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  #1  
Old 02-16-2004, 04:33 PM
RevCo RevCo is offline
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Was Lenny Bruce *actually* funny, or was he just offensive?

Was Lenny Bruce ever funny? I've heard him praised for his offensiveness and his battling the law and censors, but did he have any funny bits? Books I've perused on him are big on facts but short on anything particularly funny he said.

Was he just “that comedian that swears” or did he have a lot of good funny that was overshadowed by his “offensiveness.” I’m really interested to find out if he was really funny or just funny because everyone was stoned or on goofballs back then.

Those in the is-funny-because-he-was-just-funny camp: if you could provide web links or comments to review that would be a big plus
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  #2  
Old 02-16-2004, 05:01 PM
HeyHomie HeyHomie is offline
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FWIW, I heard about 45 seconds of one of his stand-up bits somewhere; I don't remember where. His bit went something like this:

"In the Village ya got yer dikes; in SoHo ya got yer queers; in Brooklyn ya got yer Jews; and in Harlem ya got yer niggers. All dem queers and all dem niggers fuckin' each other and the Jews not carin' so long as they had their WASP friends turning on the lights on Saturday night blah blah blah...."

The crowd was in hysterics.

I didn't get it.

Maybe in the 60's this was terribly funny; or maybe the crowd was laughing because they'd never heard anyone use those words on stage. I dunno.
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Old 02-16-2004, 05:10 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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First, I think this really belongs in Cafe Society, not GQ.

Second, although humor is highly subjective, I think that most folks would agree hat Leny Bruce was funny. I'm too young to hve heard him the first time around, but he apparently was a successful stand-up before he started getting outrageous in his act. They even built an animated cartoon around one of his routines. But you can hear for yourself -- his stuff was recorded, after all, and you ought to be able to either get an old copy or a new re-issue.

Or you can experience his routines second-hand. Watch or read the p;lay Lenny, or rent the Duston Hoffman movie of the same name. (As with Amadeus, the play and the movie are completely different animals). A lot of the stuff, in the play at least, isn't composed of offensive stuff.
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Old 02-16-2004, 05:12 PM
quiltguy154 quiltguy154 is offline
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If you've never seen the animated short film parodying the Lone Ranger, that incorporates Bruce's stand-up routine, you've missed one of the funniest moments in American comedy.
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Old 02-16-2004, 05:23 PM
Sofa King Sofa King is offline
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Lenny Bruce was recorded and filmed. Since this is a subjective question, I recommend you go take a look at those fine works instead of asking us.

But since you are asking, I would submit that there is one scion of Lenny Bruce who has far surpassed Bruce's own notoriety and success. If you listen to both, I think you will agree that Howard Stern has adopted much of Bruce's timing, pacing, and subject matter.

Stern is widely regarded to be funny. But not by everyone, particularly in the past few years when the schtick has begun to wear thin.
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Old 02-16-2004, 06:08 PM
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I would conjecture that comedy very rarely ages well. It's too oriented towards "the moment" in time, that audiences years later are rarely connected to the subject well enough to "get it" in the same way that contemporary audiences (of the time) would have. Lenny Bruce seems to fit this bill very well, and I can name tons of others who were once considered comedic geniuses, but now the bits they are famous for don't sound particularly hilarious. Look at early TV comedy (the "variety show" type rather than sitcoms, which tend to be more universal), and see how poorly it aged. Other than universal humor (slapstick, say, of the Three Stooges variety), not much stays current, and hence, funny.
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Old 02-16-2004, 06:14 PM
cornflakes cornflakes is offline
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Lenny Bruce was funny to me when I first heard a record in 1982. He had good timing, and his satire of how uptight everyone was in the early 1960s was still spot on in the Moral Majority era.

