Lenny Bruce

Interviews of Our Times

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Groundbreaking satirist Lenny Bruce's debut solo long-player, Interviews of Our Times (1958), is more akin to a compilation of older bits rather than a standard album of freshly mined material, particularly as the humorist's record label -- the San Francisco Bay Area-based Fantasy imprint -- had previously issued "Interview with Dr. Sholem Stein" as well as "Shorty Petterstein Interview." These two mocked-up dialogues initially surfaced on the simply titled EP Two Interviews some three years earlier in 1955. Neither were overtly credited to Bruce, but rather to the erstwhile participants Henry Jacobs and Woody Leafer. However, the majority of the platter was culled from recordings of the artist's appearances at various SoCal nightclubs. Commencing the effort is the truncated rendition of "The Interview" from the Peacock Lane in Hollywood circa January of 1958. Listeners find a self-proclaimed "good-natured slob," who just so happens to also be a junkie and jazz musician, being interrogated for a job by none other than Lawrence Welk. Welk's litigious nature would result in his name being edited out. Some folks just can't take a joke. A longer version -- with a copious back-story -- can be heard as "The Sound" from the posthumous Bruce project Thank You Masked Man (1972). The brief "Djinni in the Candy Store" is an innocuous bit that takes place in a Jewish owned and operated Big Apple confectionary. Although the specific race doesn't play much of a part in the delivery or punch line, it foreshadows the innocent and all-ages yarns spun by comedian Myron Cohen.

"Enchanting Transylvania" comes from a stint Bruce did at Ann's 440 Club in San Francisco circa April of 1958. He renovated the hopelessly dated -- yet ever popular -- monster B-movie genre with references to Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi as a family of vampires who have come to rest their weary fangs and seek lodging. The studio recordings include the aforementioned character-driven "Interview with Dr. Sholem Stein," "Shorty Petterstein Interview," and "The March of High Fidelity." The latter title is a witty and thoroughly inventive concept piece centering on the fetish-like, addictive behavior inherent in the audiophile subculture -- whose denizens were just beginning to surface in mainstream society in the late '50s. While attempting to not spoil the gag within this review, it is safe to report that the 14-second "Maria Ouspenskaya Interview" is a brilliantly insightful poke at a given acclaimed and oft self-aggrandizing Russian-born and Oscar-nominated actress. Again, Bruce goes culture dumpster-diving as he conjures her recurring roles as Maleva -- the archetypical aged Gypsy soothsayer -- in the low-budget horror flicks The Wolf Man (1941) and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943). Subtleties such as these are all too often overlooked or misinterpreted when assessing Bruce's legacy. On initial vinyl pressings of Interviews of Our Times, the track "Father Flotski's Triumph" was presented in a decidedly truncated version, presumably due to the constraints of the LP running time. As presented on subsequent CD editions, the nearly eight-minute routine -- a further cinematic takeoff -- is offered in all of its unexpurgated glory.

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