As any aficionado of modern political satire knows, Lewis Black's Root of All Evil premiered last night. The show pits two cultural phenomena against each other to determine which is more evil. Two comedians act as Advocates, arguing that their side is more evil, and Black pronounces a ruling at the end. The show combines prepared material (the Opening Arguments and my favorite, the Ripple of Evil) with ad-lib (the Inquisition, where Black gets to question the Advocates). And while parts were hilariously funny, Root of All Evil didn't quite meet my high expectations.
For one, Black's signature style of explosive anger and frustration at a world gone mad didn't come through. Sure, he was vitriolic. But there was no shouting, no finger wagging, no veins popping out of his neck. He didn't even clench his teeth! C'mon, Lew. You can do better than that.
"If it weren't for my horse..."
Also, there was something wrong about the ambiance. The studio audience was obviously very small and a bit nervous - which may have contributed to Black holding back. The set itself seemed awkward, with a lot of open space for three men to fill. I know comics are used to working all alone on a huge stage, and that looks fine ... when most of the cameras aren't shooting from above. Black and the Advocates looked like ants in business suits.
I will give him this - it's an ambitious project. Parts of it were a bit depressing, but cultural satire should be (in my humble opinion). It would benefit greatly from a livelier audience and a new set designer, but I can still enjoy it without those things. If you missed the premiere, you can catch clips at the official website.