Lewis Black can't help but look back and laugh. While discussing Robin Williams' tragic demise and the state of America, the charmingly cranky comic may have hit it right on the head when trying to define that most elusive of states — happiness.
"I think it all has to do with a job that doesn't feel like work," Black said while calling from his Manhattan apartment. "But most people think that money makes it for everyone. When Robin, who was a great guy, died, I heard, 'if he had all of that money, how could he kill himself?' Well, if you have all of the money in the world, you still have to live with yourself. I'm not sure if it was a combination of being bi-polar and having Parkinson's made him do it. Who knows? All I know is that having money doesn't make you happy. I have been stupidly successful. But I'm no happier than I was when I could barely afford more than food back in the '80s."
Black, 66, is a mid-life success story. During the '80s, he was a playwright/actor, who lived for the plays he produced, which were staged at the West Bank Cafe Downstairs Theatre Bar. "We did more new one-act plays than any other venue in America, much to no one's interest," Black cracked. "But it was great. Even though I had no extra money, I looked forward to every day since it was always fun."
The cerebral Black is thankful for his "Daily Show'' appearances, which have helped broaden his audience. His clever "Back in Black'' rants are as intense, unpredictable and humorous as Black is on stage. He always has an axe to grind and you can bet he'll be waxing about something that's under his skin when he performs Saturday at the Grand Theatre at Foxwoods Resorts Casino.
Black will discuss Congress, the terrorist group ISIS and a recent trip to Europe when he performs. "What amazes me is that there are so few adult leaders," Black said. "Look at the most ineffectual Congress. It's terrible. Also, I had a great time in Europe. I did some dates there just a few weeks ago. That was before ISIS existed. It's impossible for me not to talk about ISIS."
At the end of his show, Black will field texts from those in the audience. "Those in attendance can ask questions or make comments and I'll run with that over the last 15 minutes of show," Black said. "But there's always someone that says, 'hey, we're doing the work for you.' You're not, I'm just trying to do something immediate as opposed to hitting you with all of the prepared material."
For as curmudgeonly as he seems, Black comes across as pleased. "Why shouldn't I be," Black said. "It's been great. So many things have made me so happy over my career."
What are the top three experiences, which Black is most proud of?
"Working with Woody Allen in "Hannah and Her Sisters" is at the top of the list," Black said. "I played one of his writers and I'll never forget how Woody Allen is so shy and withdrawn off the set but on the set he's Woody Allen. Working at the West Bank. Meeting George Carlin and Robin Williams is right at the top. There was no one like Carlin."
Toward the end of his life, Carlin became a terribly dark comic, who a month prior to his death stated that America was circling the drain. Black, however, who can hit with the best when it comes to potent negative rants, differs.
"I don't believe that since every time there's a disaster in America, a hurricane or tornado, people risk their lives to save others here," Black said. "It's not over here yet and hopefully won't be for many years."
Editor's note: This story has been updated to remove a past performance time.