Lewis Black has seen more than a few changes at The Daily Show since his Back in Black segments began airing during the show’s inaugural season in 1996. Host Craig Kilborn gave way to Jon Stewart; the program gradually changed from a smug TV-news parody to an institution that viciously mocked hypocritical politicians and the media establishment that covers them; and legendary correspondents like Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell and John Oliver all moved onto their own projects. The only things to truly survive all 19 years are the Moment of Zen, the theme song — and Black himself.
We checked in with the perpetually-enraged comedian to hear how he survived two decades at The Daily Show, and what to expect from the program once Trevor Noah takes over.
How are you doing?
It’s another delightful day in New York. It’s getting up to about 2,000 degrees outside.
Do you remember how you first heard about The Daily Show?
Lizz Winstead and Hank Gallo called me up. They asked if I’d be interested in doing a thing every couple of weeks on this new show. I went, “You’re going to put me on TV? Yeah!”
How was the segment first conceived?
They just asked me to come in and do commentary. I’d give them three or four minutes and they’d say, “Keep that, drop that, this might work.” I would just spout off about whatever was pissing me off.
How much TV exposure did you have at this point?
It’s tough to say since it all kind of came at the same time. I had done Conan and Evening at the Improv. I’d done all the usual suspects, basically anytime I could get on TV.
Was Back in Black basically a version of your stand-up routine at the time?
Yeah. The only difference was I sat at a desk.