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Lewis Black Plays a College Dean in the Comedy Movie Accepted

Lewis Talks About Improv and Accepted

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Lewis Black Plays a College Dean in the Comedy Movie Accepted

Lewis Black stars in Accepted.

© Universal Pictures
As the Dean of the fictitious South Harmon Institute of Technology, Lewis Black dispenses practical advice to a bunch of willing listeners in the comedy movie, Accepted, starring Justin Long and directed by Steven Pink.

How much of what you did in this movie was actually in the script?
“I recreated everything. I recreated the whole script. …It's tough to say because there's the fine line between what they wrote [and] what I was doing on the set. We were rewriting. I wouldn't even call it rewriting, because I was doing it. Tom [Shadyac, producer] was there and Steven [Pink, director] was there and I would do something and then they would take some of that, put it back together with something else I did and something from the script. Then, after we'd do a scene and there was a break, I would rewrite what I thought they wanted for the speech and hand it to them. They'd rewrite it back to me and that was the way we kind of arrived at it.”

How is it different playing anger and rage on the big screen than in your stand-up comedy?
“A lot of what it had to do with was trust. I had to trust Steven and Tom. They would tell me...because my tendency is from the 5,000 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.' So I would have to really trust these guys to [help me]. 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.”

Are you the cool guy to kids the age of the actors in Accepted?
“They seem to like me. They do. I think the reason it works is because I'm emotionally stunted. 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. I express frustration, anger and rage, which I think kids… You know, that's a big part of 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 they're lucky. Without them, I'd have no career. If it wasn't for them... My generation didn't find me. Their generation found me. And it wasn't like I wasn't wandering around looking to be found.”

You were the older guy there with 100 kids. Were they including you or excluding you?
“It was fun because you always have that sense in yourself that you'd like to be that age again, and then being around all of them you go, 'Umm... No. I don't really want to go back there again.' I had a lot of fun with them because they're bright and they're good at what they do. And if they did lack discipline at times, it just goes hand-in-hand with their learning process. Eventually they'll figure it out, that they're wasting energy. But, for me, it was great. There's nothing more energizing than being around a group of young kids.”

Did it provide any inspiration for stand-up material?
“No, and that's the problem with movies. You can't really go on stage and bitch about, 'Well, I had a trailer. And then I had to wait around so I had to watch a couple movies. And then they brought me dinner.' There's nothing you can f***ing do. What it did do, I think, was have a real big effect on my performance as a comic. I felt very comfortable on stage for quite a long time and I get more comfortable, but it shocked me, when I did the HBO special, how much more comfortable I felt. I got through the second night and I'd flown back from a movie set the night before; I'd been working 10 straight days. I thought, 'This is going to be f***ed.' I had gone up and done shows that night and I thought I'd drop dead. Then a third of the way through the second show I went, 'I feel way too comfortable,' and I think it had an effect on my comfort level. As much as it's taking time to do this, kind of undermines writing time, it allows me to feel free to write on stage, which is the way I work anyway.”

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