Note: I shall attempt to be “morally neutral.” Consider “Part Marks for Effort”, as I am unlikely to actually succeed. I mean, it is an “opinion blog”, after all, so if not here…
I like a backtracking excuse right of the top, don’t you?
Okay, here we go.
I had this idea for what I would write today. Then, during a subsequent morning walk, I realized that the preambling setup for that idea was long enough to be an independent blog post of its own.
Normally, I am unaware a post’s a “two-parter” till I see how much I have written without actually getting to the point. Some might call that “bad writing.” I call it, “Two for the price of one.” And on rare, happy occasions, three.
I shall, therefore, deliver the preambling setup today, and write what I planned for today, tomorrow.
Unless the preambling setup runs long.
Which it is threatening to do as I type.
Okay. And if I already said “okay”, okay again.
“Comedy” turned the page with Lenny Bruce.
And the next page was filthy!
(So much for “moral neutrality.” I say, if you are going to “give it up”, “give it up” early, and be done with it.)
Unlike previous comedians, who went for the biggest laughs they could possibly think of, Lenny Bruce was first and foremost a satirist, mining comedy nuggets from “taboo areas”, like sex, cultural hypocrisy, and religion. Skimming his “Quotables”, one that particularly tickled my fancy was,
“Never trust a preacher with more than two suits.”
The biggest issue – or maybe it became the biggest because of the problems it caused him – was language.
During his career, Lenny Bruce was arrested on numerous occasions for doing “obscene material” onstage. In the states that arrested him, there was a literal, legal definition of “obscene.” There had to be. Otherwise, how would the police know he was illegally “Crossing the line”?
Lenny Bruce made the connection between language and liberty. In a society with an actual “Free Speech” amendment in its constitution (excluding falsely yelling “Fire!’ in a crowded theater, and nobody wants that), how could you reasonably be arrested for “just sayin’ stuff”?
Lenny believed that “obscene words” would lose their power to offend if they were conventionally “normalized.” You say “sassafras” enough times, and it loses its meaning. (Note: Insert “m.....f.....r” for “sassafras.”)
(Which, for me, has no meaning already.)
Lenny Bruce became a martyr to “language”, eventually losing his “funny”, reading transcripts from his many courtroom appearances onstage, instead of pleasing the customers. (Glibly expressed, hubris and heroin ran neck-and-neck in doing him in. Although which caused which remains open to debate.)
Here’s the thing, though.
Well, first, another thing, which I have mentioned elsewhere.
If you don’t have “curse words”, what do you say when you legitimately need to curse? (And “Shoot!” and “Phooey!’ won’t cut it.)
So there’s that.
Second – because I already did “First” –
Lenny Bruce did not liberate “language.” He just made a trade, setting certain words free, while dispatching others to unutterable exile.
We know the words he set free, comedian George Carlin, following in Lenny’s footsteps, immortalizing them in “The Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television.” I am sure there were more, but he was on television – cable television where you cansay anything – and had limited airtime.
While those “naughty words” were now liberated, words that lost there right to be spoken in public without punishing blowback are:
“Uncomfortable in certain arenas.” (That’s a phrase, but revolutionaries are not nitpickers.)
“Witty.” (Confusing crudeness with cleverness.)
And, come to think of it,
Including the phrase – and why wouldn’t you? – that’s seven words too. Meaning,
While seven words were released,
Seven others were duly incarcerated.
So talk to me, here.
If some words are allowed while others are banned from usage without incurring the abuse once reserved for the now liberated “No-no’s”,
Where the heck is the freedom?
Tomorrow, I shall talk about Veep, a show that would make Lenny Bruce proud.
Although less so, my mother.
Or – less punchlingly –