Perhaps he's tired, but Lewis Black doesn't seem so angry at all.
The button-pushing comic, best known for fits of political pique, arrives to talk to reporters fresh off a plane from Las Vegas, where he's been performing at the MGM Grand. Stumbling into movie stardom at the age of 57, Black admits that his mere presence is testament to the advantages of late success.
"If I'd had this fame 20 years ago, you'd be going, 'Is he going to come down?'" Black says. "I mean, I had to do a show last night in Vegas. I'm done at 11. I can't get to bed until three in the morning and then I had to get on the plane to come here at eight. And if I were 25, I'd be going, 'F*** them, man. You come to my suite, mutherf***ers.' So I think I'm a lot better off."
Black is doing publicity for his new film "Accepted," in which he plays a burnt out former academic who rediscovers his enthusiasm when he's asked to be the fake dean at a fake college started by a bunch of outcasts. It's a fitting role for performer who has become a frustration-filled guru for young audiences thanks in large part to his regular appearances on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and his Comedy Central specials.
"I think the reason it works is because I'm really... I'm emotionally stunted," Black says. "I have not changed, really, much of my personal philosophy -- and this might be sad -- since I was 22. When I came out of school, I looked at the world that way. I have not changed the way that I look at the world, so I think in a lot of ways, I'm looking at it the way they look at it. And I express frustration, anger and rage, which I think kids, you know, that's a big part, growing up as a kid, is overcoming that and I was lucky enough to find a career where I could build on it. So yeah, in a way, I think I'm lucky. Without them, I'd have no career. If it wasn't for them..."
He ponders for a second and continues, "My generation didn't find me. Their generation found me. And it wasn't like I wasn't wandering around looking to be found."
It'll be hard to miss Black this fall. He's following "Accepted" with appearances in the comedies "Man of the Year" and "Unaccompanied Minors," as well as vocal turn in the parody "Farce of the Penguins." As a result, he's had to learn to tailor his larger-than-life persona -- it involves lots of hand-waving and sweating -- to a new medium, which hadn't necessarily been easy.
"My tendency is from the 5000 commercial auditions that I went to, where they'd go, 'Well, you know why you're here' and then I'd do what I'd do and they'd go, 'Well, that's too angry,'" Black notes. "So, I would have to really trust these guys to... And they really kind of guided me along, so I became more comfortable. They let me be pretty big and I was afraid that it might not work, but I've done four movies in a row, because apparently all the actors have died. So as a result, I've been able to kind of learn it as I've gone along."
Thus far, Black's roles haven't strayed far from his rage-against-the-machine image, not that he would complain about typecasting.
"It'd be like Lassie saying he doesn't really like being Lassie, 'You know, I'd really like to be Rin Tin Tin,'" says Black. "I mean, there are shades of difference. I think there are certain things that I can do. The more that that acting door got open this year, the more I kind of realized there's a lot of stuff I can do."
Black adds, "I think that the last movie I did was better than this one and I wish I could do this movie again. By that time, I think... A lot of what at least in film acting is, as somebody put it, is being comfortable within your own skin. You don't need to be a genius. You really just have to be comfortable. It's like my friend Mark Linn-Baker said, 'Say the line and f***ing keep moving.'"
"Accepted" hits theaters everywhere on Friday, Aug. 18.