Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Everyone's Doin' Everybody Else's Act

Lenny Bruce died on the 3rd of August, 1966. I was born eleven days later. If the postmodern-Buddhist pro-lifers are correct, that life begins at conception, then I am not the reincarnation of the man who talked dirty and influenced people.

I do have an appreciation for his act - and unlike so many of his fan/critics - especially the material in which he obsessed with his obscenity trial. It's all so meta-wonderful commentary on everything he ever brought to the stage.
“I figured out after four years why I got arrested so many times. Dig what happens. It's been a comedy of errors. Here's how it happens: I do my act at, perhaps, eleven o'clock at night; little do I know that eleven a.m. the next morning, before the grand jury somewhere, there’s another guy doing my act who’s introduced as Lenny Bruce in substance. 'Here he is, Lenny Bruce! ...in substance.' A peace officer - who is trained for.. to recognize clear and present danger, not make believe - does the act. The grand jury watches him work and and they go, ‘That stinks!’ But I get busted. And the irony is I have to go to court and defend his act.”
A master monologist can own a room. He or she has the ability to contextualize an issue using all manner of communicative tools at their disposal. All it took was for one person in Lenny Bruce's audience to land him in front of the judge; not that his ongoing problems weren't the result of an agenda.

In this day and age, no matter how skillfully someone works a room, they can be sure that one offended person in the audience will be doing their act via Facebook and Twitter, enabling others to cast their judgment on the original via the reinterpretation.

None of this is meant to be a defense of Tracy Morgan's act. I have seen a couple of things that have showcased his true talent; his stand-up routine is not one of them. If you don't know, someone at a show of his has at least partially quoted his routine, which many are saying expressed a vicious hatred towards homosexuals. Still, I refuse to read a transcript of someone else doing his act and come to any hard conclusions.

If I were to wade into that mine-pit, I wouldn't be the first person to make an observation regarding Black intolerance of homosexuality. But to treat that as a monster on its own does a great disservice to reality: White people hate 'the gays' just as much. Serious discussions of what it means to be Black and Gay, I'll leave to those who know at least a little bit about what that is like.

I suppose Tracy Morgan can thank the travails of those who came before him that his act doesn't land him in jail. That and the fact that folks from all walks of life harbor latent anxiety and hatred of homosexuals.

Now, as to the use of words and how they can hurt: Imagine Lenny Bruce having to defend this incredibly lame portrayal. Talk about not doing something justice in an attempt to dramatize. Lenny must be spinning in his grave, eternally trying to defend himself from Bob Fosse's cut of Dustin Hoffman's act. Dig.