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Pointing the Finger

Lewis Black is not mad at you — he's mad with you.

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"I have a lot of parents showing up with their kids," he says of his live shows. "I must be the weirdest family comic ever."

He has certainly had the exposure. From studying theater at Yale to running and performing at a Manhattan theater bar for eight years, with stops in Colorado and points west, Black acquired the skills necessary to jab his finger at the camera and rant in his regular segment called "Back in Black" on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show."

His political jabs are evenhanded, an impartial treatment of both parties. "Once I realized they were in bed together, I bailed on going after just one side," he says. He boils it down: "I'm really focusing on authority."

Whether he intends to or not, he is also focusing on youth, pitching his messages to a generation that he says is being "slaughtered by information." The involvement of youth in this latest political contest is a result of them becoming a focus, he says. From Ralph Stanley's recent visit in support of Kerry to P. Diddy's $40 "Vote or Die" T-shirts, the youth are being targeted, at any rate.

Black's explanation of their involvement isn't rooted in pop culture. "Once you throw a war in front of kids, they're going to respond," he says. And if he were heading up a voting campaign, he says his slogan would be: "If you can't vote for, vote against."

As "The Daily Show" becomes, despite its best efforts to the contrary, a respected source of information, comedians are beginning to enjoy the ability to sway public opinion, to be smart and funny when the news channels are, at times, being neither.

"In part, you've got four major channels pumping out [information] 94 hours a day," says Black. "The comic ends up acting as a filter or a decompression area."

With the election less than a month away, Black isn't worried about running out of material, not in a world of cults, frog hunting and — his new favorite target — the ban on gay marriage.

But can his angry energy keep up the pace set by his mouth?

"If I'd known it was going to be so tiresome," he says, "I'd have come in on a gurney." S



Black performs with opening act John Bowman at VCU's Siegel Center Thursday, Oct. 28, at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $20 and are available through Ticketmaster at 262-8100 or ticketmaster.com.

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