Lenny Bruce on Authority and the Origin of Law

Something about what’s been going on the past few days reminded me of this classic Lenny Bruce routine:

I figure, when it started, they said, “Well, we’re gonna have to have some rules” — that’s how the law starts, out of that fact. 

“Let’s see. I tell you what we’ll do. We’ll have a vote. We’ll sleep in Area A. Is that cool?”

“OK, good.”

“We’ll eat in Area B. Good?”


“We’ll throw a crap in area C. Good?”


Simple rules. So, everything went along pretty cool, you know, everybody’s very happy. One night everybody was sleeping, one guy woke up, Pow! He got a faceful of crap, and he said:

“Hey, what’s the deal here, I thought we had a rule: Eat, Sleep, and Crap, and I was sleeping and I got a faceful of crap.”

So they said,

“Well, ah, the rule was substantive –” 

See, that’s what the Fourteenth Amendment is. It regulates the rights but it doesn’t do anuthing about it. It just says, That’s where it’s at.

“We’ll have to do something to enforce the provisions, to give it some teeth. Here’s the deal: If everybody throws any crap on us while we’re sleeping, they get thrown in the craphouse. Agreed?”

“Well, everybody?”


“But what if it’s my mother?”

“You don’t understand. Your mother would be the fact. That doesn’t have anything to do with it. It’s just the rule, Eat, Sleep and Crap. Anybody throws any crap on us they get thrown in the craphouse. Your mother doesn’t enter into it at all. Everybody gets thrown in the craphouse — priests, rabbis, they’ll all go. Agreed?”

“OK, agreed.” 

OK. Now, it’s going along very cool, guy’s sleeping. Pow! Gets a faceful of crap. Now he wakes up and sees he’s all alone, and he looks, and everyone’s giving a big party. He says,

“Hey, what’s the deal? I thought we had a rule, Eat, Sleep, and Crap, and you just threw a faceful of crap on me.”

They said,

“Oh, this is a religious holiday, and we told you many times that if you’re going to live your indecent life and sleep all day, you deserve to have crap thrown on you while you’re sleeping.”

And the guy says,

“Bullshit, the rule’s the rule.”

And this guy started to separate the church and the state, right down the middle, Pow! Here’s the church rule, and here’s the federal rule. OK, everything’s going along cool, one guy says,

“Hey, wait a minute. Though we made the rule, how’re we going to get somebody to throw somebody in the craphouse? We need somebody to enforce it — law enforcement.”

Now they put up this sign on the wall, “WANTED, LAW ENFORCEMENT.” Guys applied for the job:

“Look. Here’s our problem, see, we’re trying to get some sleep and people keep throwing crap on us. Now we want somebody to throw them right in the craphouse. And I’m delegated to do the hiring here, and, ah, here’s what the job is.

“You see, they won’t go in the craphouse by themselves. And we all agreed on the rule, now, and we firmed it up, so there’s nobody gets out of it, everybody’s vulnerable, we’re gonna throw them right in the craphouse.

“But ya see, I can’t do it cause I do business with these assholes, and it looks bad for me, you know, ah . . . so I want somebody to do it for me, you know? So I tell you what: Here’s a stick and a gun and you do it — but wait till I’m out of the room. And, wherever it happens, see, I’ll wait back here and I’ll watch, you know, and you make sure you kick ’em in the ass and throw ’em in there.

“Now you’ll hear me say alotta times that it takes a certain kind of mentality to do that work, you know, and all that bullshit, you know, but you understand, it’s all horseshit and you just kick em in the ass and make sure it’s done.”

So what happens? Now comes the riot, or the marches — everybody’s wailing, screaming. And you got a guy there, who’s standing with a short-sleeved shirt on and a stick in his hand, and the people are yelling, “Gestapo! Gestapo!” at him:

“Gestapo? You asshole, I’m the mailman!”

That’s another big problem. People can’t separate the authority and the people who have the authority vested in them. I think you see that a lot in the demonstrations. Cause actually the people are demonstrating not against Vietnam — they’re demonstrating against the police department. Actually, against policemen. Because they have that concept — that the law and the law enforcement are one.