Looking for Lenny – Q&A with Matt Amar
“Let me tell you the truth. The truth is, what is and what should be is a fantasy, a terrible-terrible lie that someone gave the people a long time ago”
Matt Amar: Ah yes! Nice research Flipflopsneeded! His most wonderful quote to me. This one and “In the halls of justice, the justice is in the halls”. This displayed a lot of sensitivity on his part; The ability seeing through that lie. This is what fascinated him and got him up on stage to speak and this attracted so many to him because they felt these words, but yet were unable to express them in public themselves. But shortly after Lenny, that all changed didn’t it?
Matt Amar is an American actor, writer, and producer. A native of Southern California, Amar’s first experience in front of the camera occurred in 1993 when Director Kevin J. Dobson picked him out of a crowd for a background scene in the television show “Acapulco Heat”. Although Amar was vacationing with friends at the time, he loved acting so much that he extended his stay to work on the show. In July 2010, Amar founded Leomar Pictures. Additional credits include Descension (2007), Hollywoodland (2006), and 5 Minutes (2005).
He’s latest role is producing documentary feature called “Looking for Lenny”.
Flipflopsneeded: What extent of information did you know about Lenny Bruce?
Matt Amar: I did know of Lenny Bruce before this project. Not to the extent that I can speak about him or his legacy now. I pretty much knew he was a comic who revolutionized comedy but now I understand the scope and range he has contributed in law, politics, sexuality and reshaping popular American culture. He is someone I think about often and I now see the levels to which he still reaches in our consciousness and current popular culture. He really was and continues to be The Shit!
Flipflopsneeded: I was fortunate enough to catch you filming “Finding Lenny” in its early stage. How has it matured after the final cuts?
Matt Amar: The film became something entirely different from what you saw early on. My role was removed from the film because certain networks and sales agents said, “Matt’s storyline is cool but it will never be distributed because he’s ”unknown” (this is what they call in the Bizz “Star F*****G”) So I agreed to have the main focus be on Lenny’s influence on today’s debate of freedom of speech. It’s a great film, I think!
Flipflopsneeded: I’m pretty surprised. What performance I saw was heart felt and engaging and it sucks too considering my next question. What was the hardest reenactment the early years or later down the line?
Matt Amar – Even though the film was recut without my storyline, I still did months of extensive research early on. I would pester Kitty over the phone “Kitty, what cologne did your Dad wear, did he chew gum? What kind of food did he like? What were his daily routines?” etc. She gave me intimate details about him and was very generous. She provided all the answers to me as an actor in order to prepare a role from the inside out. I read every book, transcribed most of his performances for about 1 1/2 years. I spoke with all of his living friends, associates etc. I would have been a formidable challenge to Dustin Hoffman!
Flipflopsneeded: Now, I’m dying to see the deleted scenes! Just curious, what team do you favor more, Manchester United or Liverpool?
Matt Amar: If I have to choose between Man U and Liverpool I’m going to have to choose Manchester United. I love watching Hernandez do his thing. Viva Mexico!
Flipflopsneeded: With Lenny Bruce being “Blacklisted” from many venues have you ever been ostracized in anyway?
Matt Amar: I mean Lenny Bruce put himself out there to be loved, applauded and yet torn, persecuted and eventually broken. I can only say that I think every human being feels a certain sense of being an ‘’outsider’’ at some point in his/her life. To answer your question, yes, I was a fat kid and I paid dearly for it. Society does not treat overweight individuals with any sense of compassion whatsoever. So from about 1986-1990 I was very overweight. If it weren’t for the fact that I excelled in baseball my self- esteem would have been in the toilet. I would have ended up on drugs and dead probably. It turned around in about 8th grade and finally as a freshman in High School. Those were the dark years in my life and still contribute to me still in the therapist’s chair today.
Flipflopsneeded: I caught a clip of Lenny on the Steve Allen show at his early years. I saw a piece of his act and noticed the same mannerisms Jerry Lewis kinda had…
Flipflopsneeded: Has Jerry Lewis ever mentioned biting his style or ever mentioned admiring Lenny?
Matt Amar: Yeah, that was earlier on in Lenny’s career. The head twitch and all…I can kind of see what you’re talking about. That was late night TV in the late 1950’s and censorship ruled so Steve Allen was risque for those times as well. The two (Bruce Lewis) were completely different in their styles. Lewis was a physical comic and played it safe and had a thriving career. I think Lenny could have chosen the same path and had a wonderful and safe career but he liked and enjoyed being who he was and crafting a style he thought was truthful and natural to how he viewed the world and his role in it. That’s why he’s credited with ”changing” satire not contributing and perpetuating an already safe, predictable form of it. This is why we’re paying homage to him 45 years later! Like Troy Duffy says in the film “He took it on the snout so others didn’t have to”.
Flipflopsneeded: Did Lenny think there were rivals?
Matt Amar: I think that if Lenny found anyone to be a rival it was most likely Mort Sahl and I’m sure the feeling is mutual. Mort was being more politically slanted but he was straight edged, middle-class and graduated from USC for Christ’s sake! Lenny always wanted to be associated with the cool, the Black jazz cats in the basement in his black trench. Mort stood on stage with a newspaper folded under his arm in a cashmere V-neck and flew the country with JFK. Mort had the ear of many people and I’m sure this intrigued Lenny but they were very different in their styles. I think Lenny wanted to reach the level of success Mort had reached and he has exceeded it because he took a huge risk and suffered for it. He died very young. He branded himself with cool and hip and that brand always comes back around down the generations as it has done with us in telling this story again.
Flipflopsneeded: When can we see “Looking Lenny”?
Matt Amar: Looking For Lenny screened in Paris France, April 15th at “Beat Generation Days” a showcase that highlighted the work and influence of 50’s & 60’s Beat poets Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Jim Haynes and others. It was developed by curator, Steve Krief. It was shown alongside James Franco’s film “Howl” about the obscenity trial for the publication of the poem by the same name that was dated pre-Lenny Bruce. Krief did a wonderful job at threading the two topics to demonstrate the influence Paris had on influencing the counter culture movement in America. The film is making its North American Premiere May 7th, 2011 at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival.
Flipflopsneeded: What’s the next project for you? I hear there’s an up and coming comedian from Spain that wraps himself up in rope? Any interest doing that documentary?
Matt Amar: I’m in talks for something really big! But unfortunately, I can’t discuss it right now. Yes, I will be developing a script about a Catalanian Comedian named “Pobrecito”. He was a legend in the seaside port of “Puerto Olimpico” He is a legend in Spain. He died a very untimely death…the result of a severe beating and….well I think it’s too graphic to discuss to this audience. But look for it. I am thinking about bringing in Ryan Yurada a fine Italian editor from Trieste Italy and Scott McGuckin, a well-known spirit Distiller from Doheny Ireland to Co-Produce. (this part is all an inside joke dear readers. Nothing here is factual)