Onstage at the Warner Theater in Washington, D.C. (because the Kennedy Center refused to condone his road-rage overuse of fuck), Lewis Black is exasperated into ulcers by practically everything. This includes George Bush and the war in Iraq; Democrats who couldn’t find anybody better than John Kerry to run against Bush (“Like finding a normal person who would lose in the Special Olympics”); Dick Cheney; former fema-ite Michael Brown; opponents of gay marriage and evolution; and his own Old Testament God, Whom he calls “a prick.” Black does all this in a suit and tie, middle-aged enough to point to his eightysomething parents in the audience and call them “salt and pepper shakers.” Having grown up on Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl, I’m still waiting for a 21st-century stand-up Toxic Avenger. But compared with Kathy Griffin, Black is Jonathan Swift.
In the first of six new hours in her second season on Bravo, Griffin sells a weekend with herself on eBay to benefit a charity. Of course, both winner and runners-up have something better to do when the date rolls around. Meanwhile, she hits the road to try out her blue-state humor on red-state squares and accept an honorary key to the city of Louisville at a ceremony attended by ten people. In a later episode, she and her limo get lost on the way to the airport from which she will fly to Iraq to entertain the troops while deploring the war, she sticks to her diet in spite of artillery (“An insurgency is great for your figure”), and she decides she’s finally discovered her true demographic (“Guys who hardly see women at all”). Everything begins with her physical inadequacies, for which laughter is supposed to be both cure and consolation. This was retrograde when Phyllis Diller did it.