Comedian Lewis Black has fashioned a lengthy and accomplished career out of anger and outrage. The veteran humorist is famous for his oftentimes exasperated and usually hilarious rants that dismantle perplexing human behaviors, ineffective elected officials, and everything in between. Black has managed to direct his ire at countless people, places, and things over the course of his nearly 40-year comedic career with a level of mastery that many have tried to replicate, but few (if any) can match.
As skilled as the comedian, actor, author, playwright, and unofficial ombudsman of American society is at his craft, he occasionally misses the mark. To be clear, he’s great at what he does, but with more than 10 albums and days upon days worth of stage time to his credit, it’s only natural that some of Black’s material doesn’t connect. And every now and then, portions of his material could even be deemed inaccurate. Sure, portions could be chalked up as exaggeration for the sake of comedy, or you could categorize some of Black’s claims as personal opinions. Still, we here at Milwaukee Record are prone to fact-checking the beloved comic’s material before some of his fairly frequent performances in our fair city.
In 2016, we checked the veracity of Black’s famed “Drinking in Wisconsin” rant. Now, with Halloween just around the corner and Black coming to perform at Pabst Theater November 8 and November 9, we figured there was no better time to revisit another one of the comedian’s most renowned bits. Of course, we’re referring to “Candy Corn” from Black’s 2006 album, The Carnegie Hall Performance. The roughly five-minute portion of the altogether memorable set is incredibly funny…but is it accurate? We—unabashed fans of the polarizing seasonal candy—decided to take a closer look at Lewis Black’s “Candy Corn” to find out if it was factually accurate.
“Nothing proves just how dumb we are collectively as a people—nothing proves it more—than candy corn.”
False. Though this opinion is difficult to both verify or refute, we can think of a bunch of things that prove rampant societal stupidity more than candy corn does. Just off the top of our heads: The Snuggie. Truck nuts. The vast majority of our elected officials, regardless of party affiliation. Pizza Hut’s new Stuffed Cheez-It Pizza. The anti-vaccination movement. The list goes on.
“Them using the word ‘candy’ to describe it is wrong. Using the word ‘corn’ is wrong. It does not taste like candy nor corn. It tastes like something that was made out of oil.”
Mostly false. We do agree that “corn” is the wrong classification, just as other candies like Boston Baked Beans don’t contain beans and Circus Peanuts are not made from peanuts. It’s meant to resemble corn kernels, not taste like corn. Beyond that portion though, this is just plain wrong…except possibly Black’s claim that it tastes like oil, as sesame oil is one of the ingredients. However, candy corn contains a lot of sugar and, even if you don’t like it, it’s tough to dispute that it still tastes more like candy than anything else.
According to a 2017 report by Business Insider, “Candy corn isn’t just sugar. It’s actually made up of several ingredients, including sugar, corn syrup, confectioner’s glaze, salt, dextrose, gelatin, sesame oil, artificial flavor, honey, yellow 6, yellow 5, and red 3.” Each of those ingredients are also present in the Brach’s candy corn recipe, which is the best-selling candy corn brand.
“If you take all the bags of candy corn and you melt them down, you could run a car.”
False. We’re not claiming to be automotive experts of anything, but knowing candy corn is jam-packed with sugar (as much as 32 grams in a 19-piece serving size in some cases), we’re fairly certain that putting that much sugar into a car’s gas tank would not make it run. In fact, it would destroy its engine.
“It is one of the shittiest tastes I have ever had in my mouth.”
Undetermined. Only Black can know 1.) What he’s had in his mouth over the course of his 71-plus years on the planet, and 2.) What tastes he considers to be the “shittiest,” but we have to imagine there are countless things out there that he’s hated eating more than a type of candy he doesn’t particularly like. After all, he was raised in the 1950s, which is regarded as one of the worst culinary periods in American history.
“All the candy corn that was ever made was made in 1914. They never had to make it again. We never eat enough of it. We only eat two or three or four pieces apiece.”
False. Yes, we know he’s only saying this to be funny, but this claim isn’t even close to being correct. More than 35 million pounds of candy corn (or approximately 9 billion individual pieces) are produced each year. We can’t claim to know how much of it is actually eaten, but we know we’re definitely disproving Black’s “two or three of four pieces” estimate with how much we eat every fall.
Actually, if you took the number of candy corn pieces made annually and divided it by the world’s population, Black’s piece-per-person figure would be close to accurate (if not a bit high, actually), but it’s our understanding that this rant is directed at American consumers. When dividing that 9 billion kernel yield by the population of the U.S. (372.2 million in 2018), the average annual candy corn consumption for Americans is about 24.18 pieces. In 2006 (the year the album with Black’s “candy corn” joke came out), the country’s population was 298.4 million, meaning the average annual candy corn consumption for Americans was 30.16 pieces per person.
“And so, literally, after Halloween, the candy corn companies send out their minions. And they go from garbage can to garbage can, and they collect them and throw it in the bags, and it appears next year.”
False. Again, this is a funny claim to imagine, but it’s wrong. Such a practice would be unsanitary and would certainly result in lawsuits against companies who resold contaminated products.
“And then I grab another and eat just the yellow, believing that’s just the corn part.”
False. As shown in the above video, food dye is the reason for candy corn’s trinity of different colors. Each dye is flavorless, so all three segments taste identical.
“When this Halloween will come, those of you who are parents that know—absolutely know— that this candy tastes like shit will give it to your children. And so it goes from generation to generation to generation. We the people pass on a legacy of shit.”
Undetermined. There’s no singular motivation for parents to feed candy corn to their children. It’s possible that, as Black suggests, some moms or dads give their kids candy corn because they believe it to be bad and want to trick their child into trying it. However, it’s safer to assume the vast majority of these parents happen to enjoy candy corn and think their offspring might enjoy it, too.
Despite all the negative attention candy corn receives each and every autumn, it’s actually a fairly even split between those who like candy corn and those who despise it. According to Shaun Gallagher’s book, Correlated, 52 percent of people like candy corn. A 2017 survey administered by Statista revealed that 49 percent of respondents considered candy corn to be “tasty,” with only 23 percent deeming it “gross” and 21 percent claiming they don’t like it but admitting “it’s an important part of Halloween.” Another outlet indicates candy corn is the most popular Halloween candy in seven U.S. states and that it was the sixth best-selling candy in the country between 2007 and 2017.
Hate it if you must, but candy corn has been thriving since the 1880s. Either parents have kept this well-orchestrated joke on their kids going for close to 140 years or, more likely, a silent majority of people actually love candy corn because it’s legitimately good.
“And then you wonder why we can’t elect a good leader.”
And at least we can all agree on Black’s sports takes.