Sunday, 9 January 2011

Lenny Bruce, comedian and general bad boy

I've been ill recently and spent some of the time re-reading some old Lenny Bruce stuff on my bookshelves. For those who don't know, Lenny Bruce (Leonard Alfred Schneider, 1925-1966) was an American comic who started working as an MC in strip clubs, doing comic turns between the girls. His sharp sense of hypocrisy and injustice in American society worked into his act and often made him a target for law enforcement, including a couple of obscenity trials.

Notable Lenny Bruce quotes:

“I’ve been accused of bad taste, and I’ll go down to my grave accused of it and always by the same people, the ones who eat in restaurants that reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.”

“The kind of sickness I wish Time had written about, is that school teachers in Oklahoma get a top annual salary of $4000, while Sammy David, Jr. gets $10,000 a week in Vegas.”

“If something about the human body disgusts you complain to the manufacturer.”

“If a titty is pretty, it’s dirty but not if it’s bloody and maimed.”

“Every day people are straying away from the church and going back to God.”

“I won’t say ours was a tough school, but we had our own coroner. We used to write essays like: What I’m going to be
if I grow up.”

“If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses. “

If you're interested there's an official Lenny Bruce website maintained by his daughter Kitty.

Bruce was a bad boy. He was, for example, a long-time drug user and his death was due to accidental overdosing on morphine. But he was a bad boy in many other respects as well. Here's the sexy bit I rediscovered in his biography: it comes from early in his career, when he was MCing for stripper's at Duffy's club in Los Angeles. Philly Joe, a drummer in the club band, hears Lenny's voice in his ear. 'When you finish this set come straight back in the dressing room - and have your cock out!' And then...

'...when the last ker-plunk had sounded from his drums, he'd be advancing on the dressing room with his fly unzipped. Whipping out his schlong, he'd stand breathless before the maroon drapes. Then he'd enter the dressing room in precisely the condition Lenny desired. There before him is a sight to make a man ship over. A big naked stripper is kneeling in the middle of the floor, a bandage over her eyes, her hands bound behind her back, her mouth wide open waiting to receive the first cock that comes through the door. As Philly Joe, now a robot man, dips his wick, he hears Lenny giggling hysterically in the closet.'

From Ladies and Gentlemen - Lenny Bruce! The Ultimate Biography. Albert Goldman with Lawrence Schiller. Pan Books, 1976 - pages 166-7.

I'll maybe post a couple of other bits in a day or two...


  1. We could certainly use a Lenny Bruce today. Well, for that matter, every culture could always use a Lenny Bruce...

  2. Absolutely! I found his toilet humour annoying but the more political stuff he did was often hard-hitting and well-judged.

    The thing is, though, that was why he ended up in almost permanent trouble. People who raise their voices the way he did realistically have to expect they'll get persecuted the way he was.