George Carlin himself once put it: “Lenny Bruce opened the doors for all the guys like me.”
I watched the documentary on the infamous American comedian Lenny Bruce last night called, Swear to tell the truth and enjoyed it. It was quite sad considering how he was persecuted and harassed by the police and judicial system in the US because of his anti Catholic rhetoric and everything else. One thing that occurred to me after watching a lot of Lenny’s material in the movie and on you tube is that ‘comedy’ is only truly savored in the era it is performed. The material itself I didn’t find very funny or very enlightening, I suppose because I am not from that time or place and the way people communicated back then was a lot different and the issues and words were construed on a whole other level. Therefore it is difficult to gauge just how influential Lenny was because I cannot relate to his material in the here and now.
I can understand based on the testimony of others like my mate Johnny, Bob Dylan and other social commentators that Lenny Bruce indeed was THE instigator of change in the industry. He was, as it were, the sacrificial lamb to allow other comedians to use THEIR MOUTH to express their ‘honest’ and uncensored world view without fear of recrimination from the law etc. For me, comedy in general doesn’t seem to age well unless there is a personal connection to the artist and era it was communicated. I noticed my favorite sit com ‘Seinfeld’ is already starting to age as its social commentary is becoming less and less ‘current’. For example, Stanley Kubrick’s classic, Dr Strangelove is considered one of the greatest comedies / satires about the cold war, yet if you did not live in that era it may be harder to see its ingenuity. Having said all that I am looking forward to watching the movie depiction of Lenny Bruce called Lenny staring Dustin Hoffman and listening to his Carnegie Hall performance if I can get my hands on it.
Another documentary I watched recently was about the German born American writer Charles Bukowski – Born Into This. It reminded me a little of the Lenny Bruce documentary. Bukowski who you may be familiar was a LA based novelist, poet and social commentator, who changed the way people thought about writing and like Lenny was a major instigator of change reflecting what many people were thinking, but couldn’t dare write about. You can find my review of one of Bukowski’s greatest novels Ham on Rye here.
Wikipedia states, ‘His work addresses the ordinary lives of poor Americans, the act of writing, alcohol, relationships with women, and the drudgery of work. Bukowski wrote thousands of poems, hundreds of short stories and six novels, eventually publishing over sixty books. The FBI kept a file on him as a result of his column, Notes of a Dirty Old Man, in the LA underground newspaper Open City.’ Read more here.
“Without trying to make himself look good, much less heroic, Bukowski writes with a nothing-to-lose truthfulness which sets him apart from most other ‘autobiographical’ novelists and poets,” commented Stephen Kessler in the San Francisco Review of Books, adding: “Firmly in the American tradition of the maverick, Bukowski writes with no apologies from the frayed edge of society.”
Bukowski wrote in his novel Women,“I like to change liquor stores frequently because the clerks got to know your habits if you went in night and day and bought huge quantities. I could feel them wondering why I wasn’t dead yet and it made me uncomfortable. They probably weren’t thinking any such thing, but then a man gets paranoid when he has 300 hangovers a year.” See more quotes from ‘Women’ here.
from my bed
on a telephone
one is left,
my typewriter is
and I am
reduced to bird
just thought I’d
“No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride…and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well…maybe chalk it off to forced conscious expansion: Tune in, freak out, get beaten.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
I recently read the undisputed king of rollicking good times Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson, which is undoubtedly one of my favorite books of all time. That hasn’t aged to me at all. The rhythm of the book is unmatched. I read this classic in just two sittings. I am loathed to see the movie since I have these vivid images in my head of what I think the story is. I don’t want to ruin that. The mastery of wordsmanship in this book cannot be faithfully replicated on screen. It’s impossible. Words speak volumes in our minds over mere vision and portrayal.