One of the great pop-culture shifts over the last half-century was the evolution of standup comedy from vaudeville-style joke telling to piercing social commentary with the power to shock and enlighten.
There is comedy before Lenny Bruce and comedy after Lenny Bruce. There’s comedy before Pryor and after Pryor.
But even comics such as Bruce, Pryor, Dick Gregory and George Carlin went through their own evolutions. Let’s examine that over coming days. Starting with Lenny Bruce.
A 2004 CD called “Warning: Lenny Bruce Is Out Again” (downloadable from eMusic and iTunes) contains some thrilling historical artifacts. I’m streaming a couple on my Vox audio stash.
Click here to hear the earliest recording of Lenny Bruce’s comedy. It’s his 1949 appearance on the popular radio show “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts.” He’s doing movie-star impressions and shit.
Now, for the after: Click here for a portion of one of Bruce’s shockingest bits, labeled “Are There Any Niggers Here Tonite?”