Like Sofa King said, he was copied; I'd say that he started the whole social satire genre. Besides Howard Stern, George Carlin, John Hicks, Bill Maher, and all the comedians of that sort would be out of jobs if it weren't for Lenny Bruce.
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Old 02-16-2004, 06:15 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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I'm not a true expert on Bruce, but I believe that virtually all of the recorded material from him is from the last few years of his career (and life). By that time he was having huge problems even finding venues willing to book him, and most of his appearances were staged with policemen in the wings waiting to arrest him if he said anything out of line.

It's certainly true that by the end his act had degenerated into a literal reading of transcripts from his court cases, but that has little or nothing to do with the Lenny Bruce of the 1950s. As a comic, he stayed away from the one-liners typical of comics of the era, and many of his routines are long stories that depend on voices and sounds for their effect. That makes him very hard to quote, although some of the routines preserved are fine indeed. But that Lenny is almost entirely lost, and all we have are memories to go on.

Well, almost. A long out-of-print book, The Essential Lenny Bruce, ed. by John Cohen transcribes hundreds of pages of his routines. It's been 30 years since I read it, so I'm not going to make any claims about the humor, though.
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Old 02-16-2004, 06:23 PM
cornflakes cornflakes is offline
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He was comtemporaries with Alan Sherman and Buddy Hackett. Compared to them today, he's a riot.
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Old 02-16-2004, 09:18 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase
Well, almost. A long out-of-print book, The Essential Lenny Bruce, ed. by John Cohen transcribes hundreds of pages of his routines. It's been 30 years since I read it, so I'm not going to make any claims about the humor, though.
I had a copy of this book, but I gave it away to a friend when I moved. I've never actually seen any of his comedy performances and have only heard a couple bits, but I found the transcripts of his work highly intelligent, entertaining, and just plain funny. I'd love to see him during his heyday.

I don't for a moment think his comedy was based completely on shock value. There is poignant social commentary underlying most of his routines.
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  #11  
Old 02-16-2004, 10:42 PM
RevCo RevCo is offline
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Originally Posted by CalMeacham
First, I think this really belongs in Cafe Society, not GQ.

Second, although humor is highly subjective, I think that most folks would agree hat Leny Bruce was funny. I'm too young to hve heard him the first time around, but he apparently was a successful stand-up before he started getting outrageous in his act. They even built an animated cartoon around one of his routines. But you can hear for yourself -- his stuff was recorded, after all, and you ought to be able to either get an old copy or a new re-issue.

Or you can experience his routines second-hand. Watch or read the p;lay Lenny, or rent the Duston Hoffman movie of the same name. (As with Amadeus, the play and the movie are completely different animals). A lot of the stuff, in the play at least, isn't composed of offensive stuff.
I understand that comedy is subjective that's why I didn't mention that I've actually heard him from MP3 and was pained by it - too "stream of conscious" for me. I didn't want to come across as bashing him, however - a few MP3's do not a career make. He may have been funny, but I can't find any evidence otherwise - and he seems to be ONE part of the 60's that hasn't been beaten into the ground yet (well, metaphorically
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Old 02-16-2004, 11:22 PM
Ravenman Ravenman is offline
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I believe some recordings of his were recently reissued on CD.

I recall listening to some bits of his on Las Vegas. They were indeed quite funny, but also very thoughtful -- which I think puts him in a rather distinguished class of comic.
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Old 02-17-2004, 06:11 AM
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Well, to start with, I object to the title of this thread. To just let it go would be to agree that he was, in fact, offensive. I never once found myself offended by his work. I was, and to some extent remain, offended by the hypocricy and vehemence of the people that went after him in the courts. When a child can see people actually die on T.V., like on the news reports on the war or the shooting of Oswald, how are their delicate sensibilities being protected by persecut... I mean prosecuting a nightclub comic that said "shit"?

