Comedian Lewis Black brought his angry brand of political ranting to the Sands Bethlehem Event Center earlier this month, and he had a lot to say about the Lehigh Valley.
His opener, John Bowman, kicked things off with a surprisingly lengthy set, cracking the easy jokes at Penn State and intentionally mispronouncing Wilkes Barre as ‘Wilkes Beret’. He then went into a fairly comical bit about being in Vegas for the last Mayweather match, harping on the theatrics of using Lil Wayne and Justin Bieber as hype men on his way to the ring. After a few duds and some ukulele bits that fell short of being funny, Black was up.
It was immediately apparent that he wasn’t feeling well, or wasn’t in a very good mood (even for his schtick). For around the first half of his set, he demurred from launching into the political tirades for which he’s probably most well-known and spoke about his recent trip to Tahiti, but not before making fun of the Sands Event Center itself, calling it, essentially, “a giant airplane hangar.” He quipped, “I didn’t know we had so many troops stationed in Bethlehem.”
Advising the audience to “fucking listen to me,” Black demanded that the crowd, at some point in their lives, drop everything and go to Tahiti. Recounting his trip, Black said he had two days off afterwards, and then was off to Scranton, “which we all know is the Tahiti of Pennsylvania.” After poking fun at our state, he then joked about his cold and his visits to the doctor. And then yes, it was time for the politics.
Transitioning from his cold, Black started discussing the Affordable Care Act, excoriating both parties for calling it ‘Obamacare.’ He then got into the shitshow situation that has been unfolding in Detriot over the past decade, and out of all things Black discussed that evening, a heckler apparently took issue with Black’s facts on the matter, loudly calling him a liar. He was quickly and deftly shut up by Black, much to the delight of the crowd.
Speaking of unions, Black assumed that most people think, “He’s in a union, he must be a prick!” adding about the Bethlehem Steel, “There used to be a union here, hahahahaha.” He then opened up a copy of the Morning Call and was selecting articles to harp on, picking out one about horses wandering around on the roads and one about fracking.
Black’s routine, especially his local tie-ins and timely jokes, made the evening an engaging and amusing one. His timid attitude in the beginning of his set, rising to his full, usual tirades by the end, added to the illusion of a crescendo of anger spewing at everything from politicians to his doctor. Towards the end of his set, he turned to an iPad, taking questions and ‘rant’ ideas from the crowd. At one point he gave a hearty “fuck you” to a crowd member who asked him to officiate their wedding and said he would only accompany an audience member to the Jeff Dunham show in July if he could shove his hand “up [Dunham’s] ass and use him like a puppet.” Guess that’s a no?