Enrico Banducci's Legendary hungry i Lives Again!
Lenny Bruce's arrival at the hungry i has been chronicled by Travis Edmonson for the website
Much has been said about the satirist and comedian Lenny Bruce, every bit of it controversial and open to question. Moreover, what people have written on the person and his work was inevitably colored by pre-conceived opinions towards social issues, so finding the man and his history amongst all the misinformation and prejudices (for and against him) is nearly impossible.
The controversy is largely due to the fact that Lenny Bruce's mostly improvised satire and black humor often overstepped the bounds of what was considered `respectable' in the 1950s and even 1960s.
He was one of the first performers to usher in the new, more honest, more permissive, and more indulgent brand of American art. And it all happened at the hungry i.
After discharge from the Navy in 1946, Lenny Bruce went to Los Angeles to study acting, and then took up working as a nightclub comic on the east coast.
Then came his breakthrough in San Francisco where the groundwork for the daring brand of comedy had been paved by such i stalwarts as Mort Sahl, with whom Lenny Bruce is inevitably paired and compared.
Their ethnic humor had a new twist, and it caught on like a blaze in a forest of deadwood that people remember the 50s to be.
Lenny Bruce's probing of taboo subjects such as racial fears, sexual fantasies, Jewish-Christian tensions and politics both touched and hit on a nerve, causing a sensation of horror and indignation in some and a delightful sense of breathing fresh air to others, his wit and inimitable frankness winning him an admiring audience and making his act celebrated in liberal circles.
The downside of his innovative performances was that he was imprisoned in 1961 on obscenity charges and in 1963 he was refused permission to enter Britain. His show was banned both in England and in Australia. In the US too, some nightclubs started to avoid police trouble and wouldn't hire him. Even in the US, he was unable to perform some of his material, for fear it would lead to prosecution.
In spite of such pressures, Lenny Bruce refused to clean up his language, in the end, the primary cause of criticism. When he was arrested by the police in April 1964, Norman Mailer, James Jones and other prominent writers and intellectuals defended him as a social satirist in the tradition of Swift, Rabelais and Twain.
Lenny Bruce died in Hollywood at the age of 40 on August 3, 1966. A decade later, his life inspired film maker Bob Fosse's motion picture “Lenny” in which the comedian was portrayed as a martyr of freedom of speech.
Rare Lenny Bruce clips on hungry i reunion DVD!
Experience your own hungry i reunion with the wonderful DVD featuring commentary by Enrico Banducci and performances by The Kingston Trio, Limeliters, Mort Sahl, jonathan Winters, Stan Wilson + rare Lenny Bruce footage. Just click the icon to order direct from Amazon!