Lenny Bruce Quotes

Lenny Bruce (Leonard Alfred Schneider), 1925 – 1966

Born: 13 October 1925, Mineola, New York
Died: 3 August 1966, Los Angeles, California

Born Leonard Alfred Schneider, his parents divorced when he was five. His mother, pursuing a career in show business, left him to be raised by relatives in nearby Bellmore but had a great deal of influence over his ambitions. He dropped out of Wellington C. Mepham High School to join the US Navy in 1942, serving on a light cruiser, the U.S.S. Brooklyn. He occasionally wore WAVES uniforms and told the ship’s medical officer he was feeling “homosexual urges”, leading to a dishonorable discharge. Because no regulations had actually been broken he was able to have his discharge reclassified to “under honorable conditions”. This was the inspiration for the Max Klinger character in M*A*S*H. He tried standup comedy, decided his name was “too Jewish” and changed it to Lenny Bruce, and soon had his first success: $12 and a spaghetti dinner for an appearance in Brooklyn. He married a stripper that performed as Hot Honey Harlowe and desperately sought to make enough money so that she could get off the stage. He formed a New York charity called the “Brother Mathias Foundation”, stole clerical garb, and solicited contributions at Miami, Florida, raising over $8,000 before he was arrested. Because he actually had sent $2,500 to a leper colony and formally recorded the rest as expenses, he escaped jail time. In 1953 he wrote and appeared in Dance Hall Racket, which also featured his wife and mother. His presentation gradually became more satirical, more challenging, and more laced with obscenities, he was arrested for obscenity at the Jazz Workshop at San Francisco. He was acquitted, but police started monitoring his performances more closely. In 1964 he appeared twice at the Cafe au Go Go in Greenwich Village, with undercover police in attendance. He was arrested at the end of both shows and he was sentenced to four months in the workhouse after a six-month-long trial, despite a stellar parade of witnesses arguing for his right to say what had been said. He was out on bail while appealing the conviction but died of an apparent accidental overdose of morphine. Hugh Hefner convinced him to write his autobiography, which was serialized in Playboy on 1964 and 1965, and later issued as How to Talk Dirty and Influence People. Thirty-seven years after his death, New York Governor George Pataki pardoned Bruce on the obscenity conviction, the first posthumous pardon in the state.

Lenny Bruce quotes:

A comedian is one who performs words or actions of his own original creation, usually before a group of people in a place of assembly, and these words or actions should cause the people assembled to laugh at a minimum of, on the average, one laugh every 15 seconds — or let’s be liberal to escape the hue and cry of the injured and say one laugh every 25 seconds — he should get a laugh every 25 seconds for a period of not less than 25 minutes, and accomplish this feat with consistency 18 out of 20 shows. Now understand, I’m discussing comedy here as a craft — not as an aesthetic, altruistic art form. The comedian I’m discussing now is not Christ’s jester, Timothy; this comedian gets paid, so his first loyalty is to the club-owner, and he must make money for the owner. If he can upgrade the moral standards of his community and still get laughs, he is a fine craftsman.
    Lenny Bruce

A Jew, in the dictionary, is one who is descended from the ancient tribes of Judea, or one who is regarded as a descendant from that tribe. That’s what it says in the dictionary, but you and I know what a Jew is: One Who Killed Our Lord…. There should be a statute of limitations for that crime.
    Lenny Bruce

A lot of people say to me, ‘Why did you kill Christ?’ I dunno, it was one of those parties, got out of hand, you know?
    Lenny Bruce

All my humor is based upon destruction and despair. If the whole world were tranquil, without disease and violence, I’d be standing on the breadline right in back of J. Edgar Hoover.
    Lenny Bruce

Children ought to watch pornographic movies: it’s healthier than learning about sex from Hollywood.
    Lenny Bruce – How to Talk Dirty and Influence People (1965)

Communism is like one big phone company.
    Lenny Bruce

Every day people are straying away from the church and going back to God.
    Lenny Bruce

Four years working in clubs—that’s what really made it for me—every night: doing it, doing it, doing it, getting bored and doing different ways, no pressure on you, and all the other comedians are drunken bums who don’t show up, so I could try anything.
    Lenny Bruce

Guys are like dogs. They keep coming back. Ladies are like cats. Yell at a cat one time, they’re gone.
    Lenny Bruce

I hate small towns because once you’ve seen the cannon in the park there’s nothing else to do.
    Lenny Bruce

I sort of felt sorry for the damned flies. They never hurt anybody. Even though they were supposed to carry diseases I never heard of anybody saying they caught something form a fly. My cousin gave two guys the clap and nobody ever whacked her with a paper.
    Lenny Bruce

I want to perform an unnatural act.
    Lenny Bruce

I won’t say ours was a tough school, but we had our own coroner. We used to write essays like: ‘What I’m Going to Be if I Grow Up’.
    Lenny Bruce

I’m not a comedian. I’m Lenny Bruce.
    Lenny Bruce

I’ve been accused of bad taste, and I’ll go down to my grave accused of it and always by the same people, the ones who eat in restaurants that reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.
    Lenny Bruce

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