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How to Talk Dirty and Influence People

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  1,943 ratings  ·  174 reviews
Castigated in his time for breaching such American conversational taboos as religion, sex, censorship, and racism, Lenny Bruce proved to be a pioneer in exposing hypocrisies, the impact of which still echoes on both sides of censorship controversies. This book and soon-to-be-released private tapes are sure to bring the extent of Bruce's influence into sharp focus. Photo ...more
Paperback, 188 pages
Published May 1st 1992 by Touchstone Books (first published 1965)
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May 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This was a rare book left behind by the overweight and greasy lead singer of a band I booked once when I used to do that. I read it immediately and furiously like a masturbating teenager adopting Bruce's jargon as my own and made many decisions based on what I thought Lenny Bruce would do. When those decisions went up in flames I thought to myself; "well, fuck, it could be worse, I coulda been Lenny Bruce". Reading this book at times made feel overwhelmingly dirty, disgusted and guilty (like ...more
May 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE who wants to know why comedians care about Bruce
There is an ebb and flow to the tale of classic comics. People are brought up on a basis similar to comets passing through the atmosphere. Someone dies and the comet appears a little quicker ("X lived in the shadow of Y who had paved the way for X to do their most famous bits ...").

Lenny Bruce's comet comes every 5 or ten years, it seems. He's been labeled a martyr and a genius and one of the most important comedians to ever come across a stage. Just a couple of weeks ago, another website was

I love Lenny Bruce and I respect what he was able to accomplish, regarding free speech and the position of the satirist in the modern world. Every comic- every. single. one.- who has come after is in some sense trailing in his wake.

I got really into reading this in high school. I relished noticing that other people got into it, too, and saw what happened when the American legal structure decided to try and take him down. A landmark case for defenders of free speech and dissent.

Only trouble is: a
Mark André
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: humor, biography
Funny & Pointed! Social Commentary.
Douglas Florian
Nov 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Page for page, line for line, semi-colon for semi-colon, the funniest book I've ever read.
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, nonfiction
Millenial left-leaning cucks such as myself are often credited for creating and proliferating the “Politically Correct Society” we supposedly find ourselves in, and I hate to perpetuate my own stereotype, but I must say I take offense to that. You see there’s a large sect of people who think we have something of an epidemic on our hands: a generation of coddled pussies. They believe we would rather live in a world of “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” than think critically or allow our ideas ...more
Molly Sanchez
Dec 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wow what a funny, absurdly relevant book. I could go on about this book but mostly I’m distracted by how much I want to go back in time and fuck the shit out of Lenny Bruce.
I’m sure he’d have the review end no other way.
Sep 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In this politically correct version of the world Lenny Bruce is just as offensive as he was back when he was being busted by the fuzz for being obscene. You see Lenny is an icon that paved the way for greats like Carlin, Pryor, Hicks, and even Sam Kinison. Words themselves aren't dirty. It's the image that they create. Lenny was ahead of his time and he paid dearly for it. It's unfortunate that Mr. Bruce doesn't get the respect that he deserves. He changed the way that people approached comedy ...more
Oct 18, 2014 rated it liked it
This book starts off well but toward the end slips into a mess of legal rhetoric that became dull so I'm giving it a 3 star rating. But there are valuable lessons to be derived here; such as what it is to be a jew vs. a gentile, the power of words both written and spoken under those people in power who are in charge of censorship, how sticking your neck out in society does not always go over well, and why it is important to remain stoic and objective in a climate of religion vs. politics.
Ned Rifle
Dec 02, 2012 rated it liked it
An entertaining book for anyone already kindly disposed towards Lenny though the only moment that it really teeters into (his usual) greatness is when he, disguised as a priest in order to collect money for a fake charity (fun guy), passes a Rabbi, who nods at him and he is forced to wonder whether they are always doing this, like bus drivers.
Carl Waluconis
Jul 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I read this book so long ago that I decided to revisit and read it again. The best parts are the bits, probably from some of his routines, which still cause laughing out loud. However, some of the material is dated, but valuable historically to show how times change. The justice system then was so bothered by him that they hounded him as badly as the Internet can now hound people. He provides court records that show him caught in a kind of theatre of the absurd over what one could or couldn't ...more
Jul 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Bruce was really the original shock comic. The things he discussed on stage just hadn’t been done before him. He talked about sex (a lot), drugs (a lot), and rallied against war and our government. He was arrested multiple times, debuted reentry to the UK due to his previous stand up routines there, and was the original “obscene” comic. While his some of his comedy may be rather tame by today’s standards, it can still shock. His memoir is no different. For those of us 50 and 60 years removed ...more
Dec 31, 2019 rated it liked it
Lenny Bruce is a major character on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel so I was curious. They use his material verbatim in the show.
Mar 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
I don't follow comics and only heard about Lenny Bruce from the show, The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel. I'm really glad I did because I loved this book. As he did on stage, Lenny snaps you back into a harsh reality with his funny but truthful words- it's like a slap in the face. I love it and I wish he were still around to see the improvement in societal norms. But I mean, not that much better.
Mar 07, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: yes
Recommended to Ginevra by: Dan
Lenny Bruce is a cultural icon, and like most cultural icons, I knew nothing about him before picking up this book. As it turns out, he was arrested multiple times for his comedy act, in which he pokes fun at Catholics, WWII, and himself. The books meanders through stories about his life and larger cultural issues, which makes it an interesting read. It also demonstrates what the limits of free speech in the 50's-60's which, as the bookcover points out, is still relevant today.

