Thursday, April 05, 2012

Lenny (Prompt: Something Before My Time)

I first met him in his cartoon 
where he plays an emotionally
distant Lone Ranger
who ends up taking Tonto 
away for a consensual 
unnatural act.

I was instantly hooked.

As he mocked 
the pseudosanctimony of
Ike’s America,
I was stuck in 
Reagan’s Movie America
and he sounded prophetic.

He wasn’t just telling jokes,
but trying ideas.

He peeled back the 
“what should be” 
to reveal the caustic
“what is.”

The popular version is
that he was a dirty mouth comic 
who just said “cocksucker” 
and lowered the bar 
for generations of vulgarians
waiting at the Gate (of Horn). 

To me, he was a poet
with words and sounds 
and bad movie star imitations.

He was desperate 
for the truth
and when he gazed upon it, 
he found it painful 
to the point 
of heroin.

More than a martyr,
he was an artist,
trying to tickle out an honest laugh
and some truth,
the same way that 
Charlie Parker tried to 
coax something hitherto unknown 
out of the trunk of jazz standards.

His was an alto saxophone voice,
alive and demanding,
bending notes with 
Yiddish rhythm,
street profanity 
and the tsuris of 
five millenia and 
six million Jews. 

He never tried to do the
same thing twice
and I understand
he was genuinely kind
and generous to a fault.

Who else but SuperJew
would stand up 
and say 
“Have rachmones 
for Adolph Eichmann?”

Only Jesus Christ
and Lenny Bruce.


  1. Notes for the non-Yiddish:
    Tsuris = suffering
    rachmones = compasssion.

  2. hey buddha..this is awesome..
    He was desperate
    for the truth
    and when he gazed upon it,
    he found it painful
    to the point
    of heroin....people desperate for the truth often do things that others don't that you wove parker in as well...he surely was a searcher and a revolutionary in his own sense...his playing makes me mad though...esp. the lots of chromatics he's doing in a neck-break speed.....ha...rachmones..compassion...will memorize this..

    1. Thanks Claudia,

      Along with Lenny, my heroes were Marx (Groucho) and Lennon (John). I have an affinity for the iconoclast!

  3. Good stuff Moskie!
    When I was 6 or 7 I snuck off and watched "Lenny" starring Dustin Hoffman on HBO (I never was a big fan of Sesame St). Been a fan ever since (that's what wrong with me isn't it?) ;-)

    1. "Lenny" was also my first exposure to Lenny Bruce's life and while I liked it very much, I dug deeper and found the real Lenny to be howlingly funny compared to Dustin Hoffman's portrayal. There's a great documentary on Lenny done by Robert Weide (of Curb Your Enthusiasm) called "Swear To Tell the Truth." It's the best! Thanks for the kind words.

  4. This is a remarkable piece! And, I couldn't agree with you more.

    1. Thanks MZ, from you those are valued words indeed!

  5. Lenny Bruce was before my time, as well. Alls I know is the profanity thing and that he is revered by some, but I think this is the first time I have actually heard him.

    I hope that he and Tonto will be very happy! I always love to meet family.