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Lewis Black on working with Pixar: 'They understand how creativity works'

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Getty Images, Courtesy Everett Collection

Longtime standup comic Lewis Black, who recently personified the emotion of Anger for Pixar’s critically-acclaimed Inside Out, says that working on the Pixar gem was an illuminating experience.

“I just haven’t been in an environment that really understood how creativity works,” says Lewis, who chatted with EW during the New York Comedy Festival. “They know how to treat creative people. It’s like an army of creative people they have there. They’re telling the story to tell the story, without worrying about the focus group. I mean with ours, they were going down a blind alley at one point, and Peter [Docter] had to just go, ‘This isn’t right, I’m gonna have to backtrack here.’ It was pretty extraordinary. They’re just a nice group of people, which in this business is just, whoa. I’ll tell you this, they’re not in Hollywood, they’re not in New York. They’re an island unto themselves. That really helps.”

As with Patton Oswalt’s Remy (Ratatouille) or John Goodman’s Sully (Monsters, Inc.; Monsters University), Black’s Anger manages not just to sound like the voice actor, but also to mimic his physicality and personality. This is not accidental.

“They came out and watched my standup,” Black says. “They watched a set and then showed me drawings they were doing while I was on stage. In the end, people say that character looks somewhat like me. It’s really a little scary. I think that they caught the mannerism of me.”

Inside Out, which earned more than $851 million at the worldwide box office, addresses complex emotions and the pain of growing up with humor and without talking down to its young audience. Black says that in his experience, not condescending is always the key to making a kid laugh.

“Talk to them like they’re on the same level that you are,” Black says. “I never talk to kids like they’re kids. They don’t talk that way. I don’t think I did, when I was a kid. Everybody else is always trying to talk down to you.”