I gave it 4 stars,
Riley Vermilya
Jan 04, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
Ok. So this guy is a cultural icon. I consider myself well read and in touch with comedy and the entertainment world past and present, yet I had no clue who LB was. When I asked my mother if she knew who he was she said matter of fact, "He was a comedian/entertainer in the 50's and 60's and was a druggy." Ok...sounds like a fun read...NOT.

I did not race through this and love every minute of it. But, I did appreciate how Lenny broke the June and Ward pristine barriers of the 50's and spoke his
Feb 17, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: just-awful
Reading this book is just like watching a history of Lenny Bruce's standup act. It's funny and interesting in the beginning and then becomes bogged down in boring legal issues towards the end. Was he victimised by people in power? Sure, I can see that. But I don't need to read a verbatim account of the many trials. That stuff just doesn't interest me. My opinion - read the first half of the book and then give it to a Lenny Bruce fan.
Nov 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This new edition of Lenny Bruce's autobiography still bites, shocks, and provokes some nervous laughter and some belly laughs. I hadn't read it before, although I was a fan and saw one of his live performances many years ago. Much of the hypocrisy he pokes fun at is still around, and many of his lines are still hilarious. He changed comedy forever, and paid a high price for doing so.
2018 review:

I abandoned this because I read it already when I was going through my Lenny Bruce phase. I'm sure I enjoyed it then, so why repeat my reading? My reading list this year is way too long for repeats I'm not sure I want to repeat.
Jan 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book strongly influenced me. Lenny Bruce is an American icon who died for free speech. Read his own (hysterically funny) words and know his story in this age of political correctness.

"When you take away the right to say "fuck," you take away the right to say "fuck the government."
Jan 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Kinda meh. Celebrities writing books is kind of hit or miss, I think.
Nov 27, 2013 rated it it was ok
Not as funny as I would have liked. Dry read, despite the fact that Lenny Bruce lead a fascinating life.
Diana Hoyt
Jan 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
The live at Carnegie Hall recordings brought me to this book. His writing voice is unmistakable and peeking into his musings on the old neighborhood and his childhood set you up to truly understand how he is such a lovable iconoclast. Even if I might be getting fooled into mistaking his personae for himself. Sharp and hilarious but sometimes overwhelming. Nothing is off limits and the pace is break neck. His point of view is wildly interesting, intelligent, funny and blunt. There are some people ...more
Christopher Roth
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm surprised it took me so long to get around to reading this, and I've never read the thick posthumous biography which the introduction-writer to this volume scorns and dismisses. The first third to a half of "How to Talk Dirty" is riveting and hilarious--exactly what you wanted to know about Lenny's upbringing, his family, his cultural milieu, his military service, etc., all the way up to his marriage to Honey, more or less, and all of it was, to me, new material and new information. This ...more
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
I didn't like this book at all.

I am interested in the art of stand-up comedy, and how it can be used satirically to provide social commentary and criticism. The way it can be a way to speak truth to power, calling out hypocrisy, and making people think as much as make them laugh. Lenny Bruce was a pioneer in all that, especially with his criticism of religion, but crikey ... what an annoying writer!

The homophobia is hard to overlook, even taking into account that it's a book written in the
Dec 27, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jewish, funny, classic, memoir
Proud to say that I bought this book at City Lights in San Francisco.
There is a lot in this book that has shaped popular culture in ways that most of us under 70 or 80 don't really recognize or understand. Further research is needed.
I only gave this book three stars because the court transcripts were boring. Not sure why so much was included.

p. 30
"My first laugh. It was like the flash that I have heard morphine addicts describe, a warm sensual blanket that comes after a cold, sick rejection. I
Mar 09, 2018 rated it liked it
It's sad to think that the lessons Lenny Bruce taught have been forgotten so quickly. Those who applauded him when they were young, sit quietly now that they're old. It's fear-I think-who knows who's next? Gotta keep the finger away from you, no matter how many people you have to throw under the bus. Friends yesterday, monster's today.

I can't help but be happy that Lenny and George never had to see what we've become. Though, I doubt they'd be surprised.

But in the end, we're all guilty, man,
Dec 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"There's nothing sadder than an old hipster."

56 years later, and How to Talk Dirty and Influence People completely holds up. Not only is his humor as compelling as it was when first written, but his philosophy on free speech and humor are still crucial lessons. The great Lenny Bruce forced me to laugh, even as my heart broke at the unfairness of his (innumerable) legal circumstances. Comedy, and society at large, owe a great deal to Lenny Bruce and I hope we don't forget that.

"What does it mean
Dec 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: listened-to
In Lenny's world, women weren't part of the comedy conversation -- or any intellectual conversation, as far as I can tell. For this reason, listening to his story was jarring. His fight against prudish America was hard-fought, and one wishes he could be alive today to enjoy swearing and taking drugs. As it is, he seemed doomed: to be in pain, to suffer, to be beaten down. The whole time I was listening I was aware of how he died and I just kept seeing him as a spool unwinding.

As much as I wanted
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
I wanted to learn more about Lenny Bruce after watching "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" - he was born in my hometown on Long Island, and I wanted to know more about his background/history. While it was interesting reading some of his thoughts/observations about life in the 1950's/1960's and legal struggles, ultimately I found the book lacking. It didn't really contain a cohesive narrative, oftentimes anecdotal ramblings about his life and some of his bits printed on the page. I'm guessing I can find ...more
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Lenny Bruce, born Leonard Alfred Schneider, was a controversial American stand-up comedian, writer, social critic and satirist of the 1950s and 1960s. His 1964 conviction in an obscenity trial was also controversial, eventually leading to the first posthumous pardon in New York history.
“I am influenced by every second of my waking hour. ” 25 likes
“There is only what is and that's it. What should be is a dirty lie.” 21 likes
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