The very idea of ultra-aggressive comic (and Silver Spring, Md. favorite son) Lewis Black taking on the subject of a smell-the-roses movie like "East Pray Love" was funny enough to satisfy the live "Daily Show" audience last night. But watching Black's perplexing, off-kilter rant at home you might have wondered whether the crowd was responding to "Applause" and "Laugh" cards. I've happily followed Black's combination of outrage and acute dyspepsia for the last decade, relishing his attacks on every form of hypocrisy and stupidity. But he failed to summon the parodic chops to level a pretentious Julia Roberts travelogue.

He started out posing as an admirer of Elizabeth Gilbert's book; the idea that Black could be one was the extent of the gag. Then he detoured into a silly gripe about casting Javier Bardem as the heroine's true love because most filmgoers still think of him as the villain from "No Country for Old Men." When that didn't work (by now, women especially think of Bardem as the art stud from "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"), he made an abrupt segue into an attack on "Eat Pray Love" marketing. (Clearly the staff thought that bit killed. On the website they highlight Black's line that the Home Shopping Network turned a woman's quest into "a gay Skymall catalogue.")

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Winding down, he fell back on the tired point that Gilbert got her publisher to fund her search for fulfillment and enlightenment, or, as he put it, a "tropical vacation." Then he ended on another bad Bardem joke. He had started the whole routine riffing on the notion that high anticipation leads to disillusionment. Indeed.

What do you think of this episode of "Back in Black?" He doesn't appear that often on "The Daily Show" any more. Could he just be getting rusty? Or is this simply a case of an irrepressible satiric force like Black shooting right through a porous cultural object like "Eat Pray Love" without gaining any traction on it?

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