Lenny Bruce on the Essence of Satire

“But here’s the thing on comedy. If I were to do a satire on the assassination of John Foster Dulles, it would shock people. They’d say, “That is in heinous taste.” Why? Because it’s fresh. And that’s what my contention is: That satire is tragedy plus time. You give it enough time, the public, the reviewers, will allow you to satirize it, which is rather ridiculous, when you think about it. And I know, probably 500 years from today, someone will do a satire on Adolf Hitler, maybe even showing him as a hero, and everyone will laugh. There’ll be good fellowship. Hitler’ll be just a figure. And yet if you did it today, it would be bad. Yet today I could satirize Napoleon Bonaparte, because, y’know, he’s gone.”