What's So Funny?
Stand-up comedian, actor, author Lewis Black began grooving a horrific swing 50 years ago. All he wants now is for Scarlett Johansson to drive his cart.
But Lewis Black? A golfer?
As he might scream, "Really?"
Black, 63, who parlayed regular rants on "The Daily Show" into a booming career of sold-out performances, CDs, books, HBO specials, movie roles and more, bases his comedy on anger. Anger at big issues like religion and politics, as well as more mundane subjects like Starbucks, aging and 2 percent milk. He has become famous for his foul-mouthed rants and eruptions, near-apoplectic fits of sputtering rage that unleash some of the funniest, most poignant and most eloquent dissections of American life today.
He has been an actor, playwright (with a degree from the Yale School of Drama), theater owner and emcee. He turned to stand-up comedy in the late '80s and has appeared on "The Daily Show" since 1996. He has been nominated for four Grammy awards for comedy, winning two, been nominated for an Emmy and written three best-selling books. Plus he has had small but memorable roles in a number of movies and works with numerous charities.
Through it all, he has been an on-again, off-again golfer, trying somehow to channel, manage or sublimate the rage that's always bubbling just below the surface. Never very good, Black says he spent "10 or 15 years beating myself up, walking around the course screaming like a lunatic, always at myself. I occasionally do that now, but rarely."
(Note: Some of the language has been cleaned up a bit. Use your imagination.)
Your online biography says you like golf but golf hates you. What do you mean?
I think one reason people play golf is it allows them to obsess about something other than the daily crap. It takes your mind off that. It's not that "good walk spoiled" stuff. That's a crock. I'm good for a while, and then the brain starts to go. My friend [comedian] John Bowman says 10 percent of your brain is what does it, and the other 90 percent is there to screw with you. So after three or four holes I go, I'm probably going to hit it to the right, and then it's a wrestling match with my brain to shut up.
That sounds like your act.
It is. I was playing with [comedian] Kathleen Madigan in Florida and hit into some willows. I was maybe 20 yards away, and the wheels started spinning, and I fired the club in after it. I started to walk in, and she started screaming, "There are snakes!" and there was a sign warning "Crocodile Pit." I said, "I don't care, let them bite me."
How did you get into golf?
I was 10 or 11, and the recreation center in Montgomery County, Md., ran a summer program. They gave lessons, then we played a county course. I did it for a few summers. At age 13, I was bar mitzvahed, and my uncle gave me his old set of Wilsons.
My father worked at the Naval Ordnance Lab, and they had a nine-hole course on the property. You paid a quarter.
I started going there because I could get away from my family without hiding in the bathroom. From about the age of 14 to 21 I was able to groove an absolutely horrific swing. I did it all on my own. Now whenever I hear someone say on television that he taught himself, I say, "Really?" He taught himself that swing, and I taught myself a swing that I've spent my adult life trying to break out of, which I think I've done.
Did you fix it on your own?
No. Teaching pro A.J. Bonar gave me lessons. He showed me that a lot of golf instruction was hooey. He said it was really just a matter of hitting the ball, not all this "where you are in space" crap. The lesson was great because it was for people like me who don't play much. I'm talking about going from a 70-handicap to a 66, not from a 7 to a 4.