Richard Lewis called at 8 a.m. sharp — amazingly early for a celebrity — fired up and refreshed.
His wife was out of town and he was deep into Keith Richards' autobiography, Life. Reading about someone with a wilder past made him feel "like the best cadet at West Point.''
"I thought I had some debauchery going on,'' he said. "It's unbelievable. I'm going to email him when I finish and let him know that I feel like I just graduated at the top of my class. My boots are shined and I'm ready to go.''
It was typical Lewis, one of Comedy Central's 100 greatest stand-ups, who hasn't had a break in almost 38 years, except for the time he had to run to the john, he said.
Comedy's "Man in Black" starred as Marty Gold in TV's Anything But Love and plays himself in HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm. At 64, he's not even close to retiring.
Lewis performs Friday at the Club at Treasure Island, the latest in a series of national stand-ups to come to the Gotham comedy stage. He doesn't have a specific act or set list, just a stream of consciousness and tangents.
Kind of like in real life. During a recent interview from his home in Los Angeles, he spoke for 35 minutes, barely taking a breath and offering to clarify or elaborate via email.
"I'm sorry, I do ramble,'' he said. "That's why my wife probably took a few days off.''
Here are the highlights, condensed into subjects. Because, after nearly four decades in show business, Lewis likes to do things his own way.
On his 17 years of sobriety: “I feel like I'm a 17-year-old kid in high school. You bottle up so many lies and distortions about yourself that it really takes a lifetime to figure out who you really are. If my sober person catches up to who I really am now, agewise, that might be the time when I call it a day."
On his use of the F-word: “On stage I am what I am. I'm a street guy. If I throw out an expletive, it's not for a laugh or a punch line. I tell comedians, you'd better have a funny notion and a premise and, hopefully a punch line, because just saying something stupid and cursing after it and expecting a laugh, that's pathetic. I don't throw around F-bombs needlessly. I try to keep them to a minimum because, quite frankly, that's not the joke."
On the future of Curb Your Enthusiasm: "I had a Curb Your Enthusiasm lunch a few weeks ago with Larry David. He just kept looking at his watch then said, 'I have to go,' and we had barely started to eat. I said, 'Where are you going?' and he said, 'I found a really good parking space and I don't want to get a ticket.' He left me there with the lunch and the check. So I'm sure I'll see that on an episode. I've never asked him for a decade now, 'Are you coming back?' I just don't know. Curb is a cult show and I love that. I never wanted to be loved by the masses because I figure what kind of comic would I be? I'd be so watered down."
On his mane of hair: "My wife says I look so much better when it's shorter and I say, 'No man, I've got to flaunt while I've got it.' First I looked like I was a roadie for Foreigner, then I looked like the elephant man and then it looked like a big pumpernickel landed on my head from outer space. Once, I was stoned and fell asleep and a couple of bees were trying to make a nest in my head in the woods. It was bad. I see it now. No one told me."
On his black outfits: "I don't know why that happened. Listen, I didn't create it. There's a lot of people in the pop culture who did it. Let's just go with Johnny Cash and end it at that. I get a quiet chuckle when people would tease me about it and then I would watch them go on TV and they were wearing all black."
On wearing other colors: "If people ever see me in a white suit, I beg of them. It's a cry for help. Get me to a psych ward. That would be a total meltdown for me. I experimented once with a Hawaiian shirt and I got a rash. Like poison ivy."
On retiring: "I'll never retire. I'll always write and act occasionally, if they want me. To me, it would be a very grandiose statement, 'Well, goodbye. You'll never see me at a local stage again. I'm going to be writing plays and films.' Right now, I'm not anywhere close to thinking about that. But it won't be scary when I do because I actually feel that I've paid my dues and then some."