Saturday, October 15, 2016

Lenny Bruce in San Francisco

Lenny Bruce was a “sick comic” from the 1950s and early 1960s who was arrested for drugs and obscenity and was appealing a four-month jail sentence when he died in 1965[Actually, he died in 1966]. He was a genius. One of his bits, about a comic who plays the London Palladium, perfectly sums up what has happened to Donald Trump in the fall election. It’s about Frank Dell, a third-rate comic who plays Las Vegas lounges, but who tells his agent he wants to play a “class room” like the London Palladium. The agent tries to discourage him, but Dell insists---“I’m going to murder these people”---and the agent gets him booked there.

Dell goes on stage after a torch singer has wrapped the audience in her hands, and he totally bombs. He finally starts insulting the audience...

Rob's comment:
As a young guy in San Francisco in the early 1960s, I had the great pleasure of seeing Lenny Bruce perform twice in North Beach at a couple of different clubs---Basin Street West and, if memory serves, The Jazz Workshop. Before that I had enjoyed several of his comedy albums.

It's hard to imagine now, but Bruce was arrested in San Francisco for using obscenities in his act, like "cocksucker." And for drug use, though making the drug charges stick was tough for prosecutors, since he always apparently had legal prescriptions from friendly doctors. Hence, obscenity was used instead to bust him.

There was also the suspicion that his routines on religion that mocked Catholicism didn't go over well with city authorities---Bruce was Jewish---as San Francisco has always been a more or less Catholic city.

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