The lion's share of his second full-length release, The Sick Humor of Lenny Bruce (1959), seems to have been gleaned from a bountiful cache of recordings that Bruce documented during a multi-week run at the infamous Ann's 440 Club in San Francisco in the spring of 1958. Following the path of his debut LP, the artist's irreverence -- which would by most modern accounts be considered inflammatory, racist, sexist, bigoted, and otherwise socially unacceptable -- is captured on the stage as well as on the inventive studio-prepared piece of "poetry in jazz" mental wordplay titled "Psychopathia Sexualis." His love affair with recent news is evident on "Non Skeddo Flies Again," as he retells his warped version of the true-life events of November 1, 1955. On that day John "Jack" Gilbert Graham planted a bomb that killed 44 passengers on United Airlines Flight 629 -- one of whom was the killer's own mother, Mrs. Daisie King. On the other hand, "The Kid in the Well" contains ageless insight, truths, and nonsensical ironies that exist in racial and ethnic stereotyping. Yet the real kicker is the hapless physician who expects to be paid for services rendered -- even if that assistance happens to be saving "The Kid in the Well." Bruce's love of all things cinematic fuels his explanation of the Third Reich's rise to power in one of his best-known and oft-cited routines, "Adolf Hitler and the M.C.A." Although the acronym -- which stands for "Mine Campf [sic] Arises" -- does require a bit of artistic liberty, it is no less riveting.
Another episode ripped from the pages of history is the meeting of the minds on "Ike, Sherm and Nick," the parties in question being concurrent President of the United States Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ike's White House Chief of Staff Sherman Adams, and then Vice President Richard M. Nixon. The topic is the so-called "Overcoat Scandal" that occurred in 1958 after a House subcommittee revealed Adams had been given a vicuña overcoat and pricey oriental rug from a Beantown textile magnate that was under the thumb of the Federal Trade Commission. In true Bruce style, it is the interaction between the personalities -- as portrayed in a closed-door meeting -- that flies in the face of the conventional representation of the men as shown in the media. The message behind "Religions, Inc." remains as vital in the 21st century as it ever has been. It concludes the album with a jaundiced monologue that deals with the financial considerations of the world's faith-based organizations. The confab includes all the major heads of well-known churches as they treat their "calling" in the same manner that used car or aluminum siding salesmen would. In 1991, Fantasy coupled The Sick Humor of Lenny Bruce (1959) with its predecessor, Interviews of Our Times (1958), for Lenny Bruce Originals, Vol. 1, likewise amending the two LPs with "Three Message Movies," which had initially surfaced on Bruce's American (1961) project. ~ Lindsay Planer