By Jonathan Wexler
While Lewis Black’s second book, Me of Little Faith, is no doubt funny, the Comedy Central favorite and veteran comedian’s collection of essays delve into highly philosophical territory, constantly exploring the author’s spiritual evolution and ultimately creating something much more than a pile of slickly bound pages for your local book store’s humor section.
The jokes come on the way to the point, because as Black writes, you have to be able to laugh at something so serious. But on those points, Black is full of insight, alternately tearing religion a new asshole, or waxing sentimental and poetic about the nature of God.
But Black is quick to disclaim: In the preface, he writes: “All of this is just my opinion, the way I look at religion, what it has meant and not meant to me. And why it makes me laugh. So if religion has taken over your life and you don’t want to think about it or laugh about it because it will upset you, DON’T READ THE GODAMN BOOK.”
It’s important to note, however, despite Black’s seemingly hostile tone, he doesn’t really attack individual faiths as much as he pokes holes in the concept of religion: “Nothing fucks up faith more than a good thought,” he writes, adding that most religions operate on the concepts of fear of death and the desire to get into heaven. He calls the idea of the “one true religion” nonsense. And in case he hadn’t pissed off the Bible-thumpers yet, he eventually compares drug experiences to religious transformation.
To Black, the idea of God is counterlogical. He recounts how many of his Catholic friends would, in times of despair, tell him all he needed was some faith. He would ask them, “Faith in what? That I can suspend the human thought process in order to allow this kind of lunacy?”
But Black has some lamentations as well. At 22, fresh from college, Black had an earth-shattering epiphany. While trying to explain how to resolve a conflict a friend was having, he realized he didn’t know how. In fact, he realized, he knew nothing. A young Black who once felt very much in tune with the universe was suddenly disconnected. “I have spent my life trying to get back to the way I lived then,” he writes.
While most comedy fans know Black as the volatile, always agitated comic with a Joe Cocker-like delivery, Me of Little Faith exposes his softer side. Black allows his readers in on the emotions he had upon the death of his brother, Ron, the palpable feeling of his brother’s spirit in the room after he died and the story of Black’s psychic friend, Michael, through whom Black says Ron’s messages are still sent. It was this series of events that made Black believe in the existence of the spirit.
But when it comes to the existence of God, Black, now 59, is still undecided; as for religion, his vote is a resounding “Nay!” But Black does believe this: There is an irrepressible nature of the human spirit and spirituality.
Black sees himself as a missionary of comedy. To fully understand, read The Laundry Hour, a play Lewis wrote, included in the book, in which the actors are preachers trying to heal their audience through laughter. He concludes his sermon in the play by saying that humor is worship, laughter is prayer, and if there is a God, he wants us to laugh.