And to whether or not he was funny, the answer is yes. For examples, please read his autobiography "How to Talk Dirty and Influence People", and listen to his concert albums. I specify his concert work, like the Berkeley Concert and the Concert at Carnegie Hall, because the stuff on his other albums are the result of what the record company was willing to release. Not a true representation of his art.
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Old 02-17-2004, 03:49 PM
Spectre of Pithecanthropus Spectre of Pithecanthropus is offline
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Originally Posted by occ
I would conjecture that comedy very rarely ages well. It's too oriented towards "the moment" in time, that audiences years later are rarely connected to the subject well enough to "get it" in the same way that contemporary audiences (of the time) would have.
I don't think that's necessarily true. I think George Carlin's bits from the 70's are still funny today, allowing for the fact that we've all heard some of them a million times by now.
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  #15  
Old 11-21-2011, 09:32 AM
docweasel docweasel is offline
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Originally Posted by cornflakes View Post
Lenny Bruce was funny to me when I first heard a record in 1982. He had good timing, and his satire of how uptight everyone was in the early 1960s was still spot on in the Moral Majority era.

Like Sofa King said, he was copied; I'd say that he started the whole social satire genre. Besides Howard Stern, George Carlin, John Hicks, Bill Maher, and all the comedians of that sort would be out of jobs if it weren't for Lenny Bruce.
I think you mean "Bill" Hicks, not John.

Lenny Bruce is considered a hero and a great comedian because he was a leftist, and since the left controls Hollywood and most media, they glorify their heroes and hype up their legend. That's why JFK, a failure in almost every respect whose ineptitude nearly started nuclear war and whose weakness allowed the Berlin Wall and communist excursions the world over while he consorted with mobsters' molls, constantly comes up on presidential ratings polls in the top 10. That's why Hillary Clinton, who would have accomplished nothing without her husband's coattails is the most admired politician in America and Sarah Palin, who persevered on her own without personal wealth or shady real estate deals, is vilified.

In America today everything is polarized, from Tom Tebow to Avatar and everything else in pop-culture, claimed by and promoted by or vilified by either the left or the right and claimed by one side or the other. Bruce comes down on the left, so be benefits from their control of his story. Lady Thatcher was conservative, so lefties, who control the hollywood "truth" about people are free to demonize and slander her, as they did Reagan.

But don't try to produce a Kennedy movie without permission of the leftist gate-keepers.

Another good example is the leftist portrayal of the Tea Party vs. OWS. Luckily, the leftist pop culture machine has pushed this crap for so long, most Americans have learned to filter it out. The problem is, sometimes it takes a while for the lies and hype to crumble, and in that interim disasters like Captain Wonderful's election to the presidency can occur.

You can be sure Hollywood will airbrush his deficiencies when it's time to for his hagiographic retrospectives (as they attempt to do now, as the left-wing media writes the "first draft of history").

It is encouraging that the truth about Princess Precious is coming out slowly, despite their obfuscations these past 4 years since he came to prominence, even lefties like Chris Matthews cannot deny the truth.
http://youtu.be/pB4b11_LREA

Last edited by docweasel; 11-21-2011 at 09:36 AM..
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  #16  
Old 11-21-2011, 10:12 AM
fumster fumster is offline
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I
Lenny Bruce is considered a hero and a great comedian because he was a leftist, and since the left controls Hollywood and most media, they glorify their heroes and hype up their legend. That's why Hillary Clinton, who would have accomplished nothing without her husband's coattails is the most admired politician in America and Sarah Palin, who persevered on her own without personal wealth or shady real estate deals, is vilified.
Now that's funny.
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Old 11-21-2011, 10:23 AM
yanceylebeef yanceylebeef is offline
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While Bruce was indeed funny, his main influence was the style and presentation of his comedy. It was a huge break from the Henny Youngmans, Jackie Masons, and Milton Berle's out there, and showed that stand up comedy to actually be, to borrow a phrase from Mel Brooks, Stand up Philosophy.
He changed the way comedy could be delivered, and paved the way for Pryor and Carlin, just to name a couple.
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Old 11-21-2011, 10:29 AM
Marley23 Marley23 is offline
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Moving this zombie thread to Cafe Society from General Questions.
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  #19  
Old 11-21-2011, 10:43 AM
Fubaya Fubaya is offline
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I like his quotes and think he was probably generally funny, but I've heard his 1961 Carnegie Hall show that was said to be the best of his life and didn't so much as chuckle. But then again, have you heard the other comedians of that age? I've grown up listening to great comedy but if I lived in '61 and had only heard "Take my wife, please! [rimshot]" Bruce would have probably knocked me out of my seat.

