Life Imitates Underworld

Via The New Yorker, I see that actor and magician Steve Cuiffo will be creating a simulacrum of the infamous night in which comedian Lenny Bruce was hauled off to jail for saying “cocksucker” on stage.

On a recent frigid afternoon, Cuiffo confined his rehearsal to his one-bedroom apartment, just off Bleecker Street. He stood beside his lumpily made bed, wearing a black Nehru jacket, as Bruce did, and Adidas sweatpants, as Bruce didn’t. Photos of the comedian onstage were taped to the wall, and late-career footage from “The Lenny Bruce Performance Film” played on a laptop nearby. Cuiffo has been performing various Bruce bits for five years, but this challenge was of a different order. “Whatever it is about Lenny that I latched on to, it’s a physical pleasure to do him at this length, to work him into my muscle memory,” he explained. “It’s a way of bringing all of him back, and maybe, for the audience, bringing back something of that period, too. I’m even hoping for snow on the fourth.”

Bruce, of course, is one of the many true-to-life individuals that Don DeLillo lightly (or not so lightly, as the case may be) fictionalizes in his monstrous classic Underworld.

Here’s a snippet of James Wolcott praising DeLillo’s appropriation of Bruce from Harold Bloom’s book on Don DeLillo:

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