The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Lenny Bruce

11-29-07 Lenny Bruce

(Re-run from August ’02)

I don’t remember how I got turned on to Lenny Bruce, but it was in the very early 1970’s. Probably, when I first heard him, I had very little idea about his ‘notoriousness’. I just knew he sounded extra sharp. I probably didn’t even know he was dead. His book, “How To Talk Dirty and Influence People” affected me greatly when I first read it – even if I didn’t understand it completely! He was definitely the first person I’d ever heard of who offended people.

This particular album ("The Real Lenny Bruce") was only the 2nd or 3rd ‘collection’ of Mr. Bruce’s work. I believe it has some material not available elsewhere. It also has a nice ‘jail cell’ poster of Lenny in it, as well as some nice long liner notes (Ralph J. Gleason, perhaps?). This is probably the best of the ‘collection’ LP’s of his work, as it’s a double! As I recall, it was given to me from somebody at a radio station here in Long Beach, as they were unable (or unwilling) to give air time to anything on it.

For my money, Lenny is still the coolest of the stand up ‘comedians’. There’s no denying he spawned a tide of imitators, none of whom are anywhere nearly as entertaining to listen to. Lenny is as close as comedy ever got to jazz, in my humble opinion. Later in life, his ‘comedy’ turned very political in nature – some of it on disc is a little difficult to follow, unless you’re familiar with the times (the early-to-mid 1960’s). For most of his work, his playful use of the English language is sheer entertainment…or education. Not everything he did was comedy.

I wonder how his stuff would look in translation? It would probably lose a lot. I never saw the bio-pic of Lenny Bruce with Dustin Hoffman, but there’s no way anyone else could ever harness his zeitgeist effectively, I suspect.

If you are not familiar with any of Mr. Bruce’s work, I would suggest getting either of the Fantasy Records CD collections, “Originals” (Volumes 1 or 2), or try finding some of his original red vinyl Fantasy LP’s, notably “The Sick Humor Of Lenny Bruce” (which also has one of the most classic ‘bad taste’ LP covers of all time – Lenny having a picnic in a cemetery!).

For deeper ‘study’, try one of his complete shows on CD or LP, such as “The Berkeley Concert” or “Live At The Curran Theatre”.

2007 addendum: The 6CD boxed set that was released in ’04 “Let The Buyer Beware” is excellent, just amazing. Time has done nothing to dim Mr. Bruce’s irreverent humor. Too bad he was ‘too early’ – as so many others have made much better livings than he ever did – off of stuff he was nearly crucified for, in the 60’s. And to this I must add, please try and find a copy of his book, “How To Talk Dirty and Influence People”. The older I get, the more I understand it.



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