-The Trials of Lenny Bruce:
law, speed and society
• ANDREW ELSTON
and tcilet beha.vior in America. Running the tap water to en- courage little kids to do it, parents telling little kids that they'll call the cops if they shit in their pants, flushing a toilet to cover up the E:rnbarrasing tinkle of pee, etc., and he related those things to the American society: why we don't like cops, for instance. When Speiser began the first half of his program, Bruce's "first trial," he prefaced it by asking the audience to imagine l\\ themselves in a relatively hip nightclub in the East Village, JI! circa 1958. But the ~cene-setter wasn't necessary. Only per- haps as a point of reference in Bruce's career; certainly not as an incentive for the audience to shift their standard of humor. Because, unfortunately , I fear that 1972 holds no more creative license for an act of Bruce's mien than did 1960. The first "trial" served as a opener for the audience. "I don't want to get into anything too heavy right off the bat," Speiser explained afterward. "I want to present Bruce as he was in the fifties before he got in to the really heavy shit, before he got into the drugs." Explaining that there were at least "6 million" routines he could have used, Speiser said that this one showed people how sound Bruce.'s logic was to start, what truths he had to speak. Toward the end of the toilet routine, as toward the end of Bruce's career, the logic becomes really "heavy, wierd and druggy." As an example, Speiser noted that the final part of the toilet bit ends really beserk with Bruce standing on a window ledge trying to pee in front of half of New York. "He was definitely onto drugs pretty heavy in the end ... it started with his narcolepsy and pre- scribed treatments, but then he couldn't get off the shit." The second "trial" - which Speiser put together himself from tapes, notes and personal research, and which he refers to as the "speed-rap" - shows the somewhat emaciated Bruce lost in a whirlpool cf law, narcctics, humor and poverty quivering before us, trying to explain for us and himself what happened in the intervening years. . Historically, what happened were more than a dozen obscenity raps from California to Chicago to New York, more and more reliance on speed which "wired him out and drove him harder and deeper into the truth" (Speiser), and a reduc tion in income from well over 200,000 dollars per year t under 7 thousand a year. He was refused entry in virtually every country in Europe.
Speiser as Bruce in the first Trial.
"I really dig doing the routine about toilet training be- cause it really gets to people - they get so into what is's all about that they can't sit still .. . they have to run out and pee." After an intense, first-comic-then-tragic, rapid-fire evening of Frank Speiser as Lenny Bruce, Speiser had that to say about this : society's hang-up over what really is as opposed to what r,eo(:le think should be . J!nd that was Bruce's whole entertain- ment trip: humoursly exposing people and society for what they really are. And that unquestionably must include all the irreverent, "dirty" sex-oriented and "taboo" dialogue and events that underlie all our lives and society as a whole. "Who t.. ere has ever ·peed in the sink?" was Speiser's open- ing line. Probably assuming that all the men in the audience had at one point in their lives peed in the sink, he asked for a show of hands (and then asked for the women only ... how many? how do you do it?). Surprisingly a lot of people had the integrity - or lack of it as may be argued by some - to raise their hands. I didn't. And I have peed in sinks lots of times (Friday nights in the Masthead . . . ). But the point was this: why the fuck shouldn't people pee in the sink; and more: why should people not admit it? From there, the act went into all the wierd nuances of toilet traininq
STRAIT 23 MARCH 1972 I
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