Source:IMDB– comedian and free speech champion Lenny Bruce.
Source:The New Democrat
“E! Mysteries & Scandals: Lenny Bruce (1998)
John Magnuson (friend), Julian Barry (playwrite), Hugh Hefner (friend), Richard Lewis, Mort Saull and Alan Douglas (producer) are among the people interviewed to discuss the career of Lenny Bruce.
If you know anything about Bruce then you know he got a really, really bad and unfair deal in life. With countless arrests, drug addiction and the threat of prison, Bruce was just unlucky and I think everyone agrees that he was unfairly prosecuted. This episode does a wonderful job at telling his story and how the court system really derailed what should have been a terrific career. The interviews with those who knew Bruce give you a great idea of what he was going through at the time and especially the one with Hefner who actually helped the comedian with his legal fees…
“Lenny Bruce TV Documentary”
Source:Paye Yer– from the Mysteries & Scandals documentary.
From Paye Yer
“One of the most influential stand-ups in history, Lenny Bruce burst onto the stage in the 1950s, forever changing comedy with his free-form, no-holds-barred performances. His caustic social commentary made him a legend. But it also made him a target for his critics and law enforcement, leading to an infamous 1964 arrest that put both Bruce and free speech on trial.
Bruce found his comedic voice early in his career
The son of a shoe clerk and a dancer, Long Island-born Leonard Schneider turned to entertainment following a teenage stint in the U.S. Navy during World War II and made his first appearance as an emcee at a Brooklyn nightclub shortly after his return from service.
Bruce’s early work was traditional, focusing on inoffensive material like celebrity parodies and impressions, which earned him bookings on radio variety programs. But Bruce soon grew dissatisfied. A fan of Beat generation artists and writers and a music devotee, he was deeply influenced by the free-flowing, improvisational nature of jazz, which he thought he could adapt for his stage performances, along with his own dark, satirical view of once-taboo topics like politics, religion, race, sex, and drugs (Bruce’s own drug addiction began during this period).”
Source:Biography– Lenny Bruce being arrested for speaking his mind.
Keep in mind that Lenny Bruce’s act came out in the 1950s and up until the early 1960s when we were still living in this Leave it to Beaver Pleasantville, where a lot of Americans are supposed to live on the farm, or out West, type of culture.
The 1950s idea of political correctness was not saying anything that went against this establishment. Where sex and divorce wasn’t talked about, where government officials were considered gods and looked up too, where women’s place was in the home and where gays place was in the closet, jail, or a mental institution. Where everyone at least was supposed to take their parents word as gold and if you questioned them, you were committing a sin.
Imagine if you’re Lenny Bruce and this is the culture you live and work in and your act is not ahead of its time, but you might be twenty-years ahead of your time. Your act would be mainstream in 1975 or so and to a certain extent in the late 1960s in certain places, but you’re starting out in the early and mid 1950s where America was still supposed to be Pleasantville.
You have a comedian in Pleasantville whose literally being arrested and you have cops going to his shows for talking about things that the supposed culture and establishment of the time sees as unacceptable. Even with our liberal free speech and first amendment rights.
Lenny Bruce, was using swear words in a culture where words like damn, hell, bitch, bastard, ass, words that were very mainstream by the mid 1970s or so, that were considered very sinful and immoral in 1955, or so.
Lenny, wasn’t getting in trouble for calling for people to be hurt, or murdered, or libeling people, things that aren’t protected by the First Amendment. Bruce was being harassed and prosecuted by government for using adult language. And talking about adult topics like marriage, divorce, sex and using adult language. All things that are protected by our first amendment.
I think the closest comedian to compare Lenny Bruce with would be George Carlin. Who came onto the scene about ten-years after Bruce. But they have similar styles and the ability to take on the system, or establishment and inform people that America and their country isn’t as perfect as their government wants them to think it is.
The America that the 1950s Political Correctness Police, had real issues and concerns that need to be dealt with. And that talking about things even adult subjects issues that all Americans do in private at least is okay to talk about those things in public as well. And besides, we have a First Amendment that protects this speech anyway.