Quote:
Originally Posted by docweasel View Post
I think you mean "Bill" Hicks, not John.

Lenny Bruce is considered a hero and a great comedian because he was a leftist, and since the left controls Hollywood and most media, they glorify their heroes and hype up their legend. That's why JFK, a failure in almost every respect whose ineptitude nearly started nuclear war and whose weakness allowed the Berlin Wall and communist excursions the world over while he consorted with mobsters' molls, constantly comes up on presidential ratings polls in the top 10. That's why Hillary Clinton, who would have accomplished nothing without her husband's coattails is the most admired politician in America and Sarah Palin, who persevered on her own without personal wealth or shady real estate deals, is vilified.

In America today everything is polarized, from Tom Tebow to Avatar and everything else in pop-culture, claimed by and promoted by or vilified by either the left or the right and claimed by one side or the other. Bruce comes down on the left, so be benefits from their control of his story. Lady Thatcher was conservative, so lefties, who control the hollywood "truth" about people are free to demonize and slander her, as they did Reagan.

But don't try to produce a Kennedy movie without permission of the leftist gate-keepers.

Another good example is the leftist portrayal of the Tea Party vs. OWS. Luckily, the leftist pop culture machine has pushed this crap for so long, most Americans have learned to filter it out. The problem is, sometimes it takes a while for the lies and hype to crumble, and in that interim disasters like Captain Wonderful's election to the presidency can occur.

You can be sure Hollywood will airbrush his deficiencies when it's time to for his hagiographic retrospectives (as they attempt to do now, as the left-wing media writes the "first draft of history").

It is encouraging that the truth about Princess Precious is coming out slowly, despite their obfuscations these past 4 years since he came to prominence, even lefties like Chris Matthews cannot deny the truth.
http://youtu.be/pB4b11_LREA
What the...?

Oh, just realized this thread was 7 years old, resurrected for that political gibberish above.

Last edited by Fubaya; 11-21-2011 at 10:44 AM..
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Old 11-21-2011, 10:56 AM
Odesio Odesio is offline
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Was Lenny Bruce ever funny? I've heard him praised for his offensiveness and his battling the law and censors, but did he have any funny bits? Books I've perused on him are big on facts but short on anything particularly funny he said.
I've seen some of his routine (on television I'm not old enough to have seen him live), and while some of it is certainly dated I'd say he could be pretty funny. Here's part of his routine I thought was pretty funny but I'm paraphrasing heavily and changing the names because it's been a while since I've seen it.

"Let's say you take the most racist klansman in the world and give him a choice. He's going to be stuck on an island for five years and gets to bring along one woman. His choice is between bringing Halle Barry and Janet Reno along as the only woman he'll be seeing for the next five years. Suddenly race doesn't seem to be such an important issue."

Anyway, I thought it as funny.
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Old 11-21-2011, 11:06 AM
yanceylebeef yanceylebeef is offline
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I like his quotes and think he was probably generally funny, but I've heard his 1961 Carnegie Hall show that was said to be the best of his life and didn't so much as chuckle. But then again, have you heard the other comedians of that age? I've grown up listening to great comedy but if I lived in '61 and had only heard "Take my wife, please! [rimshot]" Bruce would have probably knocked me out of my seat.



What the...?

Oh, just realized this thread was 7 years old, resurrected for that political gibberish above.
Yeah, I missed that too, and now I feel bad for helping to bump this zombie. I gotta pay more attention to the posting dates.
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  #22  
Old 11-21-2011, 11:09 AM
norvalnormal norvalnormal is offline
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Dunno why Bruce's original names that Odesio has intentionally made more contemporary would offend anyone here. Bruce asked his pre-1965 audience, What if you had to make love to a white woman or a Negro? ... Okay, well, what if the black woman was Lena Horne ... and the white one Kate Smith?

