Ladies and Gentlemen, Lenny Bruce!!
and the Julian Barry play
only served tomake the foundation more secure). The Vietnam War had become an "experience" in the past tense and little did anyone know that America was soon to be engulfed in the postmodern fascistic antics of the Reaganites. In the '70s, the
of the '60s got cleanedup and polished. Everyone had long hair, everyone had been against the war, men were becoming more sensitive, black people were wonderful, it was cool to be gay. . . "yadda-yadda-yadda" (as Lenny would say). In the '70s everyone wanted to be cool. And no onewanted to grow up.The new attitudes turned out to be mostly veneer, but we
that we believed them. And presiding over our glorious and heartfelt beliefs (untested by life or life's problems) were the Saints of the New Attitude. Among the saints were JohnLennon, Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Abbie Hoffman, Lenny Bruce. Basically a lot of white men. White men on drugs with groupies.
(Plus ça change . . . .)
Central to the philosophy of the New Attitude was the notion that a Big BadDaddy Government was suppressing and repressing all of us. (Easy to believe after Vietnam and Watergate.) We wanted more and better political action (without thecomplexities of politics) and we needed more and better freedom (without the dangers of overdose, veneral disease, or poverty). Money was out, lifestyle was in. We wanted a"brave new world" that was founded on Utopian principles; where there would be nohypocrisy; where love would rule and wars would be banished. Where everyone would be nice to each other, and we could be high all day, and no one would work at anythingthey didn't feel like doing and no one ever got sick or died.We just had to get away from Big Bad Daddy. We had to get out of the house. Andwe wanted the keys to the car.Lenny was a worker. He "wanted it" (to quote his character Buddy Bob the car salesman). And he gigged and he gigged and he gigged in "toilets," jazz clubs,everywhere, and anywhere. As he said himself, he was only too happy to "sell out." Thatmeant appearances on TV. But he didn't mesh with such a tidy commercial environment.He developed jazz habits: enjoying one's work, doing it for the sake of expression andfun, exploring new ground, taking chances. These were jazz laws, and Lenny broughtthem to comedy. (Also check out Lord Buckley, Jonathan Winters, Redd Foxx.) He also brought the attitude of minority culture with its endless self put-down and riffing about"the Man" and its conspiratorial posture of the inside joke, using code words and phrases(Lenny somehow melded Black and Yiddish vernacular).(A couple of years ago I paid homage to Lenny by dropping by one of his favoritespots in San Franciso, the Hungry i. It's now a strip joint and when I poked my head inthe door the woman at the counter said "Can I help you with something?" I said, "I justwant to take a look at the place, someone I know used to play here." She said "What's hisname?" I said "Lenny Bruce." She said "What instument does he play?")The attitude of rebellion and new-found freedom was genuine for a young Jewishguy in the late '50s or a Black in the '60s. It was becoming OK, even cool, to admit to being Jewish or Black. (Lenny mentions that in the armed forces, as late as WWII, beinga Jew was almost always noticed and remarked upon.) As minorities these groups, brought together in Lenny's jazz-yiddish lingo, had genuine gripes. The civil rights battleswere heating up down South. The stereotyped Southern Racist or Northern Full-of-Shit