“To” is a preposition; “Come” is a verb

Lenny Bruce (October 13, 1925 – August 3, 1966)

Allow me a break from the normal music discussions to recognize this day. On this day 43 years ago, Lenny Bruce took one trip too many. Morphine overdose. Broke and in debt, paranoid and overweight. 40 years old.

I am not gonna go into a big drawn out synopsis of his life here. Anyone on this site also has access to Wikipedia, and those folks have already gone through all of the effort for me. If you are not familiar with Lenny or his material, you should go read it. In 2004, Bruce was voted No. 3 of the 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time by Comedy Central, behind Richard Pryor and George Carlin, both of whom cite Bruce as an influence. In fact, Carlin was arrested for refusing to show identification while attending Bruce’s 1964 show at the Gate of Horn in Chicago, and after the police ended the show and arrested Bruce for obscenity, they were both placed into the back of the same paddywagon together.

My first exposure to Lenny’s material was when I was a pizza delivery person. One of my coworkers handed me a cassette tape one night and said “Check this out. You’re the kind of person that would probably get into that kind of stuff.” They were right. I did not know it at the time, but that was one of those life changing moments. Personally, Lenny Bruce ranks right up there with Hunter S. Thompson and Leonard Cohen as a person I would most like to spend a night over dinner with, and if I could get a night out on the town boozing, drugging and whoring with those three….well, just kill me the next morning, because the rest of my life would just be a big fucking let-down. I just wanted to acknowledge Lenny today and post some of my favorite bits of his.

Before we got to the bits though. I wanna post this description of one of Lenny’s more famous shows at Carnegie Hall. It was written by a Mr. Albert Goldman and is included in the liner notes of the show’s 3-album release:

This was the moment that an obscure yet rapidly rising young comedian named Lenny Bruce chose to give one of the greatest performances of his career. … The performance contained in this album is that of a child of the jazz age. Lenny worshipped the gods of Spontaneity, Candor and Free Association. He fancied himself an oral jazzman. His ideal was to walk out there like Charlie Parker, take that mike in his hand like a horn and blow, blow, blow everything that came into his head just as it came into his head with nothing censored, nothing translated, nothing mediated, until he was pure mind, pure head sending out brainwaves like radio waves into the heads of every man and woman seated in that vast hall. Sending, sending, sending, he would finally reach a point of clairvoyance where he was no longer a performer but rather a medium transmitting messages that just came to him from out there — from recall, fantasy, prophecy. A point at which, like the practitioners of automatic writing, his tongue would outrun his mind and he would be saying things he didn’t plan to say, things that surprised, delighted him, cracked him up — as if he were a spectator at his own performance!

I’ll drink a few and say Fuck the Goverment for you tonight Mr. Bruce.

Lenny Bruce – `To’ is a preposition, `Come’ is a verb
Lenny Bruce – How The Law Got Started
Lenny Bruce – Blah, Blah, Blah
Lenny Bruce – White Collar Drunks
Lenny Bruce – The Defiant Ones
Lenny Bruce – The Steve Allen Show

Here is Bob Dylan’s tribute to Lenny: Bob Dylan – Lenny Bruce

Finally, here’s an old animation based on Lenny Bruce’s standup bits. Extremely funny.

4 thoughts on ““To” is a preposition; “Come” is a verb”

  1. As sad as it is I wasn’t introduced to Lenny Bruce until I watched Pump Up The Volume. But I love his work and even if you don’t agree with all of his points he is a piece of history that shouldn’t be ignored!

  2. Man I missed the Cohen comment… Leonard Cohen is one of the life changers for me as well. My fondest memory of his music was a strange night when I was apprenticing to be a tattoo artist. Dave and I had been working 16 hours a day for weeks, to this day neither of us remember how many weeks, and as apprentices we didn’t get to chose any music at all at the shop so we had been in a sort of hell with Gus playing faux-Amerian Indian music, Steve playing nother but KISS for whole shifts, and Harold with his nouveau-Irish folk. After our shift one Friday when the shop had done really well Harold gave us half of Saturday off. Now we had been given a bottle of Oban at some point so we decided not to hit the after-hours clubs and just go back to Dave’s girlfriend’s apartment (she was on tour with the Houston Symphony Orchestra at the time) and just have some scotch and relax. We both had developed a love for Cohen (mine, again, through Pump Up The Volume and his through my incessant playing in the little time we had off.) So we dropped in I’m Your Man, cracked the Oban to let it breathe, got cleaned up from the pain in the ass 16 hour shift, and sometime around three A.M. we poured two glasses of Oban and sunk into our respective couches ready to let the scotch with two cubes of ice cool and relax us. Tower of Song was playing at that moment. What was strange is that Tower of Song, the CD was on repeat, was also playing when we woke up the next day already late for work with a full glass of Oban in front of each of us. We called in to the shop and told Harold to go fuck himself if he thought for a minute we were coming in and some ten or twelve hours after putting on the Cohen CD we knocked back our scotch, sunk back down into the couches, poured another round and listened to Cohen all afternoon.

    I am not so much the Hunter S. Thompson fan. It could be that I never read the right works of his. The author that did the most for changing my outlook was Jack Kerouac followed closely by Bukowski. That’s strange in and of itself as I am a huge sci-fi fan and to this day that’s my genre of choice but those two along with Douglas Coupland and William S. Burroughs probably did more for my outlook on life than anyone other than William Gibson. Well know that I’ve posted a response that’s long enough to be a blog post in and of itself I should probably get back to work…

  3. I saw the title of this post on Star Maker, and I had to stop by. The post was everything I hoped it would be. Excellent job.

    PS, we miss you on Star Maker.

Comments are closed.