(Still) pretty funny as well as being potent satire, ya ask me!
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Old 11-21-2011, 11:13 AM
silenus silenus is offline
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docweasel is a retired minor functionary who is pissed that FDR got elected. He wouldn't know funny if it bit him on the ass, which it apparently did, cuz that last post of his was gold!
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Old 11-21-2011, 11:14 AM
gonzomax gonzomax is offline
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Lenny was very funny for a long time. He was topical when other comedians weren't. He pushed boundries, which I always approve.
But when the cops started busting him, he just preached about his problems instead of being funny.
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Old 11-21-2011, 11:35 AM
kaylasdad99 kaylasdad99 is online now
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Originally Posted by docweasel View Post
I think you mean "Bill" Hicks, not John.

Lenny Bruce is considered a hero and a great comedian because he was a leftist, and since the left controls Hollywood and most media, they glorify their heroes and hype up their legend. That's why JFK, a failure in almost every respect whose ineptitude nearly started nuclear war and whose weakness allowed the Berlin Wall and communist excursions the world over while he consorted with mobsters' molls, constantly comes up on presidential ratings polls in the top 10. That's why Hillary Clinton, who would have accomplished nothing without her husband's coattails is the most admired politician in America and Sarah Palin, who persevered on her own without personal wealth or shady real estate deals, is vilified.

In America today everything is polarized, from Tom Tebow to Avatar and everything else in pop-culture, claimed by and promoted by or vilified by either the left or the right and claimed by one side or the other. Bruce comes down on the left, so be benefits from their control of his story. Lady Thatcher was conservative, so lefties, who control the hollywood "truth" about people are free to demonize and slander her, as they did Reagan.

But don't try to produce a Kennedy movie without permission of the leftist gate-keepers.

Another good example is the leftist portrayal of the Tea Party vs. OWS. Luckily, the leftist pop culture machine has pushed this crap for so long, most Americans have learned to filter it out. The problem is, sometimes it takes a while for the lies and hype to crumble, and in that interim disasters like Captain Wonderful's election to the presidency can occur.

You can be sure Hollywood will airbrush his deficiencies when it's time to for his hagiographic retrospectives (as they attempt to do now, as the left-wing media writes the "first draft of history").

It is encouraging that the truth about Princess Precious is coming out slowly, despite their obfuscations these past 4 years since he came to prominence, even lefties like Chris Matthews cannot deny the truth.
http://youtu.be/pB4b11_LREA

Last edited by docweasel; Today at 07:36 AM.
That was edited?

Last edited by kaylasdad99; 11-21-2011 at 11:36 AM..
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  #26  
Old 11-21-2011, 12:06 PM
Marley23 Marley23 is offline
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A few points here:

1. The posts in this thread that come before docweasel's are from early 2002, so if you want to respond to those posters, please be aware they may not see it.
2. Lenny Bruce was a very political comedian, so any discussion of his work is going to include some talk about politics. But most of what you said isn't relevant to this thread, docweasel, and it doesn't really belong in Cafe Society in the first place.
3. So if anyone wants a discussion of leftism and Hollywood in general, please start a new thread.
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Old 11-21-2011, 12:06 PM
Derleth Derleth is offline
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Dunno why Bruce's original names that Odesio has intentionally made more contemporary would offend anyone here. Bruce asked his pre-1965 audience, What if you had to make love to a white woman or a Negro? ... Okay, well, what if the black woman was Lena Horne ... and the white one Kate Smith?

(Still) pretty funny as well as being potent satire, ya ask me!
It isn't about offense, it's about getting the joke. You only understand the humor if you know what those women looked like. So here you go:
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Old 11-21-2011, 12:13 PM
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If you've never seen the animated short film parodying the Lone Ranger, that incorporates Bruce's stand-up routine, you've missed one of the funniest moments in American comedy.
Thanks to the miracle that is the future, this is on youtube now: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWGO3ePMcMg&ob=av3n (NWS)
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Old 11-21-2011, 12:15 PM
Erdosain Erdosain is offline
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That was edited?
I'm more impressed that he remembered his password after seven years. I'm guessing it's something like "COMMIESCUM."

