A year ago, I saw Black again at the Royal Oak Music Theater, and his act seemed less coherent. He growled about the growing expectations of him now that he has become a more mainstream act, sometimes booked to open for, say, country singers.
I sense that Black may also have a problem with the shift in rage on the political spectrum. The angry old white man persona has been somewhat co-opted by Tea Party types, folks that Black would find insufferable but who have squatted on his territory of anti-Establishment invective.
Still, Black has taken the long comic tradition of indignation and perfected it for an age in which just about anything--from oil companies to politicians to celebrities--can make your blood boil. That Black can boil it for you--and then skewer your own insecurities and pretenses--makes him quite discomfiting. Yet his consternation is still so justifiable, the logic of his rage so incontrovertible, that his anger doesn't seem so much an act as a vehicle for our own vituperation. Just don't kill his jokes with uptightness--or he may come down off the stage and throttle you.
[Originally published in February, 2011.]