For many of us, television news has become such a joke that we actually turn to comedians to relay the news to us. It's not much of a surprise to any of us that certain demographics rate Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert as more trustworthy than such formerly esteemed purveyors of truth and justice as the network channels and CNN (we're not even going to go near the other cable "news" channels that are not much more than propaganda outlets).
But it's really not a new phenomenon that many of us rely on comedians to point out the absurdities of our political system, our governance, the hypocrites in our midst, celebrity culture and the media's shallow coverage of the aforementioned.
Think Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, David Brenner, Bill Hicks, Johnny Carson ... well that list could go on and on. And then there is the current crop, other than Colbert and Stewart, such as Louis CK, Dennis Miller, Bill Maher, Doug Stanhope ... again, that list could go on and on.
Add to that list Lewis Black, who came to the public's attention as a regular on Stewart's "Daily Show" as the angry, neurotic commentator that often screamed about the ridiculousness of everything.
Black characterized the need to get the news from satirical shows as "news by default."
"It starts with things like when The New York Times had to apologize for the lack of research they did reporting on the Iraq War. Whether anyone likes it or not, they are the paper of record and it was their responsibility to pay attention, and the reality is that they didn't.
In a 2007 interview with Antonino D'Ambrosio, Black took aim at the media and Dick Cheney at the same time.
"The media doesn't really report on things in a detailed and thoughtful way that allows people to understand what a particular piece of news is really about. For example, Dick Cheney took millions from Halliburton and put it in a trust. The joke here is all set up through the information: The Vice President is the former CEO of Halliburton, a company that is receiving huge defense contracts for the war in Iraq. You either get to be Vice President or you don't. You either get to keep the money or you don't. So, by simple observational social satire you explain this to the audience and expose that yes, there is a clear conflict of interest."
Earlier this week at a National Press Club luncheon, Black called out the critics of Pres. Barack Obama who characterize the nation's first black president as a socialist.
"To call Obama a socialist, you have got to be out of your ... mind. There are seven socialists left in the country, and if you really want to see the leadership of the socialist party you can go to cemetery and find them."
Black also described socialism as "forced Christianity."
"If you are going to have a Christian philosophy, if that is going to be the basis of the country that you live in, and it is a Christian philosophy -- and I know this because I'm a Jew -- that you might want socialism, because what it is is enforced Christianity. You put your money where your mouth is and shut up. We are not going to wait on you to help the poor, you're going to help the poor, like it or not."
In Denver's alternative news weekly, Westword, Black talked about our obsession with guns.
"You've got 270 million guns in this country; I mean really, at what point do you stop and think about that? The two biggest paranoid fantasies of my generation were that vaccines caused autism, and that the government is coming for your guns. Nobody's coming for your guns -- no one!"
While Black is critical of Democrats ("They're like a giant turtle stuck on his back that can't flip over"), he reserves most of his scorn for Republicans.
"They make stuff up, like 'raising taxes on those making over $400,000 will hurt small businesses.' Only 3 percent of small businesses were affected by that! And the fact that I have to spend time explaining this to people is ridiculous. Over the last 12 years the rich have soaked up all the money, and you'd think it would be patriotic for them to pay some of it back in taxes."
Black once described the 20th century as the century of disappointment.
"The baby-boom generation couldn't fix anything. And we broke most of the toys we were handed," he told the Washington Post.
Despite his on-stage persona as an angry man, Black told the Post he's actually very happy, though he admitted he is "an angry citizen. To get angry at the world around us is the most sane reaction you can have."
Being angry can help us motivate and agitate for change, but in truth, anger often leads down roads we don't want to travel on. Fortunately, when the anger becomes overwhelming and leads to despair, there are comedians such as Lewis Black who can make us laugh about the absurdity that surrounds us while reminding us a sense of humor is an invaluable tonic for health and well being.