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Lewis Black has no complaints about getting off the road

Lewis Black brings his “Goodbye Yeller Brick Road, The Final Tour” to the Wilbur on Friday. He'll be back in September.Courtesy of Lewis Black

There are few things you can count on in life. Death. Taxes. And Lewis Black eventually playing a theater near you, no matter where you live. Black, known for his rants on “The Daily Show” and as the voice of Anger in Pixar’s “Inside Out” franchise, has kept a grueling touring schedule for 35 years. This year, he’s giving it one last push with his “Goodbye Yeller Brick Road, The Final Tour.” He plays the Wilbur Friday and again in September before he finally takes some time to relax and pursue other projects.

That doesn’t mean he won’t do a few theaters again sometime in the future, or that he won’t pop up as a guest on someone else’s tour. It does mean that his days as a road dog, spending most of his time traveling and touring, are done. “I’m gonna do less shows,” he says. “A lot less shows. More than likely what will occur is, a number of times a year I’ll hopefully do ‘The Rant Is Due’ as kind of a live show in many places.”


In his “Daily Show” editorials, onstage, and in his “Rantcast” podcast, Black has made a career out of ranting about everything from politics to the weather. On the latter topic, he once joked about experiencing five seasons in four days during a February in Boston. “It was 30, it was 60, it was 90, it was 12,” he yelled. “On the last day, there was thunder, lightning, and snow — together. And I hadn’t done drugs.”

The “Rant Is Due” segment is a portion of his show in which he reads rants sent to him by audience members. A book based on those rants is just one of the projects he’s thinking of once the tour ends. His alma mater, the University of North Carolina, has a collection of his writings, including books and plays he hasn’t read in years, and he plans to comb them for ideas.


“I want to go through this stuff, and start figuring out if there’s another short book,” he says. “It’s like a book you pick up on the way to the airport. And by the time the plane lands, you’re done reading what people are bitching about. I’d love to get the best of what was written in to me and get that out there and then sell it for charity.”

A comedian with too much idle time can be a problem. Not so for Black, according to longtime friend and fellow comic Kathleen Madigan. The big difference is that Black has a lot of talents he hasn’t had time to employ. “There’s a million other things Lewis has always wanted to do,” she says. “Versus other comics, I would say, ‘Uh-oh, this won’t be good if they quit the road. It’s been too long. They don’t know what else to do.’ But Lewis, I think it’s just gonna be a little weird transition there for a hot minute. And then I think he’ll be fine with it.”

Black was hoping last year’s stand-up special, “Tragically, I Need You,” would wind up on one of the bigger streaming platforms. When he had to post it to YouTube, he knew something had shifted in his career. He started in traditional media, first as a playwright then, in his late 30s, as a stand-up comedian. He doesn’t feel comfortable in a social media environment.


“If we’re on YouTube, then the day is done,” he says. “That’s where we’ve gone in my lifetime, from an industrial age, I call it, to a technological age. I’m the end of the industrial age. And I’m not really that great at the technological age. It’s time to go back to things I really still want to do, which is write. If I’m lucky, get some acting in. To see if ‘Inside Out’ [might] generate some more voice-over work, which I’d like to have.”

Although Pixar is a marketing juggernaut, and there will be plenty of small red Anger dolls that bear a passing resemblance to Black in stores, he doesn’t get a cut of that. But he does have his own merchandising on his website, including an “Anger Button” and a “Profane Keychain,” both of which produce Black’s shouts at the push of a button. Those things help him pay the team that manages his online presence; anything left over goes to charity, he says. Black is amazed the items sell, and laughs just talking about them.

“It is really spectacular,” he says. “And we sell them in bundles. I mean, would I have thought that the anger button and the keychain, that you’d want both? Are you serious?”

In the meantime, the current tour continues through September, with more dates to be added and eventually, he hopes, another taping of a special. Part of what Black will be talking about onstage on this tour is coming to grips with how a comedian can satirize a reality that is already ridiculous. What can he say onstage to top the headlines? “If you read anywhere that any state would say that frozen embryos are children, if you read it in a book, you’d laugh,” he says. “You read it as a headline and you go, ‘What?’”


Black has signed a contract to keep ranting on “The Daily Show” for most of the next two years. The show’s current format has revolving hosts, and Black will get his turn later this year. “I get to sit in the seat,” he says, taking a swipe at himself. “So that’ll be fun. It’ll probably be sometime in the middle of August when there’s a complete drought.”


At the Wilbur. March 22 at 7:30 p.m. and Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. $49-$89. thewilbur.com

Nick A. Zaino III can be reached at nick@nickzaino.com.