Monday, January 12, 2009
MY FAVORITE DEAD JUNKY COMIC
Leonard Alfred Schneider was hip, man. You might know him as Lenny Bruce if you know him at all. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, a new breed of rebel comedians breathed life into tired old comedy. Their humor was based on observation, not jokes--people like Mort Sahl, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, and Lenny Bruce were doing something new. Lenny Bruce was the hippest of the lot, the farthest out, the most incendiary. He never played it safe.
Busted! Lenny Bruce was a comic, social critic, satirist, writer, junky, and weirdo beatnik.
There was no shortage of comic talent in the late fifties and early sixties--you still had the old guys plying their trades and more traditional talents like Sid Caesar, Bob Newhart, Jonathan Winters, Bill Cosby--but the rebels changed the face of comedy forever. They paved the way for Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Sarah Silverman, the Saturday Night Live crew, and every other stand-up comedian out there.
Old comedy on the way out: a vaudeville act in days of yesteryear
Lenny Bruce was my favorite. He was hilarious, but didn't mind freaking out the squares with routines about drugs and race and sex, earning himself the label "sick comic." He used words on stage most of us hear every day, and for that he was hounded by police and tied up in the courts with endless obscenity charges. If you love freedom--not just cheap platitudes during wartime but actual freedom of thought and speech and artistic creation--you owe Lenny Bruce a nod.
Lenny opened the door, and Richard walked through. Richard Pryor on drugs.
Part of the new breed: Eddie Izzard on religion.
Here's a good book: "Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s," available HERE.