Thursday, February 19, 2004

Lenny the Bruce

Lenny Bruce pushed the edge of comedy a little too hard, and it cut him. If you haven't read his autobiography or seen the Dustin Hoffman movie, you may still recall his name because last December Governor Pataki posthumously pardoned Lenny for his 1964 "Giving an Obscene Performance" conviction. A new book and CD about Lenny is out now, and the website has sample recordings (Windows Media .wma, unfortunately) of the authors interviews of George Carlin, Margaret Cho, and Paul Krassner, as well as some transcripts. You can also get transcripts of his trial, which are pretty funny on their own.

I've always thought of Lenny when I've seen television shows that bleep out a word, or very obviously replace it... they claim to be doing it for 'decency', but in reality it just engages your brain more than it would if they had just said the word. When Lenny was in court for obscenity he pointed this out with regard to the nightly news:

Newscaster: "Lenny Bruce was arrested for saying a certain 12-letter word."

Average American: "hrmmm, twelve letters, eh? Lessee... cocksucker? No, that's 10 letters... umm... how about motherfucker? Yup, that's twelve, hrmmm, he probably said motherfucker".

All over the country, people figuring out the 'offending' word like it was a crossword puzzle or something... Lenny saw it clearly, and tried to point it out... but a lot of America didn't get it.

I miss the motherfucker.