Sunday, June 29, 2008

Paul Krassner, Lenny Bruce, and George Carlin

From Warren Hinckle's Argonaut, George Carlin on Paul Krassner and The Realist:

All through this period I was sustained and motivated by The Realist, Paul Krassner’s incredible magazine of satire, revolution and just plain dissrespect. It arrived every month, and with it, a fresh supply of inspiration. I can’t overstate how important it was to me at the time. It allowed me to see that others who disagreed with the American consensus were busy expressing those feelings and using risky humor to do so. Paul’s own writing, in particular, seemed daring and adventurous to me; it took big chances and made important arguments in relentlessly funny ways. I felt, down deep, that maybe I had some of that in me, too; that maybe I could be using my skills to better express my beliefs. The Realist was the inspiration that kept pushing me to the next level; there was no way I could continue reading it and remain the same. (http://www.argonaut360.com/)

I had a similar, life-changing experience with The Realist in the early Sixties. A mere twenty years old in 1962, I of course had never read a writer anything like Krassner, who was relentlessly honest and intelligent. He made The Realist into his ongoing intellectual autobiography and, in effect, the autobiography of a generation, as he dealt with sex, drugs, and politics long before the counter culture took hold. I suspect that Krassner was a more important influence on the generation of the Sixties than people like Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey, or Allen Ginsberg.

A great story about Carlin and the late, great Lenny Bruce:

In December 1962, when Lenny Bruce was arrested for obscenity at the Gate of Horn in Chicago, the police broke open his candy bars, looking for dope. They checked the IDs of audience members, including George Carlin, who told the cops, “I don’t believe in IDs.” Then they arrested him for disorderly conduct, dragged him along by the seat of his pants and hoisted him into the police wagon.“What are you doing here?” Lenny asked. “I didn’t want to show them my ID.”
“You schmuck,” said Lenny. (http://www.argonaut360.com/)

I was lucky to see Lenny Bruce perform a couple of times here in San Francisco---at Basin Street West and the Off Broadway clubs in North Beach---about the same time, when he was being arrested even in San Francisco, long before our city became Progressive Land. The formal charges against Bruce were about drugs and obscenity, but it was his mockery of the Catholic Church that was his greatest offense in the eyes of the city's political establishment.

Paul Krassner's website: http://www.paulkrassner.com/