Anyway, I heard some Lenny Bruce special on public radio one day and I honestly couldn't make heads or tails of it. Something about calling a woman a "fresser" (which I know from the deli is Yiddish for something like "over-stuffed") and the audience thought it was hilarious. I was looking for a Yiddish dictionary.
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Old 11-21-2011, 01:25 PM
The Hamster King The Hamster King is offline
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Originally Posted by docweasel View Post
That's why JFK, a failure in almost every respect whose ineptitude nearly started nuclear war and whose weakness allowed the Berlin Wall and communist excursions the world over while he consorted with mobsters' molls, constantly comes up on presidential ratings polls in the top 10.
I credit Vaughn Meader.
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Old 11-21-2011, 02:18 PM
Horatio Hellpop Horatio Hellpop is offline
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The most easy-to-find videos of Lenny Bruce performing were from the tail end of his career, when his act mostly consisted of sitting on a bar stool and reading the transcripts from his then-current trial. To the extent that he was ever brilliant, it wasn't for that.
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Old 11-21-2011, 02:52 PM
NDP NDP is offline
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I'm more impressed that he remembered his password after seven years. I'm guessing it's something like "COMMIESCUM."

Anyway, I heard some Lenny Bruce special on public radio one day and I honestly couldn't make heads or tails of it. Something about calling a woman a "fresser" (which I know from the deli is Yiddish for something like "over-stuffed") and the audience thought it was hilarious. I was looking for a Yiddish dictionary.
I understand your bewilderment. A lot of Bruce's routines have cultural references that seem so arcane and obscure to people in 2011 that you need footnotes. In fact, one could argue that some of his jokes contained references that were at least somewhat obscure even to his audiences during the 1950s and 60s. For example, like many comics of the period, Bruce used to do impersonations as part of his act. However, rather than doing familiar ones like Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Cagney, or John Wayne, Bruce did one of George Macready sniffing glue. Macready was a character actor who's now best known by film-buffs for his roles in Gilda and Paths of Glory (where he played the incompetent commander who forces his men to make a pointless and suicidal attack) but even back then I don't think too many other comedians were knocking themselves out trying to do the perfect George Macready. To somebody now, Bruce's choosing to do George Macready as the celebrity who's sniffing glue (as opposed to somebody like, say, Peter Lorre) would appear to be part of the joke. It would be an early example of stand-up comedy deconstruction (even though this was years before anybody used the term "deconstruction" in this way).
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  #33  
Old 11-21-2011, 03:16 PM
Quercus Quercus is offline
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Lenny Bruce is considered a hero and a great comedian because he was a leftist, and since the left controls Hollywood and most media, they glorify their heroes and hype up their legend. That's why JFK, a failure in almost every respect whose ineptitude nearly started nuclear war and whose weakness allowed the Berlin Wall and communist excursions the world over while he consorted with mobsters' molls, constantly comes up on presidential ratings polls in the top 10. That's why Hillary Clinton, who would have accomplished nothing without her husband's coattails is the most admired politician in America and Sarah Palin, who persevered on her own without personal wealth or shady real estate deals, is vilified.
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Originally Posted by sh1bu1 View Post
Now that's funny.
No, the real humor is the punch line:
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Originally Posted by docweasel View Post
In America today everything is polarized, from Tom Tebow to Avatar and everything else in pop-culture, claimed by and promoted by or vilified by either the left or the right and claimed by one side or the other.
Thank God we have him to stop the relentless political polarization!
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Old 11-21-2011, 03:25 PM
Jaledin Jaledin is offline
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Never can get enough of his Dracula impersonation. Just never gets old. But, seriously, props for him dragging that chestnut onto a Philly Joe Jones album sometime in the 1950s. Not that funny IMO, his whole shtik. A few gems, like the goyish/jewish bit, but not that many.
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  #35  
Old 11-21-2011, 03:45 PM
shantih shantih is offline
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Originally Posted by Marley23 View Post
Moving this zombie thread to Cafe Society from General Questions.
And about damn time, too!




