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How to Talk Dirty and Influence People Paperback – May 1, 1992


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; Reprint edition (May 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671751085
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671751081
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #365,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In 1963, before the law and his drug habit brought the curtain down on the comedian, Hugh Hefner asked then-superstar Lenny Bruce to write his autobiography. Lenny hired writer Paul Krassner to help him edit the book, which appeared in Playboy over the next two years. Though it's uneven, and somewhat dated, How to Talk Dirty and Influence People deserves a look, if only to balance the movie Lenny, which many of the comedian's friends say missed the man entirely. The book is, simply, Lenny Bruce riffing on his life--from a drab childhood in Brooklyn, to stints in the navy and merchant marine, and finally to the nightclub circuit and eventual stardom. Of course, the veracity of any single anecdote is highly questionable, but How to Talk Dirty and Influence People rises above that, revealed as a fascinating expression of how this comedy icon wanted to be seen. Namely, as a rough-and-tumble kid from the streets, as a hustler and ladies' man, and, finally, as a fearless detonator of society's hypocrisy. (Notice that addict and dissolute don't make the list.)

In the movies ... Everett Sloane was a tycoon. He would get his gun off disillusioning Joel McCrea, who wanted to publish a newspaper that would make a statement, and telling him: "M'boy, you'll see when you get old that it's all a game." And I used to think, "No, it's not that way, this cynical old bastard is bullshitting, there are the Good Guys and the Bad Guys, the liars and the truth-tellers."

But Everett Sloane was right. There is only what is. The what-should-be never did exist, but people keep trying to live up to it. There is only what is.

How to Talk Dirty and Influence People doesn't catch Bruce's charisma and vaguely sinister electricity--no book could--but it is an interesting, lively read. Bruce was one of the first performers to usher in the new, more honest, more permissive, and more indulgent brand of American art. For anyone who wants to understand our comedy and culture, How to Talk Dirty and Influence People is well worth reading. --Michael Gerber


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Customer Reviews

This is the story of a famous nightclub entertainer.
Cooper's Antiques
If you want something guaranteed to make you laugh, this may or may not be right for you.
Ronan Rooney
This book will make almost any non-prude laugh out loud.
laffertr@bc.edu

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By David Lucas on February 8, 1999
Format: Paperback
An excellent, if a little short, account of the life and times of the stand-up comic that helped changed the face of comedy forever.
Most of the book which starts with his childhood is presented in a stand-up format which makes for an entertaining read as you can almost imagine Lenny on stage orating this material.
In contrast, the two trial transcripts (thankfully truncated) are quite laborious to read, although that may well be the point. There is a nice piece following the section covering his second trial which describes the downfall of the arresting officer and the doctor who diagnosed him as a narcotics addict, despite significant evidence to the contrary. It gave this reader a suitably smug feeling, particularly considering the circumstances of this arrest and trial.
He is also refreshingly honest in the book, with frank descriptions of the scams that he participated in, whether it was posing as a priest to solicit money for a leper colony (from which he deducted 'operating expenses') or procuring guests for a popular TV show of the time. He also tells of some occasions where he was the victim of a scam, usually writing material for someone and not being paid for it, although he didn't name any names.
I have a fairly recent edition of this book and I'm only surprised that it hasn't had an 'executive editor' appointed to add italicised paragraphs here and there to complete his story along with a final chapter detailing the nature of his death and a suitable epitaph.
Anyone who likes honest stand-up comedy should read this book.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By James Hercules Sutton on July 26, 2004
Format: Paperback
Lenny Bruce may have been the greatest poet of mid-Twentieth Century America, 'though he never wrote a poem, because he did what poets ought to do--make you see, make you feel, make you realize that "the great" did things that they didn't want you to know about. He alienated President Kennedy so much that J. Edgar Hoover was unleashed to pressure local police to bird dog Bruce's nightclub act. The cops would lurk in the back, wait till Bruce said something vulgar, then bust him for obscenity. In court, the fuzz would do Bruce's act so badly that Bruce was convicted for their lack. He beat the rap, at the U. S. Supreme Court, but it took a lot out of his native optimism. He shot up on heroin till he overdosed--assuming it WAS suicide. Remember Marilyn Monroe? What's easier than knocking off a junkie with an overdose? With Oscar Levant and Alexander King, Bruce is one of the three great wits of America at mid-century. Worth your time, because he repays you with insight wrapped in laughter.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Vaishali on May 26, 2008
Format: Paperback
I first read this book at the tender age of fourteen, and even then it had an impact on my perceptions. Now, over thirty years later, it has remained one of the strongest influences of my life! I would not be the wise and compassionate Spiritual teacher that I am without having read about Lenny's life of pushing the boundaries and comedic concepts far ahead of his time. He was and still is the most profound comic Spiritual visionary America has ever seen...and most likely will ever see. Long live Saint Lenny!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jocelyn Jones on October 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
I would recommend this book. The content of this book appeals to many people. Anyone interested in comedic history, a satire perspective, social empowerment and "toilet jokes", would get a kick out of this personal peek into secrets behind Lenny Bruce. I enjoyed this book for its humor and social analysis, as well as for the other interests listed previously.
This book is a lesson behind the acceptance and progression of comedic subject matter and language. The language used in this book could be described as crude or obscene, but I would describe as uncensored. Lenny reflects on culture and uses comedy as his outlet. Lenny wrote how he spoke. The text is a hilarious ramble of important events in his life. His commentary is as true and relevant now as it was forty years ago. It provides an education on the journey to become a stand-up comedian, promoting social empowerment and the struggle of being an individual at all costs. Lenny revolutionized stand up comedy, opening door for others in the comedic field. He wasn't afraid to talk about what no one else would, race, sexuality, religion, etc. Lenny didn't allow anybody else's standards determine the content of his performances.
How to Talk Dirty ... is a window into the past and the social standards of the time. When this book isn't making you think it will make you laugh. It contains bits that Lenny developed, some of his crazy scams, excerpts from his performances, as well as a transcript from a court trail against his use of obscenities, Lenny adds his humorous opinions in the text.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By laffertr@bc.edu on November 12, 1997
Format: Paperback
This book will make almost any non-prude laugh out loud. It will also make you think quite a bit. I can't think of a better embodiment of the words of Lenny Bruce. The beauty of the book is that you find yourself in stitches for four or fives pages, and then-Wham!-he hits you right between the eyes with a vibrant piece of social commentary.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By frumiousb VINE VOICE on June 3, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
You could be forgiven for thinking that this book is by Eric Bogosian. Although generally okay, the Fireside edition spends more time talking about Bogosian on the front cover than it does talking about Bruce himself.

Too bad. But luckily for the reader, this book is pure Lenny.

More readable than the transcripts of his performance (since he intended this to be read)-- How To Talk Dirty and Influence People is part autiobiography and part diatribe. Bruce explains, jokes, cajoles and convinces as he writes. This is the story of his life from his birth until 1963 when it was written.

Lenny Bruce is a very important figure in the histories of performance and free expression. This book is a little bit sketchy to be a final remembrance, but is still worth the time and effort that it takes to read. In particular, the beginning sections of the book are magical-- funny, wry and moral. It loses the thread a little bit towards the end, as Bruce is more and more obsessed with the legal wars that he was then fighting on every front. Certainly understandable, but the latter chapters are much less open for the reader and seem to have been written in a much bigger hurry than the rest of the book.

If you are interested in Bruce, this book is a must-read. The Fireside edition is bound with an introduction by the aforementioned Bogosian and with a preface by Kenneth Tynan.
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