Years ago, I wrote a short story called "The Institute for Lenny Bruce Studies." The idea was that a wealthy Jewish donor created a think-tank on a sleepy New England campus, dedicated to jump-starting the "secular Jewish prophethood" that inspired him as a young radical. Institute Fellows would come from the fields of academics, politics, religion and stand-up comedy, and the two-year curriculum would include the poetry of Allen Ginsberg, the songs of Bob Dylan and, of course, the routines of Lenny Bruce.
He has been a rabble-rousing Roman poet and a choreographer struggling with a recalcitrant young ballerina, a doctor battling encroaching age and hospital bureaucracy and a Nazi saboteur hanging from the Statue of Liberty by his fingernails. If you know who he is, you are a serious student of film history. If not, then you may ask – as the title of the new documentary opening on Nov. 23 bluntly puts it — “Who Is Norman Lloyd?”