If you ever wondered what the second half hour of Law & Order would be like if the lawyers were comedians and the defendants were societal icons, then Comedy Central is about to introduce your dream show: Lewis Black’s Root of All Evil.
But really, what kind of lunatic would you have to be to wonder that? You’d have to be the kind of lunatic who’d want to see the hit-or-miss insults of the average celebrity roast combined with the intermittent humor of a typical standup comedy special all placed inside a courtroom-style setting.
Each episode pits two nouns against each other — Oprah v. the Catholic Church; Donald Trump v. Viagra; Paris Hilton v. Dick Cheney. A revolving cast of comics serves as prosecutors attempting to prove which person, place or thing is more evil. Black’s role is to be the judge. “Judge Jew-y,” comic Greg Giraldo calls him.
The premise of the show is novel; the first two episodes mildly amusing. Oprah against the Catholic Church offers the better laughs, mostly when comedian Paul F. Tompkins goes to an inner-city school to debunk Oprah’s statement that American students would rather have iPods and sneakers than good schools.
His counterpart, Giraldo, makes a number of jokes about priest sex scandals and describes Catholicism as “a whole religion based on one woman [the Virgin Mary] who really stuck to her story.” That ought to be good for a few letters to Comedy Central, eh? (“You wouldn’t say that about the Muslims, would you!?”)
But the problem with Root of All Evil is that there isn’t enough Lewis Black, who can rant with the best of them. The “lawyers” try to be like him, but they can’t muster the requisite volume or the necessary frustrated outrage. Want proof? The best line of the first two episodes comes when Black compares Trump and Viagra: “A relentless dick,” he says, “or the same thing.”