“I am not a comedian… I am Lenny Bruce.”
Lenny Bruce debunks the obscenity charges made against him in New York City.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary notes that Lenny Bruce’s second-to-last live performance — “filmed in San Francisco in August of 1965 in San Francisco, the one place in the states where he could get bookings” — is crudely shot (the director “keeps a nervous camera focused on Bruce at all times”) and only intermittently funny (“one wishes his material were a bit stronger”). Nonetheless, Bruce still manages to come across as both highly intelligent and naturally witty; it’s easy to catch glimpses of his genius through the haze of his (legitimate) obsession with the “politics of obscenity”. As Peary writes, Bruce was “a comedian who relied on his intelligence and natural wit rather than a memorized set of irrelevant jokes,” and it’s clear he “seems amused by life’s sad ironies.” Most enjoyable for me was seeing what a master Bruce was at voice characterizations — watch how easily and convincingly he’s able to switch from character to character during his running jokes.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Bruce’s improvisatory discussion of the obscenity charges made against him
- The skewering “How the Jew and the Negro Got Into Show Business” schtick (much less offensive than it sounds)
- If you’re renting the DVD, don’t miss the oddly hilarious short “Thank You Mask Man”, in which one of Bruce’s most famous running jokes is set to animation
Yes. As Lenny Bruce’s only live performance preserved on film, it holds a special place in cultural history.