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Excerpt: 'I'm Dreaming Of A Black Christmas'

Cover of 'I'm Dreaming Of A Black Christmas'
Note: There is language in this excerpt that some readers may find offensive.

My career, Dear Reader, has been a strange one, with twists and turns as weird as anything cooked up by Stephen King or the writers of The Hills. But playing Scrooge, that was truly an odd one. As far as I know, no one I have known in my forty years in the professional theater ever even considered the possibility of my playing Dickens's most famous Christmas-hater. (Or if somebody had thought of the idea, he’d mentioned it to someone else and the other person had died laughing.)

If the casting wasn’t strange enough, the play's producers were offering me a small fortune to play the role, in huge theaters around the country. (The reason I mention that they were willing to pay me a bunch of money that felt to me like the kind of money you get in pro sports is that at the time the economy was tanking -- badly. A Christmas Carol starring Lewis Black as Scrooge -- it sounds like the producers were Bialystock and Bloom from The Producers. Theoretically it makes a bit of sense. I mean, who better to play Scrooge than a bitter, angry Jew?)

As ludicrous as the whole idea was, it didn’t stop me from picking up the script and looking at it. (And who knew what might follow if it worked? Lewis Black as King Lear? Lewis Black as Macbeth? Lewis Black as Mama Rose in Gypsy?) As I read, I was shocked to find out how big Scrooge's part is. Somehow I remembered it as just a bunch of "Humbugs" with an occasional "Bah" thrown in to spice things up. Nope, Ebenezer yacks a lot. More than is really necessary, to be honest. He goes on and on and on and ON, in order to show everybody what a prick he is. I might have had a stroke memorizing all that shit.

Fortunately for my few remaining brain cells, the show never happened. The producers couldn’t find a cast that could help me sell enough tickets for the thing to make financial sense.

Which is why I’m sitting at lunch yelling at my editor about Glenn Beck. "You know, I didn’t end up playing Scrooge."

"And that’s my fault? Come on, Lewis. This is better than being Scrooge. You can write about him. You can talk about how you would have been the definitive Scrooge. How you would have been remembered for your work, like that actor Booth was."

"Because he killed Lincoln."

"No, the other one. Shirley, I think her name was."

"I wouldn't have been the definitive Scrooge."

"Then tell them why you would have been a lousy Scrooge. Tell them whatever you want. It's your book."

"I don't want to write another book. I don't have to write another book. Writing is hell. It's brutal. It's hours of sitting by myself in front of a piece-of-shit computer, spewing out my guts  and then dealing with you and your whiny notes.  'You need a better joke here. I don't understand this paragraph. This doesn’t make sense.'" "I don’t give whiny notes."

"All notes are whiny."

"Lewis. Listen to me. If you write another book, the public might begin to believe you are a writer."

Son of a bitch! Now he got me. I've always wanted to be known as a writer. It's why I went to graduate school, for crying out loud.

And then I realized: This guy's not my editor. He's a crack dealer for my self-esteem.

"I don't know if I can do it."

"Of course you can. You're a writer."

"Stop it. It’s like you're rubbing the inner thigh of my brain."

"Think about it. Take long walks. Let your mind run free. We'll have another lunch soon to talk about it some more."

Another free lunch. God, I love free lunches. "Okay."

So now he's hooked me. How does he know I'll write a good book about the holidays when I didn't even think I could write another book? And why would I want to go through the tortures of the damned to finish it?

I didn't take long walks, but I thought about it. And after a while I told him that I couldn't write the kind of Christmas book that everyone else writes, and that even if I could, I wouldn't want to. Then I told him what I thought I might be able to write about.

And you know what that idiot said? He said it's a book.

I hope he's right, because here it is.

Reprinted from I'm Dreaming Of A Black Christmas by Lewis Black by arrangement with Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. Copyright 2010 by Lewis Black.

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