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David Spade, Jon Lovitz and Lewis Black Ready to Ignite Howls of Laughter

Comedians, like disasters, come to us in threes

Three talented stand-up comics will be performing on the South Coast this weekend, spaced temporally and geographically to be in no sort of competition.

David Spade
David Spade

First, David Spade and his Special Guest — and fellow Saturday Night Live alumnus — Jon Lovitz will play The Granada at 8 p.m. Saturday in Santa Barbara.

Then, at 8 p.m. Sunday, in the Fred Kavli Theatre of the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, Live Nation will present Lewis Black, performing his most recent collection of diatribes, polemics, rants and hilarious denunciations, which he calls “In God We Rust.”

The stand-up comedian occupies a dominant position in the contemporary American entertainment world. Of course, there have always been comics doing routines, but their current ubiquity is, I believe, a product of two developments in American popular culture that occurred after World War II: the long-playing vinyl phonograph record and the rise of broadcast television.

The comics who began their careers in the late 1940s and early ‘50s — Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce, Mike Nichols & Elaine May, Shelley Berman — were the first generation who owed nothing to Vaudeville. Their names, their humor, their voices became known, to a public of unprecedented size and geographical range, through the LP. They were, in outlook if not immediately in fact, writers. Sahl, the most political of the group, recorded the first live album of his act. Berman’s first three records on Verve became Gold records (there was no Platinum in those days).

Comics and television were a match made in heaven. From Sid Caesar and Jack Paar through Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In and Saturday Night Live, not to mention the legion of situation comedies, the comics steadily increased their share of America’s attention almost to the point that if we can’t find it funny, we won’t touch it with a 10-foot-pole.

Jon Lovitz
Jon Lovitz

Spade is a specialist in annoying, peripheral types — the most famous being the fey, officious receptionist for Dick Clark, whose question “And you are ...?” is now standard usage. We have all met these types; they are not confined to the outer offices of entertainment lords. Their tiny sliver of power has made megalomaniacs out of them: “Would you be a lamb and not smoke?” Their solipsism forces us to play it their way, to acknowledge their authority if we want to get on with the next stage of our whatevers.

Lovitz is harder to characterize. I once saw him do a routine he was still working on, of a gangster talking to his mother on the phone. It was like a sonata, with an abrupt “What? No!” marking the change of movements. After about a minute, I was absolutely convinced that there was somebody on the other end of the line — and he wasn’t even holding a phone. Very funny, very postmodern. When he is not putting an eccentric spin to somebody else’s lines — he has given many memorable supporting performances in films — Lovitz’s work suggests a very creative and hilarious answer to the problem of subject matter.

The first couple of times I tried watching Black, his thuggish hysteria put me off so much I changed the channel. Then, I started listening to him more closely and discovered that his sense of outrage had a lot in common with mine. He has an almost Calvinistic disdain for weakness and hypocrisy.

Lewis Black
Lewis Black

A friend of the filmmaker Billy Wilder once said of him, “He sees the worst in everybody, and he sees it funny.” One might say of Black, he sees something funny in the worst of everybody. Black describes his situation, and what gives his humor its particular fury, as “being on the Titanic every single day and being the only person who knows what is going to happen.”

Tickets to David Spade with Jon Lovitz are $32-$71 and are available at The Granada box office, 1214 State St. Click here to purchase tickets online, or call 805.899.2222.

Tickets to Lewis Black are $57.50 to $73 and can be obtained at The Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza Box Office, 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd., or call 805.449.2787.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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