Jason Fisher as Lenny Bruce in Lenny Bruce … In His Own Words. (Doug Kuntz)
That Lenny Bruce’s routines (while still packing a punch 40 years after his death) are no longer considered obscene shows how much we have changed as a society. The fact that the meaning behind his words still has the power to make us uncomfortable, however, shows that we have not changed enough. This is clearly evident in the excellent Lenny Bruce… In His Own Words , written and directed by Joan Worth and Alan Sacks. Bruce is embodied by actor Jason Fisher, who powerfully portrays the New York comic satirist who died in 1966 of a morphine overdose after effectively being banned from working to due an obscenity conviction. The show is not a look into the psyche of Lenny Bruce, nor his various personal demons (and he had many). What is presented is a nightclub performance, effectively showcasing the anger and perceptions of the man in question and using many of the comic’s classic routines to do so. Bruce loved to not only take on the sacred cows of society, but also took great delight in making an audience squirm when he showed them all just how “enlightened” they really were.
Fisher brings an edgy intensity to the part, performing on what is basically a bare stage, often pacing back and forth like a caged animal or a ticking bomb about to explode. Bruce comes across as someone you’d like to keep far away, and yet one cannot deny the plain, sad or bitter truths he puts forth so eloquently.
As is pointed out in the show, it is not so much the saying of the various four-letter words or racial insults (and many are used during the performance) that is obscene; rather it is the intention behind said slurs which is what should be looked upon with disgust. This is a lesson too many people have failed to learn and the corresponding awkward silences from the audience only go to prove just how important a comic Bruce was, and how the issues he raised 45 years ago still resonate today.
Posted in: Theatre