Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Sad Truth Is That Lenny Bruce Was Not Funny

You don't have to take my word for it.  Go to Youtube and watch Lenny Bruce doing his act.  He wasn't funny, he was just someone who said a few things that were shocking in the 1950s and early 60 so that after they started arresting him for talking dirty his audience could figure they were a bunch of hipsters.  The French deification of Jerry Lewis as a comic genius was pretty much the same thing, pretending they thought he was funny because it was hip.   Amber Ruffin and Samantha Bee, not to mention Stephen Colbert or Seth Myers are funnier in one of their routines than everything Lenny Bruce said in his whole alleged comic career.   You can say the same about Mort Sahl.  The Mort Sahl story about how he had to fill in for him when Bruce got arrested wasn't very funny but it was funnier than anything either of them said in their acts.   Seriously, they were not funny.  Compared to them Bob Newhart is ten thousand times funnier.  So was Jack Benny.  

He was an asshole. 

Update:  Comparing the stream of coprolaliousness that is the stuff that came out of Lenny Bruce with the improvisation of one of the greatest jazz musicians of all, Charlie Parker, is one of the most disgusting and insulting insults to great art in the history of insults to great art.  And there's more than a slight stench of racism about it, as well.  The only jazz musicians I can think of that I'd compare Bruce with is that schmuck of a toodler who slammed Wayne Shorter a few years back,  I won't give you his name because the faster he's forgotten the better. 

Update 2:  I knew who Lenny Bruce was before that bint was born and I didn't think he was funny before he ODed.   Eschaton, a blog for people who can't read or think. 

Update 3:  Anyone who pretends to have thought "Masked Man" was sidesplittingly funny is lying.   Either that or they're brain-splittingly stupid.    That some moron made a movie of it (which isn't funny, either) didn't make it any funnier.   Lenny Bruce was a bore. 

Update 4: 

The comic Lenny Bruce. He died 50 years ago this month. 
Last week, on the 50th anniversary of Lenny Bruce’s death, a small crowd gathered at the New York Society for Ethical Culture on the Upper West Side of Manhattan to watch videos of his stand-up. Mr. Bruce appeared on a large screen and told jokes for 40 minutes, and hardly anyone laughed.

In the middle of the last century, Mr. Bruce was the coolest comic in America. Then he died and became more famous, a mythic cultural figure celebrated in hagiographic films and a Bob Dylan song. In recent years, however, he has become more respected than loved. In an essay, Patton Oswalt wrote that he never found Mr. Bruce funny, and that comics who said they did were lying. . .

At a panel discussion after the videos at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, Kliph Nesteroff, author of the excellent book “The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels and the History of American Comedy,” seemed to suggest that the reason no one laughs at Mr. Bruce today is that all comedy bombs with future generations. “Nothing holds up,” he said, a provocative argument that no one would make about drama.  


Maybe I'm just more up to date than you, it's the difference between having a life that brings me into contact with young people and people like you who only talk to other geezers.  Though I found Lenny Bruce as unfunny c. 1963 as I do today. 


  1. A lot of comedy ages, and some of it you have to learn to appreciate. Some of it is nearly timeless, though Shakespeare's best gags work better in England than here, I've often thought. And, of course, it's all about historical context: "Merchant of Venice" was a comedy, until it wasn't.

    I remember the hagiology of Lenny Bruce, but when I actually saw is shtick, I was puzzled at what was so funny and/or groundbreaking. George Carlin, in somewhat the same manner, stopped being quite so funny after the famous "7 words" sketch, which I thought was funny as hell when I was a teenager. I heard it again as an adult and wondered why I ever laughed. He was funnier before he decided comedy was for serious social criticism. Yeah, jesters mock the king; but they know how to stay funny, too. When your comedy becomes a social service, you set yourself up as superior to those you point to, and pretty soon you're just an asshole.

    The jester never confused himself with the king, not least because that was the surest route to losing his position. Telling everybody how stupid other people are is funny when you're a child; sooner or later, you outgrow it.

    Well, some of us do.

    1. I don't remember who said it but there was some comedian who said that any comedian who said they thought Lenny Bruce was funny was lying.

      I remember the first time I heard him, the "Who's that Masked Man" bit and couldn't believe this guy was supposed to be some kind of daring comic genius. I have listened to hours of his stuff over the decades and never once laughed. I listen to others from the same time, Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Eve Arden, Nichols and May, etc. and they're everything from funny to hilarious. I think he got himself arrested as a career move because he really wasn't funny (or nearly as political as he was supposed to have been) and he became a sort of budget brand cause celebre. I think George Carlin did something similar because his original shtick, the beatnik-hippy persona, aged very fast. The "humor" of both of them was a lot like the appeal of Duncan Black's blog, an in-crowd telling themselves how much smarter than everyone else they are, how kewel they are. Mort Sahl is a similar type of guy.

      They had an event in NYC a few years back, a sort of tribute maybe on the anniversary of his OD death. They showed a bunch of film of his act and, reportedly, it was like a funeral only fewer laughs. He really wasn't funny and now that all those people who pretended to be in the know about him are pretty much dead.

    2. That's a nice summation of Carlin's career. He was best when he talked about people, and not just other people, i.e. the people who weren't like him.

      "On the plane? I'm getting IN the plane." That's funny.

      "I don't like people who..." not so much.

  2. Amber Ruffin is black, not funny. There's a difference. Everyone else is hysterical. I've laughed at Bruce twice (at the start of "Thank You, Masked Man," which has a funny premise though it doesn't go anywhere and that one about the kid trying to inconspicuously purchase airplane glue). However, Richard Pryor is the greatest ever, and he said Bruce inspired him, so I'm conflicted.

    "And there's more than a slight stench of racism about it, as well."

    Ay caramba, man, seriously? It is uninformed, hyperbolic overpraising, but racism? Just because Bird was black doesn't mean a desperate attempt to sound hip by namedropping him in (misguided) raving about Bruce doesn't make it a black/white thing. It does make bring the speaker's taste into account.

    1. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree about Amber Ruffin who I think is quite good, though I'd like to see what she could do in sketch comedy which is a higher form than stand-up. My guess is that she would be very good at it.

      Yes, there is a lot of racism in comparing a mediocre White comedian to a Black musician who was a musical genius, it inflates the work of the White comedian all out of proportion and that can't but be taken as an attempt to diminish the work of the Black musician. As far as I know, Bruce never made that claim, it was those promoting him or, rather, deifying him after he ODed. He wasn't a genius, he might have had a talent but he had no great ability to develop any talent he had. I think he realized his mediocrity and it explains why he obviously courted getting arrested as a PR move to turn himself into some kind of "free speech" martyr. I think the last few years of his act he figured his audience expected an arrest to figure somewhere into it.

      His lawyer was an idiot, if Bruce had stayed in jail there's a chance he might have gotten treatment or at least gotten clean. I believe that the jerk left one of the firm's secretaries on the hook for the very high bail that had been arranged but I'd have to go back and check my facts on that.