The Gentle Cemetery

The Name Of This Site the tattood arm of Lenny Bruce

Updated: 31st May 2022

Lenny Bruce had a bit – you can find it on Spotify as The Steve Allen Show (skip to 1:30) – where he talks about having a tattoo and how, as a Jew, he therefore couldn't be buried in a Jewish cemetery. His aunty berates him for it:

"Arrrgh! Arrrgh! Look vat you did! You ruined your arm! You can't be buried in a Jewish cemetery." I said, "Meema, what are you nudgin' me for? They'll cut this arm off, and they'll bury it in a Gentile cemetery."

When I was thinking of names for this site, I was thinking of comedians, and I thought have having something associated with Lenny Bruce because he's kind of the godfather of the comedy I like. For some reason that bit of his came to mind, and from there the phrase "Gentile Cemetery".

I liked it; the length of it, the rhythm of it. But I didn't like the idea of actually using the word "gentile". That word seemed too attached to a certain Jewish outlook and sensibility that Lenny Bruce had but I don't.

To be honest, the first time I heard this bit was probably the first time I'd ever heard the word "gentile" and my first impression was that it must be something like "genteel" or "gentle". So it struck me thinking back that mishearing the word in this way might work. I didn't like "The Genteel Cemetery" so I went with "The Gentle Cemetery". It kind of made me smile that someone might mishear it this way. Which made it almost like a pun.

There's also another reason that it stuck. One of the things I want to do with this site is explore what comedy is and how it works. I guess I felt it would be nice if the name embodied something like that, which I think Gentle Cemetery does.

The theory I am interested in is Benign Violation Theory which for me is about the juxtaposition of feelings of danger with feelings of safety. So in that way the word gentle represents the safety (ie. something benign) and the word cemetery represents danger (ie. the violation bit).

Whilst not exactly a joke, it did seem to fit.

Also comedy seems to be awash with the imagery of death and killing etc and a cemetery has all those connotations, so there's that...

Now, you could say, "That's clearly a lot of post-hoc rationalisation," and you'd be right. But if there's one thing you need to know about me it's that I'm a big fan of post-hoc rationalisation.

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