Lenny Bruce has been dead a long time... since 1966 to be exact.|
So... How much of a direct influence can he be for today's comedians? It's debatable. However what is undeniable is that he has been an important influence on other great comedians like Richard Pryor and George Carlin, who can be a more direct role model for modern stand-ups.
I believe that the audio recordings of Lenny Bruce's best work are still well worth listening to, because of his skills of dramatising and acting out his routines, and the compelling way he phrases his material. He is also a great example in his passion for what he's doing, and his clear joy in doing it.
Unfortunately, the references in his material, and even the substance can be outside the knowledge and experience of modern British comedy fans. But please don't let this stop you becoming more familar with an important pioneer from our comedy heritage. There are audio recordings accessable via the websites for which I have provided links below.
For his fans, the life of Lenny Bruce is as interesting as his work. Consequently, books about him are more important additions to the recordings than with other comedians. The following books are part of my library:
THE ESSENTIAL LENNY BRUCE - HIS ORIGINAL UNEXPURGATED SATIRICAL ROUTINES (John Cohen): A book that does what it says on the tin. Transcripts of his stage material, organised within the major issues he dealt with. An essential companion to Lenny's audio recordings. Having both versions available makes Lenny's work more accessable and enjoyable.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN - LENNY BRUCE (Albert Goldman): The best biography available, 565 pages worth devoting some time to.
LENNY BRUCE - THE COMEDIAN AS SOCIAL CRITIC AND SECULAR MORALIST (Frank Kofsky): A great analysis of Bruce's work on stage, including a very useful chapter about the available recordings.
HOW TO TALK DIRTY AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE: The official Lenny Bruce autobiography. I haven't read this recently, but as far as this being a truthful autobiography, I now believe this to be largely a fabrication written by another hand... and it's probably about time that I read it again.
LENNY (Valerie Kohler Smith): Based on the movie starring Dustin Hoffman. I can't really comment until I read it again. I seem to remember it was worth reading. I've recently got the DVD of that movie, and on the basis of just one viewing it would be unfair to say that it isn't very good, but as a Lenny Bruce fan I found it less than illuminating.
The Complete Lenny Bruce
The Trials of Lenny Bruce
Lenny Bruce is Not Afraid
Books \& Writers Website
Ladies \& Gentlemen Lenny Bruce
NPR page about Trials book
Bob Dylan song
Lenny Bruce Tribute site
FBI File Website