Looking for Lenny

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When I worked in radio years ago, I had friends with bands always bugging me to play their music on the air. They didn’t realize the big system in place that has record labels dictating what songs radio stations can play, and all that other garbage that goes along with radio formats.

When I wrote bar reviews and the party crasher column for the Reader, I had friends that were bartenders or club owners, wanting me to review their places. I had friends with parties always wanting me to write about them.

Writing film reviews, I found I rarely have friends bugging me to write reviews of their latest picture.

I have a good friend named Veronica that has been telling me for over a year, about a documentary her friend Matt Amar did about comedian Lenny Bruce. He’s a San Diegan (Amar, not the late comedian), and their film had a screening at the Birch Theatre in North Park.

It was just over an hour long, and I was surprised by all the big names they snagged for interviews.

Richard Lewis, who is looking a bit like Bruce, had some interesting things to say, as did Hugh Hefner, Phyllis Diller, and one of the most underrated comedians around – Andy Kindler.

Christopher Titus, who isn’t my favorite stand-up, was surprisingly interesting to listen to. The same with Henry Rollins, who is always so passionate about the artists he talks about.

I saw Jim Norton at a comedy club on Bleeker Street in New York, and it sounded like he was at a loud table in that same club giving his two cents about Bruce and the various controversies.

There were legendary names like Mort Sahl, Robin Williams, and Robert Klein commenting as well. And it was fun watching Elon Gold do an impression of Jerry Seinfeld and Michael Richards, as if Kramer was a racist.

I thought the segment of the documentary where they delved into Richards losing it at a comedy club was interesting, especially when we hear a bit (that Rollins described as one he didn’t care for) where Lenny comments on all the various races in the club, using derogatory terms. We can at least see that when comedians have a point, or a punchline, they get a pass. Richards had neither.

I did have some problems with the Don Imus segment they spent so much time on, especially since this documentary was only an hour long. Now, I could listen to people talk about that untalented radio host for days. I just didn’t think it fit in here. I didn’t get the point. Were they trying to say Bruce paved the way for saying things? It’s a bad example, because Imus lost his job and got into trouble for comments he made about the Rutgers basketball team. If they wanted to go that route, they should’ve spent more time talking about how Bruce paved the way for comedians like Richard Pryor and Redd Fox. And they could’ve mentioned Howard Stern; especially when the FCC has fined him for using innuendo, and not even saying those words.

When comedic actor Rob Riggle talked about Bruce paving the way, I realized it might be the only time somebody could use that cliché “if it wasn’t for him, there would be know [insert famous comedian here].”

I always hated when people said things like “If there was no Elvis, there would’ve been no Beatles.” Sure there would have. They would’ve just been more influenced by Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, etc. But when you talk about somebody getting arrested on stage for merely saying certain words – how can you not think about somebody like George Carlin and his bit about the 7 dirty words? You certainly think about Carlin when you hear a few of the bits of Bruce played in this movie, and you realize the cadence in Carlin’s voice was so much like Bruce.

Orlando Bloom made a few interesting points and a few that make no sense at all. I’m not even sure what he means when he says that Bill O’Reilly can say whatever he wants.

I would’ve liked to have seen Dustin Hoffman talking about Bruce, since he played him in a movie. I would’ve loved to have seen Kevin Pollak comment. The man who has impersonated so many actors, was asked by Steve Martin to impersonate Bruce at Carnegie Hall, where Bruce performed in 1961. He was the only comedian there for “120 Years of Carnegie Hall” (Sting, James Taylor, Bette Midler performed).

I felt that many of the things in the movie were done sloppy. The edits with the music, subjects that were off topic, and things like Jon Lovitz name being spelled incorrectly.

The movie did give me one of the rare things I’ve heard Hefner say that I actually thought was a good quote – “Lenny died for our sins.”

If you want to see this, it’s on Pay Perview or On Demand. Go to www.LookingforLenny.com for more details.

I’m giving it 2 ½ stars out of 5.

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