Sudden Glory

From Nov ’09 Spotlight: “Mentsch tracht, Gott lacht.” warns the old Yiddish proverb (“Man plans, God laughs.”). But the Chicago Humanities Festival is daring to call His bluff anyway, organizing an entire month of programs on the subject of laughter. And yes, of course, Jews are everywhere on the schedule, serving as both practitioners of comedy and scholars thereof.


Barry Sanders was a college student when he first heard Lenny Bruce perform, but that experience determined his future. He bookends his erudite 1995 critique Sudden Glory: Laughter as Subversive History with two Jews, opening with Isaac and closing with Bruce.

In chapter one, a woman in her 90s, told she will soon bear a child, starts laughing. And so, “God confers on the son of Abraham and Sarah his Hebrew name Yitzchak, which means ’he laughs.’” (Page 44) This was the first child ever born of a Jewish mother, and laughter has been part of our tradition ever since.

In chapter eight, set many centuries later: “Without Lenny Bruce, without this wild man of laughter, all of that political activism [of the 60s] would have taken longer to burst forth. He put ideas in the air; he planted seeds of change.” (Page 262)

Click HERE to read my review of Lenny, the Lenny Bruce BioPic starring Dustin Hoffman that received six Oscar nominations in 1975.

AND MORE: The 2009 Chicago Humanities Festival opened on Oct 17 and will run through November 15. For more information, call (312) 661-1028. To purchase tickets online, visit:

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