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Lenny Bruce in 'Lenny Bruce' (1967)

Iconoclast Lenny Bruce appears at San Francisco's Basin Street West in what was his next-to-last live appearance. His act that night consisted of reading allegations and transcripts from ... See full summary »

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Iconoclast Lenny Bruce appears at San Francisco's Basin Street West in what was his next-to-last live appearance. His act that night consisted of reading allegations and transcripts from one of his several obscenity trials and then commenting on what he'd actually done or said. While there are some "bits" in the performance (including the prison riot with Dutch, the Warden, Father Flotski, and Sabu, the prison doctor), this is much more a social commentary on government intrusion and censorship than it is a comedy routine. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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19 March 1967 (USA)  »

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The Lenny Bruce Performance Film  »

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Painful, tragic and hard to watch
27 May 2007 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

Lenny Bruce was probably the single most important figure in post-war stand-up comedy, but you'd never guess it from The Lenny Bruce Performance Film, which showcases him at his doped-up self-indulgent worst. Shot in San Francisco in 1965 but released in 1967 a year after his death, this was his penultimate performance before his fatal overdose, and the damage that years of litigation, drugs and obscenity busts had done to his once razor-sharp mind is all-too obvious. By this point Bruce had stopped doing his act and was simply looking to put forward the case for the defence, quite literally – much of the one-hour set is simply Bruce picking through the court record of his latest obscenity bust and telling his version of events. There are still sporadic moments of genius, but they're short-lived and unfocused. Where once he triumphed with stream of consciousness, this is almost stream of unconsciousness at times as he gets sidetracked, throws in a couple of half-hearted renditions of classic routines like Father Flotsky's Triumph and sporadically loses his place. In a horrible irony, it's in moments like these that, as others here have noted, he sounds like nothing so much as a bad, half-forgotten impersonation of Lenny Bruce, like one of the 'peace officers' doing his act badly in front of a judge that he spends so much of this performance bitterly complaining about. As such, it's more for the fans who can put it into perspective rather than a particularly good introduction to his work.


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