Artist Drew Friedman just released a fine art print of comedian Lenny Bruce in an edition of 20
In Bob Fosse's hit 1974 film Lenny, Dustin Hoffman gave us Lenny Bruce as hip hustler turned tedious martyr. In The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Luke Kirby plays him as the title character's showbiz bestie. All down the decades since his 1966 death Bruce has remained a potent archetype, his name a signifier as all-purpose as Band-Aid or Kleenex. But for much of today's audience, the appeal of Bruce's actual work is as unfathomably remote as that of Chaplin or Will Rogers. Just go to YouTube and check out footage or audio recordings of Lenny; the comments include a lot of "This sucks," or "He just ain't funny" countered by drab variations on "Yeah, but he was ahead of his time … very influential." And sure, no Lenny Bruce, no SNL for instance, but don't hold that against him. Perhaps a better way to understand the man's life, mind and art is to read his 1965 autobiography How To Talk Dirty and Influence People (even the title's jab at Dale Carnegie is opaque to many latter-day readers). Written at the peak of his notoriety as the nation's foremost "sick comic" and published at the brink of his fatal overdose, the book charts, with wit, candor and poignancy, how his picaresque early years led to both ultimate, unintended consequences.