There are no sacred cows when Lewis Black goes on the attack.
Not even himself.
That much is clear in the new comedy set he's touring titled "Running on Empty," which Lewis will perform at the Community Center Theater on Saturday.
As a baby boomer, Black includes himself among a generation that he says missed a great opportunity to change the world.
"My generation has failed miserably. We have to 'fess up," said Black, speaking by phone from Atlanta, a stop on his tour. "We were given every break. It was the first generation, and possibly the last, that was given every possible break and they pissed it away.
"That generation couldn't even maintain education in this country. It's stupefying."
Black's anger is so cutting that it's not hard to imagine self-righteous ex-hippies running toward the theater exits with hands over their ears. The incisive ranting is Black's stock in trade as a comic, and it forms the foundation of a prolific career.
When Black performs in Sacramento, it will be one stop in a 100-date tour.
"It seems like I've been on tour for the last seven years," Black said.
He is best known for his regular appearances on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show." Black has won two Grammy Awards for his comic recordings, has appeared in several films and has written two books that have spent time on the New York Times best-seller list.
We talk to Black about his life on tour, his no-holds-barred views on current issues and his first love: writing plays.
How do you entertain yourself when on tour?
I read books. I'm reading a book called "Train" by (former Sacramento Bee columnist) Pete Dexter. I also watch CNN till I get nauseous. I watch a lot of sports to make sure that my violent urges have a place to go.
Your comedy asks people to question authority. Is that resonating with your primarily young audience?
Well, they discovered me 10 years ago, so I know they're thinking about it. I think it's come to the fore because there is something they can coalesce around now. Part of it is that young people were in a bubble for a while. Once that bubble burst with 9/11, that's when I think things really changed.
Where did you learn to question authority?
My parents. They basically taught me to pay attention and keep my eyes open and that you have to figure it out for yourself. That's something very few people do. They gave me a proper respect for authority and a proper sense for questioning it. I didn't go after my schoolteachers.
What would you be like now as a 20-something?
I wouldn't be paying much attention except for what it was that I wanted to do. I would certainly try to deal with things on a local level, because there doesn't seem to be any sense, on a national level, about what's going on.
What do you think about the Occupy Wall Street movement?
Gee, a bunch of people are out there that think that what Wall Street does is appalling? There's a shock. This is something that should have occurred two years ago. But the fact that it's occurring at all is a good thing because it shows we have a pulse.
Are we in a golden age of satire?
Probably, especially now with the Colbert and the Daily Show, and the Onion. I think it has a lot to do with the overflow of information and the amount of cable channels and the Internet. Satire arises in a time when you need some sort of buffer or insulation.
Who are your favorite comedians working right now?
I like Mike Wilmot. He's out of Canada. He makes me laugh. And Dom Irrera who has been around forever but is one of the great comics. Also Kathleen Madigan is about as funny as anyone in the U.S.
I understand a highlight of your career was getting kudos from George Carlin.
My life-changer was a message he left on my phone saying, "I want you to know I've listened to a lot of your work, and I think it's great."
Why was that so important to you?
Carlin was a pretty major influence. He was one of the first albums I bought. The fact that he respected my work gave me a lot of confidence. That was massive.
As a comedian, what did you learn from him?
I interviewed him once for a show, and I learned he liked to write everything. I don't write down a thing. I work from little bits and pieces of little notes and things that I want use but he spent a lot of time writing and writing and writing.
What's the latest with your career as a playwright?
My play "One Slight Hitch" ran at the Williamstown Theater Festival last summer and was successful, and will be up in Seattle this summer. It was a play I wrote 30 years ago and spent the last six to eight years workshopping and rewriting.
What's it about?
It's a romantic comedy and a farce. It's about the ex-boyfriend who arrives the day of the wedding and what happens after. If my name was not on it, nobody would know it was me who wrote it.
But the name is attached. How does that change things?
In some ways, it's good; in some ways, not. People are going to show up and say, "Why is he not in it?" Well, I'm not a good enough actor to do that. And then they will ask, "How come it's not angry?"
Anything you want to say to Sacramentans?
I'm glad that Schwarzenegger is no longer the governor. That was a step back into the 20th century. So, I congratulate you Californians for not electing a fictional character for governor this time.
WHAT: This comedian is going to rant about politics, about culture, about religion and about a lot of other stuff that gets Americans going. And the audience will laugh. At least, it typically works that way.
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Community Center Theater, 1301 L St., Sacramento
COST: $35.50, $45.50, $59.50
CONTACT: (916) 808-5181, www.livenation.com