Seriously -- what is it with all the zombie threads lately?
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  #36  
Old 11-21-2011, 05:30 PM
Horatio Hellpop Horatio Hellpop is offline
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Originally Posted by shantih View Post
Seriously -- what is it with all the zombie threads lately?
I know! What's really embarrassing is when I read through one of these and come upon something I wrote in it--five years ago!
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  #37  
Old 11-21-2011, 05:49 PM
Voyager Voyager is offline
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I don't know if Exapno Mapcase is going to revisit this thread, but I want to correct what he said. There is a lot of Bruce material from his prime. The Carnegie Hall Concert, from early 1962, is an excellent example, and was around when this thread began - I have it in LPs it is so old.

I've just listened to a 6 CD box set (which I got from the library) which includes a lot of rarities and things from his entire career, including his bit on the Arthur Godfrey talent show, very funny.
It's true that his very last bits aren't very funny, and are kind of like the last act of a tragedy, but plenty of really funny stuff is around - "Christ and Moses," "Father Flotsky," "Non-skeddo Airlines" and a lot more.
I think he is so revered today not only for being funny but for sacrificing himself for the freedom to say what he wanted to up on the stage. You can tell from some of the recordings (he started to record his last shows to protect himself from the cops) that he knew very well what would happen to him if he said the wrong things, and he insisted on doing it anyway.
I don't think he was all that political a humorist, unless you consider being against racism and censorship as political. He has a bit with Ike trying to get Nixon to take another trip to take the heat off Sherman Adams. Which reveals another problem - if you aren't old enough, or haven't studied some late '50s early '60s culture, half the references will fly right over your head. Plus, I think you really need to hear him, not read the bits. I wasn't all that impressed with the movie, by the way.

Example: From Christ and Moses, Cardinal Spellman has the Pope on the line and is trying to give a hint about the boys who just dropped in
"With a cross of hmm hmm ... No, not Zorro!"
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Old 11-21-2011, 08:34 PM
Johnny Q Johnny Q is offline
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I've always liked his bit with the two casting agents trying to cast the new Fuhrer. and they go with the painter. AKA "Ze guy mit ze mustache and the hair in front of ze face."

Hitler: Hey, come on, don' jerk me around you guys. I got tree garages to paint in Prague today. I gotta finish them up
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Old 11-21-2011, 08:50 PM
Jim's Son Jim's Son is offline
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I remember the first "Rolling Stone Rock-and some jazz- Record Guide" in 1980 rated his albums pretty poorly. They did say one three LP set had a long interesting rambling about being arrested but that was about it. A lot of one and two star ratings: like you expect from the Osmonds or Uriah Heep.
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  #40  
Old 11-21-2011, 09:30 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Originally Posted by Voyager View Post
I don't know if Exapno Mapcase is going to revisit this thread, but I want to correct what he said. There is a lot of Bruce material from his prime. The Carnegie Hall Concert, from early 1962, is an excellent example, and was around when this thread began - I have it in LPs it is so old.

I've just listened to a 6 CD box set (which I got from the library) which includes a lot of rarities and things from his entire career, including his bit on the Arthur Godfrey talent show, very funny.
It's true that his very last bits aren't very funny, and are kind of like the last act of a tragedy, but plenty of really funny stuff is around - "Christ and Moses," "Father Flotsky," "Non-skeddo Airlines" and a lot more.
I think he is so revered today not only for being funny but for sacrificing himself for the freedom to say what he wanted to up on the stage. You can tell from some of the recordings (he started to record his last shows to protect himself from the cops) that he knew very well what would happen to him if he said the wrong things, and he insisted on doing it anyway.
I don't think he was all that political a humorist, unless you consider being against racism and censorship as political. He has a bit with Ike trying to get Nixon to take another trip to take the heat off Sherman Adams. Which reveals another problem - if you aren't old enough, or haven't studied some late '50s early '60s culture, half the references will fly right over your head. Plus, I think you really need to hear him, not read the bits. I wasn't all that impressed with the movie, by the way.

