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Black's style grew from the antiauthority, intellectual comedy of Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, and Bill Hicks, the gimme-a-break rants of Sam Kinison, and the absurdist humor of Bob Newhart. His stage act does include some boilerplate material of the modern-day stand-up like complaints about the weather and health clubs, but Black's strength is talking politics. The comic, a self-described socialist, discards both major parties and takes aim at everyone. John Kerry, George Bush. Corporate pigs. And it's on this subject, during a performance that he boils over. He's baffled as he tries to explain why former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski needed a $15,000 umbrella stand. He shouts. He swears. He can barely speak. He is the angry man. Black always stuck with stand-up. And in the late '80s, after almost a decade in New York, Black made the leap from theater rat to full-time comic. In 2002, Black served as MC at an ART goodbye party for Brustein. He also allocates part of each summer to teaching drama at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. He even imagines going back to Chapel Hill and teaching theater. For now, though, he's glad to be flourishing on the comedy circuit.
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After bouncing around the club scene for decades, Black, 55, has broken through in a business usually dominated by comics half his age. Last year, Comedy Central released Black's first CD and a DVD collection of his comedy specials on the network. Black plays 250 shows a year, and he performs Saturday at the Berklee Performance Center. He's also scored a comedy special on HBO, a career-defining mark for a comic. "Black on Broadway" begins airing May 15. That comes only a few weeks after Black filmed a pilot for ABC, tentatively titled "Educating Lewis," in which Black plays a high school principal. He's even talking about trying to score a semi-regular gig in Vegas.