"Lemme tell you the truth. The truth is... what is. And what "should be" is a fantasy — a terrible terrible lie, that someone gave the people long ago."
"Take away the right to say 'fuck' and you take away the right to say 'fuck the government'".
"He sure was funny/and he sure told the truth/and he knew what he was talking about"
Lenny Bruce was a controversial stand-up comedian and social critic. Active from the late 40s through the mid 60s, it's his 60s stuff that made him (in)famous. During this era, clean-cut, family-friendly comedy was the norm. Lenny's stand-up was confrontational, profane, unforgiving and uncompromising and paved the way for modern comedy. Bruce was an influence on some other specific
comedians. He wrote an autobiography that was serialized in Playboy
called How to Talk Dirty and Influence People
Lenny's uncompromising attitude toward his work contributed to his success but also caused his decline. Arrests, drug addiction and depression took their toll on Bruce, and he was found dead from a morphine overdose in 1966, aged 40. The consensus is that his death was a suicide although there are those who will question the notion.
On a side note, he once impersonated a priest and jumped out of a two-story window while high. Awesome.
The Sick Tropes of Lenny Bruce:
- All There in the Manual: In 1991, Fantasy Records released on CD The Lenny Bruce Originals Volume 1 (containing, with a couple of changes for better playing time, Bruce's albums The Sick Humor of Lenny Bruce and Interviews Of Our Times) and The Lenny Bruce Originals Volume 2 (containing Bruce's albums Togetherness [aka I'm Not a Nut, Elect Me- listen to "Our Governors"] and Lenny Bruce- American), with each disc containing "A Skeleton Key To Lenny Bruce," a guide to the mix of Yiddish expressions and possibly dated entertainment/cultural/political references in Bruce's routines.
- Anti-Love Song: "All Alone" has heavy elements of this.
- Author Filibuster In his later years, he often spent several minutes on-stage telling stories and making pointed observations without telling a single joke.
- Badass Beard: Often had one of these due to his erratic grooming habits
- Biopic: Bob Fosse directed one of Bruce in 1974. Bruce was played by Dustin Hoffman, in a role that earned him an Oscar nomination.
- Black Comedy: "Are there any niggers here tonight!?" of course, taking it as straight-up Black Comedy misses the point.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Though not as often as you might think.
- Culture Police: They were responsible for the decline of his career. Undercover officers would often attend his performances so that they could arrest him, and many venues eventually refused to let him perform because of police harassment. He eventually went bankrupt paying for legal fees.
- Good Is Not Nice: He had his darker side. His outside.
- Jesus Was Way Cool: Despite his caustic criticism of religion Lenny was rather fond of Jesus.
- Permastubble: Shaved very erratically.
- Religion of Evil: Bruce's opinion on all religions in general. Many cite his vocal expression of this opinion on stage as the reason why The Man targeted him.
- Returning War Vet: He joined the Navy during World War II at 16 and served aboard the light cruiser USS Brooklyn, fighting in North Africa and Palermo in 1943, and Anzio in 1944. In May 1945, be dressed up in a WAVES uniform for a comedy show, and landed in hot water with his superiors (who apparently didn't get the joke). To spite them, he convinced the doctors he had homosexual urges, which resulted in a dishonourable discharge in July 1945, which he applied and had changed to an honourable discharge because he never committed or confessed to any breach of naval regulations.
- Rule of Funny: Though he dropped this as he got deeper and deeper into his troubles.
- Stage Name: Leonard Alfred Schneider was his birth name.
- Wholesome Crossdresser: Several stories state that, while in the Navy, he would wear a WAVES uniform to get a discharge. In actuality, he only wore one once for a comedy bit for his shipmates, then claimed to have homsexual urges to spite his commanding officers (who had ordered an evaluation), which resulted in a dishonourable discharge (later changed to honourable due to a lack of any misconduct). According to Larry Gelbert (writer/producer of Mash), Klinger was based on the stories.