How Luke Kirby Created a “Fairy Godmother“ Version of Lenny Bruce for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – Vanity Fair

Have you heard from other people who remember this era of stand-up? Like you’re saying, like there are a lot of people who knew Lenny and you know, performed in this way who are still around.

Yeah. Occasionally we’ll hear from people who were around or, you know, definitely from fans of Lenny Bruce. Some, some comedians have come forward, espousing the virtues of it.

You get to the end of this season and it’s not just that in this final episode you’re performing this real appearance that you can look up on YouTube, him doing the actual “All Alone” song. But you’re singing, it’s this vulnerability moment. Did that feel like you kind of had to work your way up to that? Did that feel like kind of the most work you’d had to do to embody him at that point?

Yes, because it was so specific. There is the facsimile aspect of doing something that’s already been done and kind of wanting to—it was a fun exercise to get to adhere to all of the choreography that was there. I actually switched the, I sort of flipped the screen so I could watch it like a mirror.

Oh, so you could, like a mirror exercise in acting class.

Yeah. Because otherwise I was just sort of looking at it and going like, Oh wait, no, that’s his left hand. That’s moving, oh no that—you know. But then, you know, to kind of take it a little bit further, you know, with where is Lenny at? Where was Lenny Bruce at when he wrote the song? Honey had split, you know, so there’s a big degree of truth to what Lenny said. And I’ve actually always been fond of that Steve Allen clip. I was sort of amazed the first time I saw it, I thought he was like, Oh, I had no idea that Lenny was such a kind of a Jacques Brel. He had this whole other aspect and it was such an emotional thing to watch, and you really feel his sorrow about it and his kind of having cast the die of regret into his life about losing a person like that. I think it’s really a magical piece.

Did you have a stand-up comedy, had you followed it before all this came to you? You’ve been an actor for a long time, but I know that doesn’t always overlap with stand-up.

Yeah. Yeah. No, I’m not, I mean, I definitely never practiced it. I’ve gone to see it a few times. It always is really super nerve-racking. You know, they’re going to talk about me and they’re all gonna laugh, which is what has happened every time. In fact, I just went last week to some stand-up and I got picked on excessively.

Oh, really?

It felt that way.

Did the person know that you played Lenny Bruce on television or was this by chance?

No, it’s just by chance. I just, I went with my wife and nephew to see some stand-up and you know, that she just zoned in on me. It was fun. It wasn’t horrible.

You have that vibe about you.

Yeah, I guess exactly. The glow of shame.

When you’re doing his bits on set, or you’re performing on a stage, are you trying to get laughs from the people who are there watching it or is that impossible because you’re doing multiple takes and the energy is so different from if you’re actually doing stand-up,

It’s really hard to go for rhythm that way, just because it’s unpredictable, sometimes you’re doing takes with no laughter, which is the most absurd thing to do. Especially after having done like five takes where everyone is laughing. The casting directors find the best actors to do background and be in these clubs. I’ve watched them sit there for 12 hours straight smoking these wretched herbal cigarettes and you know, drinking this kind of crummy, syrupy water in the guise of Scotch or whatever. And they just like take after take, sit there with their eyes on you and listen and laugh at this material and it’s really a marvel to kind of behold the work they’re doing. And it makes it easier in the moments where you are going for laughter.

Leave a Comment