Saturday, January 7, 2017

Shakespeare References in The Essential Lenny Bruce

The Essential Lenny Bruce is a collection of material from Lenny Bruce’s performances, transcribed and organized by subject. It was edited by John Cohen. It contains a few Shakespeare references, all of them Hamlet references actually. The first comes in a bit with a rabbi, with the rabbi saying, “Alas, alas, poor Yossel” (p. 36), a reference to Hamlet’s line, “Alas, poor Yorick.” The second is a reference to that famous speech by Polonius to Laertes. Lenny Bruce says, “It’s like, any comedian, see, all comedians – it’s ‘To thine own self be true’” (p. 111). Lenny Bruce uses that line again, this time in a song: “The most important factor?/To thine own self be true” (p. 172). By the way, in the back of the book there is an index of bits, and the bit on page 111 is referred to as “To Thine Own Self Be True” (p. 312).

The Essential Lenny Bruce was published in 1967 by Ballantine Books. My copy was from the sixth printing, in April of 1971.