Bombarded by constant news reports filled with violence, crime, political scandal and economic woe, how is a person supposed to find something to laugh about?

Actually, it's as simple as black and white. Lewis Black and Ron White.

The two comics are the biggest names in the fall comedy lineup at Santa Rosa's Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, which also includes Ryan Stiles, Greg Proops and others from the fondly remembered TV series, "Whose Line Is It Anyway?"

And comedy is cropping up on the calendar at other venues at clubs and theaters around the North Bay, with local, regional and some national performers.

Blue Collar Comedy Tour veteran Ron White, armed with a drink in one hand and a smoke in the other, kicks off the local comedy season with a sold-out show Saturday, Aug. 24 (event has now passed) at the Wells Fargo Center.

<b>Won't cross paths</b>

Lewis Black, "Daily Show" favorite and master of the satirical rant, plays the center next month, and he's sorry he won't cross paths with White in Santa Rosa when he performs at the same venue on Friday, Sept. 13.

"I like Ron," Black said in a recent phone interview. "He's funny. He's so crazy, he makes me look sane."

Black's comedy style is usually characterized as falling somewhere between anarchy and apoplexy, but he contends he's just trying to "make sense of the idiocy in the air."

Talking on his cellphone while being chauffeured between engagements, Black apologized when his phone kept cutting out.

"We're in the part of New York where they say, 'Why would you need cellphone service here?' " Black said. "It's isolated and lonely at night, and if your car dies and a guy comes up to your window with a pickax, you're dead anyway."

No subject is off-limits for Black. Here are just a few samples:

President Obama -- "He's wandering around for the 500th time trying to sell the idea that we should do certain things you'd think we'd be doing anyway."

The economy -- "Both political parties are so entrenched in their own nonsense that we don't move forward. They say, 'Maybe we should raise the minimum wage to $10.' Maybe? MAYBE? Then someone says the entire underpinnings of society will crumble if somebody else is allowed to earn barely enough to eat."

Government surveillance -- "You have a warehouse full of people who are doing nothing but checking phone calls all day. You're spending a gazillion dollars there, but there's no way we're spending an extra eight cents for a school lunch."

Gun control -- "It's not a political issue. It's about how many weapons people can have in their house until they feel comfortable. Nobody's coming to get your gun. You bought the gun. You already got the gun. You get to keep the gun. OK? That's all they care about. Is a government they see as completely incompetent all of the sudden gonna be competent enough to find them?"

Gay marriage -- "It's finally getting more acceptance, because the old white guys finally realized they won't be around, and they won't be able to stop it."

<b>More irritating</b>

One wonders if, at age 64, Black is beginning to soften a little.

"With the passage of time, am I mellowing? No, no. Because with the passage of time, these are the same things that have been argued about for my entire life, so it actually becomes more irritating that we're going through it again," he said. "No, I'm a little bitter today.

"The only hope I really have is that I see the constant debates as the death throes of dinosaurs," Black added.

"How were Dick Cheney and I born on the same planet at the same time? How is that a possible?"

Black makes no apologies for coming at every issue from his own not-even-close-to-moderate point of view. Wait until you go to one of his shows, he taunts, and then you'll find out what he really thinks.

"I'm even worse than you think I am," he declared.

<i>You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com. See his ARTS blog at http://arts.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.</i>