Vox Tablet

Divine Comedy

Fifty years after his famous midnight concert in Carnegie Hall, Lenny Bruce is as famous as ever. But he’s still much more a prophet than a comedian.

February 2, 2011
Lenny Bruce performing in the late 1950s.(Julian Wasser/Pix Inc./Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Lenny Bruce performing in the late 1950s.(Julian Wasser/Pix Inc./Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Like so many celebrated moments in show business, Lenny Bruce’s midnight concert at Carnegie Hall—held 50 years ago this weekend, it was an uninterrupted two-hour monologue on everything from the newly inaugurated president Kennedy to female anatomy—nearly didn’t happen. With New York blanketed under nearly three feet of snow, the comedian, young and relatively new to the scene, didn’t expect to find many people in the audience. But the house was packed, a testament to Bruce’s reputation as a sharp and controversial entertainer. And he left the stage a legend. But where does Bruce, with his long and associative ruminations, fit in America’s comedy cannon? And why doesn’t he have any disciples today? Tablet Magazine’s Liel Leibovitz says it’s because Bruce was always a prophet, not an entertainer. [Running time: 8:45.]

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Vox Tablet is Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast, hosted by Sara Ivry and produced by Julie Subrin. You can listen to individual episodes here or subscribe on iTunes.

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