BRUCE, LENNY

BRUCE, LENNY (Leonard Alfred Schneider; 1926–1966), U.S. comedian. Born in Mineola, New York, Bruce moved to Hollywood after World War II, in which he served in the Navy, to take acting classes. He spent the next few years entertaining in nightclubs and soon attracted attention for his blunt attacks on sacred-cow subjects and remarks on sex and race, areas that few comics had ever ventured into. The 1950s was a significant decade for comedians and satirists like Bruce, mike nichols , elaine may , and mort sahl , all of whom were Jewish, and all of whom found an audience among sophisticated, generally college-educated people with their scathing wit and assaults on hypocrisy. It was a style that came to be known as "black humor," and Bruce was its progenitor. Bruce's humor was pointed and sharp. "A lot of people say to me, 'Why did you kill Christ'?" Bruce said in one of his routines. "I dunno. It was one of those parties, got out of hand." Then he added, with an eye on contemporary beliefs: "We killed him because he didn't want to become a doctor, that's why we killed him." But Bruce's acerbic rants, which included gutter language, offended a more conservative audience and he was arrested in 1961 after a performance in a San Francisco nightclub for using a vulgar word. He was later acquitted but in 1963 he was refused permission to enter Britain and his show was banned in England and in Australia. He was unable to perform some of his material because club owners feared arrest, but Bruce refused to clean up his language. "'Sex' and 'obscenity' are not synonymous," Bruce said. Nevertheless, in 1964 he was arrested and convicted of obscenity. A hundred writers and intellectuals, including norman mailer , defended him as a social satirist "in the tradition of Swift, Rabelais and Twain." Bruce also developed a serious drug habit. In 1961 he was arrested in Philadelphia for possession of narcotics; the charges were later dropped. In 1962 he was arrested again for drug possession and later became addicted to heroin. For most of the 1960s he fought charges of obscenity and drug possession and these bouts sapped his strength and forced him to stray from comedy to monologues about his legal troubles. The public became less receptive to his problems. In 1965, with the help of the writer Paul Krassner, he published his autobiography, How to Talk Dirty and Influence People. The book was inspired by Hugh Hefner, the publisher of Playboy, who published the book in serial form over two years. It found a wide audience. In 1966 Bruce was found dead in the bathroom of his home, a victim of a drug overdose. He was 40 years old.   Bruce's life inspired the 1971 Broadway play Lenny, largely composed of his nightclub routines, but also dealing with his failed marriage, his court cases, and his fantasies. It reproduced his mocking attacks on the Establishment, his scorn for the misuse of words, his hatred of cant and hypocrisy. In 1974 the film Lenny was produced by Bob Fosse, portraying Bruce as a martyr of freedom of speech. Bruce was played by dustin hoffman , who performed many of Bruce's most-remembered monologues from recordings and nightclub engagements, with a live audience looking on. Because of his influence on latter-day comedians and performers, Bruce inspired a number of books and articles, including a memoir by his daughter and a song by bob dylan . -BIBLIOGRAPHY: L. Bruce and J.M. Cohen, The Essential Lenny Bruce (1967); B. Julian, Lenny: a Play, Based on the Life and Words of Lenny Bruce (1972); A. Goldman and L. Schiller, Ladies and GentlemenLenny Bruce\! (1974); F. Kofsky, Lenny Bruce: The Comedian as Social Critic and Secular Moralist (1974); G. Carey, Lenny, Janis, and Jimi (1975); L. Bruce and K. Bruce, The Almost Unpublished Lenny Bruce: From the Private Collection of Kitty Bruce (1984); W.K. Thomas, Lenny Bruce: The Making of a Prophet (1989). (Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Bruce,Lenny — Bruce, Lenny. Originally Leonard Alfred Schneider. 1926 1966. American comedian whose scathing, often obscene humor strongly influenced later comics. * * * …   Universalium

  • Bruce, Lenny — orig. Leonard Alfred Schneider born Oct. 13, 1925, Mineola, N.Y., U.S. died Aug. 3, 1966, Hollywood, Calif. U.S. stand up comedian. He studied acting and began performing stand up routines in nightclubs in the 1950s, soon developing a style… …   Universalium

  • Bruce, Lenny — orig. Leonard Alfred Schneider (13 oct. 1925, Mineola, N.Y., EE.UU.–3 ago. 1966, Hollywood, Cal.). Humorista estadounidense. Estudió actuación y comenzó a presentar rutinas humorísticas en clubes nocturnos en la década de 1950, y en breve… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Bruce, Lenny (Schneider, Leonard Alfred) — (1925 66)    American entertainer. Born in Long Island, New York, he studied drama in Los Angeles. At the height of his career, he performed throughout the US. In 1962 he faced narcotics and obscenity charges, and attempted to defend himself in… …   Dictionary of Jewish Biography

  • Lenny Bruce — Nombre real Leonard Alfred Schneider Nacimiento 13 de octubre de 1925 …   Wikipedia Español

  • Lenny Bruce — [Lenny Bruce] (1926–66) a US performer of comedy who used rude language and told jokes about subjects that are usually avoided, such as sex, religion and race. He was sent to prison for this in 1961 and two years later was refused permission to… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Lenny — or Lennie may refer to:People with the Given name Lenny: *Lenny (given name)In meteorology:* Hurricane Lenny, a notable Atlantic basin storm of 1999 * Lennies, stationary lenticular clouds (lens shaped) In fiction: * Lennie Small, one of the main …   Wikipedia

  • Lenny Bruce — Infobox Comedian name = Lenny Bruce imagesize = 140px caption = pseudonym = birth date = birth date|1925|10|13|mf=y birth place = Long Island, New York death date = death date and age|1966|8|3|1925|10|13 death place = Los Angeles, California… …   Wikipedia

  • Bruce — /broohs/, n. 1. Blanche Kelso, 1841 98, U.S. politician: first black to serve a full term as U.S. senator 1875 81. 2. Sir David, 1855 1931, Australian physician. 3. Lenny (Leonard Schneider), 1926 66, U.S. comedian. 4. Robert. See Robert I (def.… …   Universalium

  • Lenny and Lodi — Infobox Wrestling team article name=Lenny and Lodi type=T caption= members=Lenny Lane Lodi names=West Hollywood Blondes Lenny and Lodi Standards Practices XS Lane Idol former members= heights= 5 ft 10 in (178 cm) Lenny 5 ft 10 in (178 cm) Lodi… …   Wikipedia

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