LENNY AND HOWARD
LENNY AND HOWARD
The Following dialogue took place on the COMPUTERS & DREAMS BBS on 11-02-93 and 11-4-93 between SHLOMOH and CRYSTAL ROBINSON
How do you feel about Howard Stern?
Do you remember Lenny Bruce? How did you feel about him?
CR>>I don't listen to Howard Stern, and I find it difficult to take him
CR>>seriously. He seems to be in the business of being shocking. It
CR>>doesn't seem any more real than big time wrestling.
Howard taps into certain points of recognition in our minds which we normally try to supress because they are not nice or not politically correct, etc, and he makes us laugh when he intensifies these points of recognition in his own minds while we try to lower them in ours. Whatever "shocks" us about Howard is already deep inside ourselves. In reality, we are shocking oursleves when we hear him speak.
CR>>I was a child when Lenny Bruce was alive, so I didn't experience him
CR>>first hand. I've heard some of his material and read about him since,
CR>>and in retrospect he seemed to be a brave man in some ways. He seemed
CR>>to use inflammatory language within the context of bringing the public
CR>>awareness to issues of hypocrisy, racism, and other human and social
CR>>things. Being shocking always carries with it a certain disagreeability
CR>>(is that a word?). Maybe if he had presented his ideas without the
CR>>shock value, he would have had a wider appeal, maybe not. He seemed to
CR>>be something indicative of the times, when there was such a struggle to
CR>>break away from the hypocritical middle class values everyone was
CR>>How do you feel about Howard Stern and Lenny Bruce?
First, Lenny Bruce. Bruce's problems with society and the law were not caused so much by his language as by his ridiculing religion. * In those days (late 1950s/early 1960s), making fun of religion, country, family values was tabu. It was the POLICE that he pissed off more than anyone else. Law enforcement agencies of all sorts had problems with his humor. He was very avant guard for his time. He was also his own worst enemy. He was offered his own TV show if he would clean up the language and submit to media standards of the time. He refused. He also indulged heavily in drug use, especially heroin. He died a pauper. Very few people younger than a certain age even know who he was.
Howard Stern. He lives in a very different time from Lenny Bruce. Although he is a ground breaker, the ground that he has to break is softer. This age is more "anything goes" than Bruce's was. There is a tension going on now that was absent during Lenny's day. As much as people want anything nowadays, they don't want censorship. That's why the family-values-SHTIK doesn't work politically. Yeah. People want family values and they don't want their kids exposed to a lot of crap. But at the same time, they don't want to be told what to read or listen to. Whenever there is any outcry about Howard's evil influence on people, the answer is always "that's what the radio dial is for."
It's the same with Beavis & Butthead. Howard recently expressed his opinion about MTV's removal of Beavis & Butthead. His assessment rings true, as far as I am concerned. Beavis & Butthead do not make a kid set fire to his house. Movies and TV and radio do not do those things either.
Some people, be they children or adults, are emotionally unhinged to begin with. If the TV doesn't make them do things, then Satan makes them do it. Where do you draw the line? People are also sick and tired of having to be politically correct. Howard draws his audiences from rank and file people who want to be able to laugh at things that are basically not funny but can have a humorous aspect. I listen to Howard and there are times when I think that his humor is stupid or nasty. Then I don't laugh. But I don't say that he should be banned because I don't like a certain bit. There are times when his sexual humor just goes on and on and becomes stupid and boring. Then I change the station and listen to WPAT for a while. It's no big deal. I am a big boy. Neither Howard nor Satan can make me do anything I don't want to do. If people have a problem with Howard, they should not listen to him. A lot of his humor is right-on and cuts through the hypocrisy that makes us feel comfortable with ourselves and society. As to family values, parents should make sure that their underage kids do not listen to Howard. Its THEIR job, not his.
CR>>I agree. It's so clear that he has a faithful audience. If there are
CR>>people who want him, why shouldn't they have him? He doesn't hurt me
CR>>and I don't have to listen to him. I don't want anybody else to decide
CR>>what I should be exposed to.
Good for you.
Tidbits from Howard's show today."Don't trust Mayor Dinkins. He has blue eyes."
"New York, I have bad news for you. The sun is shining in New York today. That means black people won't come out to vote. Ever hear on the radio that when the weather is inclement, voter turnout is low. That means blacks don't like rain."
"Regarding Christy Witman for governor of New Jersey. You know I am backing her but it looks like she is going to lose to Florio. Well after all, think about it seriously. Do you all really want a governor with a vagina? Do you really believe that she could give good government every single day of the month?"
CR>>Wow. I know some people who would find this last remark quite
CR>>inflammatory, but I'm sure those people don't listen to Howard.
The very shockingness of it is what elicits the supressed laughter.
It allows us to lower our shield that protects us from oursleves. I know that every man who heard that remark identified with some aspect of a problem that he personally experienced with females. In everyday life it is not cool to make fun of the fact that women become changed several days each month. Yet men really still find it shocking, and have an aversion to that period of woman's differentness. It is expressed in legend and literature and surely in religion. When Howard asks his audience, do you want a governor who has a vagina, on some level he might as well be asking do you want a governor from Mars.
Whether people listen to Howard or not, it is obvious that his popularity resides in his ability to home in on certain deep rooted feelings and psychological "truths" that are common to us all. We may be very turned off to those feelings within oursleves but its easier to say we are turned off to Howard Stern.
* ADDENDUM [June 21, 2003] In their book, THE TRIALS OF LENNY BRUCE (Sourcebooks, Inc 2002), authors Ronald K.L. Collins and David M. Skover highlight the fact that the authorities were after Bruce for his mockery of religion, and used obscenity (four-letter words) as an excuse to hound him, since there are no blasphemy laws in the United States of America
Return To The Essay Index Return To The Literary Index Return To The Site Index Page Email Shlomoh