 PM | 6-12-2008

speaking of faith, if we ever get a chance to vote for a god, lewis the holiness gets my vote

Sent by scott | 3:24 PM | 6-13-2008

Mr Black, you're great, nothing like a good rant now and then. I about busted a gut from you and Robin Williams while you were on the USO Tour this past December. Keep up the good work and rant away. If folks don't like your style, they may just not drink water from the garden hose as kids.

Sent by Greg | 3:58 PM | 6-13-2008

Mr. Black I just ordered your book from Amazon. NPR I will increase my my pledge this year. Thanks for making my day.

Sent by Thomas B | 4:25 PM | 6-14-2008

I believe that the value that Mr. Black and those like him brings to religion is often underappreciated, particularly to the most devout. Ironically they should treasure him more than most. He allows additional challenges to further define those of faith. It is only through inspection in lights of others eyes that our own faith can be validated. If their faith is so fragile as to not be able to withstand the challenge, then I would submit that they are better served as well. Agree with him or not, enjoy his humor or not, all should value introspection.

Sent by Brett | 3:34 PM | 6-16-2008