I’ve been listening to old Lenny Bruce routines with interest bordering on fascination. I’ve never heard much of his stuff before.
His delivery, choice of material and approach — roughly, “what I’m saying is true and you know it, even if you don’t want to admit it” — are as sharp and smart as anything that any comedian is doing today. Compared with Bob Hope and the other comedy kings of Lenny’s day, he’s practically revolutionary.
But his material — the actual jokes — aren’t very funny to me.
His hip references to contemporary but now-ignored events and people are sometimes too obscure to be funny and sometimes simply stale; Lenny was probably among the first to make jokes about them, but they’ve been done to death since. And his discussions of race and sex, which were were fresh and surprising at the time, are common coin among today’s stand-ups.
It’s a shame, because I want to like Lenny’s comedy, and I can hear the brains, guts and heart that he put into them. He kicked open doors for entire generations of comedians from his day to right now.