Example: From Christ and Moses, Cardinal Spellman has the Pope on the line and is trying to give a hint about the boys who just dropped in
"With a cross of hmm hmm ... No, not Zorro!"
We're using different definitions about what his prime was.

Bruce started stand-up in 1947. He worked all the way through the 50s, and it's those years, primarily the last half of the decade, that are supposed to be his prime. He put out a bunch of highly edited albums before 1960, although I've never heard any. Some of the routines have been repeated on other albums, but from what I've read they're as bad a representation of what his live act was like as the recording we have of the Beatles in Hamburg were of their early days.

By early 1961 (not 62), when the Carnegie Hall album was recorded, Bruce was already heavily into his drug downfall. His arrests didn't start until later in the year, but from accounts he was going downhill fast.

I'm too young to know any of this first-hand, but I've read a lot about Bruce's glory days. And they're always about the 50s. That could be wrong. I wasn't there, and neither were most of the people who write about him. Unless that box set you mention (Let the Buyer Beware, I assume) has some home audio, though, I doubt that any of the real Lenny from the 50s has been preserved. If it does, I'd be interested in the contents. Amazon doesn't show a table of contents, so to speak.
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Old 11-21-2011, 11:09 PM
Sam A. Robrin Sam A. Robrin is offline
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A lot of the humor in St. Lenny's--- uh, Bruce's routines came from the reflexive titter of shock that arises when hearing something you know you aren't supposed to, especially when it's something you've secretly thought yourself for years, but never articulated. Some said he was more of a "stand-up philosopher."
And Lenny Bruce was no leftist--he was libertarian through and through.
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  #42  
Old 11-22-2011, 02:15 AM
Voyager Voyager is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
We're using different definitions about what his prime was.

Bruce started stand-up in 1947. He worked all the way through the 50s, and it's those years, primarily the last half of the decade, that are supposed to be his prime. He put out a bunch of highly edited albums before 1960, although I've never heard any. Some of the routines have been repeated on other albums, but from what I've read they're as bad a representation of what his live act was like as the recording we have of the Beatles in Hamburg were of their early days.

By early 1961 (not 62), when the Carnegie Hall album was recorded, Bruce was already heavily into his drug downfall. His arrests didn't start until later in the year, but from accounts he was going downhill fast.
The CD "Lenny Bruce Originals Vol. 1" is from 1958 (Fantasy FCD-60-023.) I got it from one of our big used CD stores around here. It is interesting because it has some real standard dreck, as well as good stuff. "Interview with Dr. Sholem Stein" goes on for 8 interminable minutes. Bruce plays a boring Jewish scholar with some theory about the link between Judaism and Calypso music. There is a very standard "wow, we have hifi" track, better than the Spike Jones one but not as good as the Flanders and Swann hifi bit. It has the Ike one I mentioned, and some weird stuff, but it also has Father Flottsky, Religion Incorporated and Non-skeddo.

The Thank You Masked Man CD has stuff ranging from 58 - 62 (and the video mentioned above.) It has a Lawrence Welk bit (he meets a hipster) which is also kind of standard - Stan Freberg did Wunnerful, Wunnerful. It is from '58. Captain Whackencracker from '59 is a standard evil kid show host bit.

His Godfrey appearance was good - he did impressions of celebrities if they were speaking German, but I doubt anyone would remember him without the later stuff, drugs or no.
Now in the Bruce universe everyone is Jewish, even the Pope and everyone is in show business, even Hershie the Monster, so I might like those bits more than some. On average, though, I find the Carnegie Hall concert better than the '58 stuff.
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