"Lemme tell you the truth. The truth is... what is. And what "should be" is a fantasy -- a terrible terrible lie, that someone gave the people long ago."
"Take away the right to say 'fuck' and you take away the right to say 'fuck the government'".
"He sure was funny/and he sure told the truth/and he knew what he was talking about"
—Bob Dylan's "Lenny Bruce"
Lenny Bruce was a controversial stand-up comedian and social critic. Active from the late 40s through the mid 60s, it's his 60s stuff that made him (in)famous. During this era, clean-cut, family-friendly comedy was the norm. Lenny's stand-up was confrontational, profane, unforgiving and uncompromising and paved the way for modern comedy. Bruce was an influence on some other specific comedians. He wrote an autobiography that was serialized in Playboy called How to Talk Dirty and Influence People.
Lenny's uncompromising attitude toward his work contributed to his success but also caused his decline. Arrests, drug addiction and depression took their toll on Bruce, and he was found dead from a morphine overdose in 1966, aged 40. The consensus is that his death was a suicide although there are those who will question the notion.
On a side note, he once impersonated a priest and jumped out of a two-story window while high. Awesome.
His work and life displayed examples of:
- Anti-Love Song: "All Alone" has heavy elements of this.
- Author Filibuster In his later years, he often spent several minutes on-stage telling stories and making pointed observations without telling a single joke.
- Badass Beard: Often had one of these due to His erratic grooming habits
- Biopic: Bob Fosse directed one of Bruce in 1974. Bruce was played by Dustin Hoffman, in a role that earned him an Oscar nomination.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Though not as often as you might think.
- Culture Police: They were responsible for the decline of his career. Undercover officers would often attend his performances so that they could arrest him, and many venues eventually refused to let him perform because of police harassment. He eventually went bankrupt paying for legal fees.
- Dead Baby Comedy: "Are there any niggers here tonight!?" of course, taking it as straight-up Dead Baby Comedy misses the point.
- Fridge Logic: "I like what they do with homosexuals. Throw them in a big room together."
- Good Is Not Nice: He had his darker side. His outside.
- Perma Stubble: Shaved very erratically.
- Religion of Evil: Bruce's opinion on all religions in general. Many cite his vocal expression of this opinion on stage as the reason why The Man targeted him.
- Rule of Funny: Though he dropped this as he got deeper and deeper into his troubles.
- Stage Name: Leonard Schneider was his birth name.