Evil is the new black. Lewis Black, that is. The angriest man in show business is now presiding over the court of pop culture on his new show, Lewis Black's Root of All Evil (Wednesdays at 10:30 pm/ET, Comedy Central). We caught up with the raging funnyman to discuss his new venture.
TVGuide.com: Explain the concept of Root of All Evil.
Lewis Black: The idea was that we pick two things from culture or life and we have a head-to-head. Two comedians are charged with coming up with why, let's say, Oprah's more evil, or the Catholic Church is more evil. I ask questions and goad the comics and over the course of a half hour we try to discover who or what is more evil.
TVGuide.com: What inspired the show?
Black: Scott Carter from Bill Maher's show, and David Sacks, who had written a number of good shows, had the idea. They basically felt it was time that popular culture be put on trial and I was the one who should judge it.
TVGuide.com: The opener pits Oprah against Catholicism. But shouldn't you have excused yourself because of your appearance on Oprah?
Black: Hey, I don't have to. I'm in charge. I'm beyond prejudice. [Laughs] She was nice. What I found weird was that [Oprah's producers] kept telling me that the show was going to be me and a bunch of young comics, and I was coming on as the the next big comic. And that was not true. [They're] telling America I was a young comic. I was already an old comic!
TVGuide.com: What are the criteria for choosing those on trial?
Black: How irritating are they, how much are they in our face, how much time have we wasted paying attention to them. Usually, that's where we start. If the show stays on the air it'll be easier and easier to figure out what should be against what.
TVGuide.com: You're like the Judge Wapner of pop culture!
Black: More Judge Roy Bean! Wapner is in his own world. I come out of the West with a six-gun and start shooting at will.
TVGuide.com: Will you continue to do The Daily Show's "Back in Black" now that the writers' strike is resolved?
Black: Yes. It's mostly the writers crafting material for me, because I'm just not available. And we've been together so long they pretty much know my quirks, and at times they know them better than I do. When they don't hit it, I throw in things. I certainly know how to be me.
TVGuide.com: Do you consider yourself a comic with a persona or a comic actor playing a role?
Black: I consider myself a comic with a persona.
TVGuide.com: Given your confrontational style, this platform is ideal for you.
Black: That was part of the reason Scott and David came to me, I think. It's right up my alley! [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Is there anyone you do not consider evil?
Black: Mother Theresa and Mary-Louise Parker!
TVGuide.com: Who are some of the "evil" people you're really looking forward to skewering?
Black: We got to go after Dick Cheney, which was a lot of fun. That was great. If we were on now we'd probably go after [Mike] Huckabee and Ron Paul without breaking a sweat. I think [Pakistan president Pervez] Musharraf. We went after [Korean dictator] Kim Jong-il, which was very good.
TVGuide.com: Would you put deceased people on trial?
Black: We talked about it. Our special "dead" shows!
TVGuide.com: Since we're in an election year, are you going to put the presidential candidates on trial?
Black: We did eight shows. If they call up an order I would certainly imagine we put 'em opposite each other. The great thing about this show is that the comics are really good at going right after whomever we present to them. I think that's what makes the show. We let them take something they can tear into. I think the nice thing about this show is that it's a great way for a comic to do comedy without doing their act. It's another way in which you can watch the comic mind at work.
TVGuide.com: Of all those tried on the show, who is the most evil?
Black: We were talking about whoever wins the first week we'd put up on the website the second week and we'd have a vote. And they'd go on to compete against whoever wins next and they would vote. I think eventually, depending on how this works out, we may have an "evil-off."
TVGuide.com: What is the definition of evil?
Black: It's somebody or something that irritates you so much you can't have a complete thought.
TVGuide.com: What TV do you enjoy?
Black: I like Weeds a lot, and I like Californication. I like The L Word for probably not the right reasons! [Laughs] I like it the way people watch Desperate Housewives. Girls kissing is good, but really how much crazier can this get? I like The Office and Colbert a lot. I watch my show, The Daily Show, Keith Olbermann. Meet the Press and Face the Nation are like a cup of coffee to me. I'm so irate after watching one of those, I can stay awake for a month.
TVGuide.com: Are you planning on doing more stand-up specials?
Black: If all goes well, I will do a show on Broadway starting in September through the election. And we'd have one on Comedy Central.
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