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Arts & Music

Lewis Black, Jim Breuer aim for Tampa's funny bone

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Published:   |   Updated: April 11, 2013 at 02:21 PM

Ask comedian Lewis Black if he's really as angry as he seems on TV and he'll tell you no, not really, at least not anymore. He'll calmly tell you that he used to be that guy, the one who walked around bubbling mad, ready to blow at any moment.

But he's mellowed over the years, he claims. If he hadn't changed, he says he'd be dead by now.

Then you light the fuse.

You ask him about the national news of the week, which in this case happens to be the Supreme Court's review of a couple pieces of legislation concerning same sex marriage rights.

And boom!

“It's insane. I said this 15 years ago, but on the list of things that Americans need to worry about, gay marriage is on page six, right after 'are we eating too much garlic as a people',” Black said by phone from his home in New York, growing louder and angrier with each word. “People didn't know they were surrounded by gay people years ago, but now they do. So grow up! It doesn't interfere with your religion, and that's what this is really about!”

It goes on for close to 10 minutes this way, with a lot more words that can't be printed here. When it ends, this is clear: Black still seems pretty angry.

That's lucky for us, because he's a master at spinning that fury into comedy gold.

At “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central where Black has officially been dubbed the show's “commentator on everything,” he serves as a sort of edgy, left-leaning Andy Rooney on steroids, ranting sarcastically on every facet of culture, from creationism (“they're blinding you with not-science!”), to violent video games (“my personal favorite; running over a person whose car I just stole, with the car I just stole!”) to political campaigns (“they can produce bull---- at the same rate as actual bulls!”).

On the “The Rant Is Due Tour,” which Black brings to Tampa's Straz Center Thursday, he'll take aim at the effects of modern technology.

“It's about the fact that we as a people don't accomplish anything anymore because we all have ADD,” he said. “They call it multitasking, but when you're looking at a computer, and thinking about something else, and talking to someone about something else, you're kidding yourself. It's not multitasking, it's a disorder, and we all have it.”

But don't take Black's scorn for society's many miscues as total pessimism. He's actually hopeful for things to come.

“Luckily, the old white men thing is on the way out, so it's like watching dinosaurs leave the earth,” he said. “They were stopping progress since I was a kid, and then my generation became the old white men and were just as bad. But I'm optimistic for what's coming as this next generation takes over.

“Of course, we'll probably have a whole new set of problems to deal with.”

Goat boy has grown up
 
Also coming to the Straz is Jim Breuer, a comedian and impressionist who's about as far away from angry as it gets.

Where Black's comedy is fueled by societal outrage, Breuer, a former “Saturday Night Live” cast member from 1995 to 1998, takes a laid-back, goofball approach to riffing on his personal life, his family and his experiences in showbiz.

“I've always just looked at it as hanging out and telling stories, and I've always had the attitude that wherever we are, no matter what's happening, let's party,” Breuer said by phone from New Jersey, before comparing his act to watching Bill Cosby with a Metallica shirt instead of a sweater.

The husband and father of three daughters has found plenty of material at the crossroads between being a dad and being a hard rock fan. During the interview he was on his way to a recording studio to work on an upcoming album of children's songs, sung by Breuer in the perfectly imitated voices of his rock star heroes.

“So when it comes out you'll get to hear like James Hetfield and Brian Johnson and Ozzy singing B-I-N-G-O,” he said.

As for how he's changed in the dozen years since he starred as a stoner in the cult-classic comedy “Half Baked,” Breuer stresses that just because he works clean doesn't mean his act has lost its bite.

“Family friendly is not to be confused with soft,” he said. “Stand-up is my A-game. People leave my show going 'I can't believe that guy didn't curse and he wasn't filthy, because that's the hardest I ever laughed'.”

He also said fans who know him best from “SNL,” where he created the character “Goat Boy” and famously played a spot-on Joe Pesci in a scene alongside the real Pesci, won't be disappointed.

“It's all there,” he said. “Everyone who comes out, whether they know me from my recent tours or from back in the day, they're going to leave happy.”

cspata@tbo.com, Twitter: @CSpataTBO

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