- Audio CD (August 26, 1999)
- Number of Discs: 2
- Format: Live
- Label: Fantasy
- ASIN: B00000K0Y7
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #224,075 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
Live At The Curran Theater
Live, 2 CD
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Live At The Curran Theater (Remastered)
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|Audio CD, Live, August 26, 1999||
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Once Lenny Bruce had amassed legal troubles, he turned a corner, going from standup performer doing funny, if acerbic, routines (which is more than being simply a comedian) to being a free-improvising social commentator. Here is the first CD reissue of Bruce's 1961 show at the Curran Theater in San Francisco. It's a direct rerelease of the three-LP set issued a decade after the show, a half-decade after Bruce's overdose, and it's a fantastic experience. Bruce sounds breathlessly overrun as the show starts, trying to distill his San Francisco bust into something cohesive. Of course, Bruce's technique includes turning away from the microphone, interrupting himself, fracturing his own narrative, and drawing his verbal loops ever wider. Bruce is able over these two-plus hours of narrative to cover a wealth of topics, from his Philadelphia bust and the court system's persecution of his performances to a wealth of historical figures. His style at the Curran remains difficult to absorb, full of solipsism, elliptical thought, recreated conversations with interlinear commentary, and more. Wondering whither the roots of performance narrative à la Spalding Gray, Eric Bogosian, and David Sedaris? Here they are. --Andrew Bartlett
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This show has no bits, so if this is your first Lenny Bruce experience note that his early work is equally brilliant but structured in a way more common to comedic records. When he states " I no longer do bits, man" on this album don't confuse that with him saying I sued to do schlock humor, now I don't. His "bits" are more than written jokes. They were legend. Religions Inc. is a brilliant treatise on the profit centers churches had become. And he laid it out equally. A rabbi is skewered, a cardinal, and a Pentecostal preacher are in his sights throughout and he lays it out cold.
Like I said, no more bits, not even Religions Inc. in this show. This show is great, and you certainly don't need to know Lenny's past work to get this show, but note that he has other material and if you are looking for a certain Lenny Bruce bit you heard about it isn't here.
What is here, however, is pure Lenny Bruce. He comes out of the gate hard and doesn't let up until it is time to go home. By this time in his career Mr. Bruce's rap sheet was longer than his album catalog. The bit I referenced earlier, Religions Inc., set off a firestorm of local diocese in Catholic cities such as Chicago putting pressure on the police to bust this blasphemer.
The underlying theme of the record is a bust Lenny endured for possession of a drug with a prescription. That isnt a misprint, it is correct. He had a prescription for a narcotic for plerousy or some other breathing condition but that didn't matter to the police. He was arrested on possession and a French farce of sorts is played out from the time he is arrested and they try to get him into the elevator thru to his trial. Mr. Bruce truly believe in the American way. Anyone who says Lenny Bruce is un-American has no idea what America is. Mr. Bruce believed so strongly in his country he thought he didn't need a lawyer, he could just walk into court and say look, your honor, I had a prescription, and the judge would bang the gavel and send him on his way, both he and the judge happy that justice was served.
SPOILER BELOW, BUT SO SMALL YOU CAN MANAGE, I THINK.
This of course doesn't happen, and it becomes a circus. I don't want to spoil anything, but when I said there are no bits I am not at all implying this show isn't hysterical. When Lenny contemplates advice from counsel that perhaps he offer the judge a gift his demand as to how this is to work, with him giving the judge the money and the judge giving him the bag of drugs like a street deal, I cried I laughed so hard. Mr. Bruce insists that counsel relates this directly to the judge, and threatens his counsel that he will indeed find out if it happened. counsel does tell the judge, and Lenny finds out quickly.
Since then, I have listened to this extraordinary concert over 100 times (easily) and was overjoyed when the CD was finally released.
The Curran Theatre concert was fueled by a white-hot anger, resulting from Lenny's two busts (one for obscenity, one for drugs) in the months just prior to this show. As a result, Lenny throws off all restraint and attacks the hypocrisy of society, full-tilt boogie. The opening bit, in which Lenny cracks that the only way he could fill the house (only 100 people actually showed up) was to offer free whiskey to the local winos, in classic and hilarious. From there, he gives a blow-by-blow description of the two busts, complete with great characterizations of the judges who tormented him. He also indulges in a fantasy, wherein he exacts a poetic revenge on one of them.
Throughout the show, he indulges in free-form snatches of his classic bits, such as "Christ and Moses" and "Las Vegas T & A". Some of the humor is referencial to current events of the day, and thus somewhat oblique at times, but it presents a marvelous slice of life in the early 1960's. The final bit, in which Lenny gives his take on Judy Garland, is worth the price of the CD alone.
There was always much more to Lenny Bruce than just a "dirty comic"; he was probably the greatest social satirist of his generation,and he paid a horrible price for it. Sadly, no one has emerged to take his place (perhaps no one could) since his death in 1966. In this era of "political correctness", we need someone like Lenny more than ever.
In conclusion, it is interesting to compare the Carnegie Hall concert (also available on CD) with this recording, in terms of tone. For my money, both are seminal recordings for any Bruce collector; however, Carnegie Hall presents us with a humorist at the height of his popularity, before the bad times. Less than a year later, Curran Theatre displays the bitterness of a man who feels that he been wronged by society, both in terms of principles and his own persecution.
Listen to how Lenny fights back with the only weapon he has: humor. It is tragic that he did not continue to adopt this strategy in his later years. Lenny, you left us much too soon.
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