Lenny Bruce: A stinging voice of conscience who told it like it isBreaking News
Lenny Bruce, brilliant U.S. satirist and comedian, pointed his whip and lashed out at America's hypocrites, whether high-toned charlatans of the church or "some of my best friends are Negro" liberals.
His heyday was the decade between 1955 and 1965, when several leading stand-up comics turned philosophical and radical. But even his contemporaries such as Mort Sahl, Bob Newhart and the comic duo of Mike Nichols and Elaine May, were much more in a mold that would give shape to the likes of Jerry Seinfeld and Woody Allen: gentle lampooners of the middle class and its newfound suburban neuroses.
Lenny Bruce began that way, performing in the "alpine borscht belt" of the Catskills in New York State, but soon he was confronting America with its dark underside, turning the tables on the country's self-righteous scam-artist leaders. He challenged virtually every taboo, openly using "offensive" language and denouncing racial and religious bigotry.
"If Jesus had been killed 20 years ago," he said, "Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses."
He sent up evangelist Billy Graham and Cardinal Spellman of New York to the high heavens, and did a hilarious shtick about the Pope in which the pontiff calls him from Rome, and Lenny says, "Yes, operator, I'll accept the charges."
"Every day people are straying away from the Church . . . and going back to God" was his way of pointing out how far the established Church itself had strayed from original faith.
I listened to a great many old routines of Lenny Bruce in preparation for this article, and they are still as funny and relevant as ever.
In one, he is in conversation with a black man at a party. Trying to be nice and liberal, he exposes the patronizing prejudices of the white community.
"Hey, all of you people can tap dance," he tells the black man. "Want somethin' to eat? They got watermelon and fried chicken."
But the thing that incensed the stalwarts more than anything else was his use of language. If you want to hear an offensive word, he said, " 'segregation' -- that offends me."
"Take away the right to say 'fuck' and you take away the right to say 'fuck the government.' " Lenny Bruce would be amused (if that's the word) by our world today, where a vice president of the United States can get away with what he was arrested for....
comments powered by Disqus
Vernon Clayson - 10/8/2005
We don't miss Lenny Bruce as we have Bill Maher, our own foul-mouthed, ugly and perverse commentator now.
As compared to Bill Maher, Lenny Bruce is as a choir singer to today's rapsters who are also foul-mouthed, ugly and perverse.
Daniel Piazza - 10/5/2005
I always thought Bruce was just a foul-mouthed, anti-Catholic, drug crazed fool. I didn't realize he was, in fact, a "voice of conscience" and a "brilliant satirist."
I stand corrected.
It's just too bad that his legendary sensitivity toward blacks didn't extend to Roman Catholics, whose institutions he vilified, clergy he mocked, and faithful he ridiculed.
Why is hnn wasting time on this dreck anyway?
Mr. Hellmann - 10/5/2005
- How Clinton Could Respond on Supreme Court Vacancy
- Trump and Clinton Way Ahead in South Carolina
- McConnell Says Senate Will Wait to Replace Scalia
- Antonin Scalia Is Dead
- Clinton Says Sanders Would Be Threat to Obama Legacy
- Internal Tracker Shows Trump Leading in South Carolina
- How the Primaries are Rigged Against Sanders
- Carson Sees Fundraising Resurgence
- Trump Has GOP Mega Donors Frozen
- Quote of the Day
- Top GOP Candidates Haven’t Released Tax Returns
- Trump Attack Ads Finally Begin
- Super PACs Gear Up for Clinton
- Cruz App Mines Data from Your Phone
- Trump Way Ahead in South Carolina
- Ben Carson used an apparently fake Joseph Stalin quote — and the Internet loved it
- Rubio exaggerates in saying it's been 80 years since a 'lame duck' made a Supreme Court nomination
- Humans Hard-Wired to Teach, Anthropologist Says
- Parents outraged after students shown ‘white guilt’ cartoon for Black History Month
- Maryland is once again considering retiring its state song
- Historian at the center of Sanders-Clinton debate
- James Loewen Says Additional Baltimore Confederate Statues Should be Removed
- NYT History Book Reviews: Who Got Noticed this Week?
- A historian’s advice to students thinking of getting a PhD in a tough economic climate
- German historian Heinz Richter cleared of charges