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Lenny Bruce

Lenny Bruce
This nOde last updated February 26th, 2004 and is permanently morphing...
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Bruce, Lenny

Bruce, Lenny
American comedian whose scathing, often obscene humor strongly influenced later young comics.

Comedy and Comedians

The only honest art form is laughter, comedy. You can't fake it try to fake three laughs in an hour-ha ha ha ha ha-they'll take you away, man. You can't.
Lenny Bruce (1925-66), U.S. satirical comedian. The Essential Lenny Bruce, "Performing and the Art of Comedy" (ed. by John Cohen, 1967).

Comedy and Comedians

Today's comedian has a cross to bear that he built himself. A comedian of the older generation did an "act" and he told the audience, "This is my act." Today's comic is not doing an act. The audience assumes he's telling the truth. What is internal linktruth today may be a damn lie next week.
Lenny Bruce (1925-66), U.S. satirical comedian. The Essential Lenny Bruce, "Performing and the Art of Comedy" (ed. by John Cohen, 1967).


The thing with Catholicism, the same as all religions, is that it teaches what should be, which seems rather incorrect. This is "what should be." Now, if you're taught to live up to a "what should be" that never existed-only an occult superstition, no proof of this "should be"-then you can sit on a jury and indict easily, you can cast the first stone, you can burn Adolf Eichmann, like that!
Lenny Bruce (1925-66), U.S. satirical comedian. The Essential Lenny Bruce, "Religions Inc." (ed. by John Cohen, 1967).


All my humor is based upon destruction and despair. If the whole world were tranquil, without disease and violence, I'd be standing on the breadline right in back of J. Edgar Hoover.
Lenny Bruce (1925-66), U.S. satirical comedian. The Essential Lenny Bruce, "Performing and the Art of Comedy" (ed. by John Cohen, 1967).


Satire is tragedy plus internal linktime. You give it enough time, the public, the reviewers will allow you to satirize it. Which is rather ridiculous, when you think about it.
Lenny Bruce (1925-66), U.S. satirical comedian. The Essential Lenny Bruce, "Performing and the Art of Comedy" (ed. by John Cohen, 1967).

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"Take away the right to say 'fuck' and you take away the right to say 'fuck the government'."
Lenny Bruce mugshot

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He is famously arrested at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco on 4 October 1961 for violating the California Obscenity Code. He had said the word "cocksucker" in part of his routine. He is later acquitted. (Paul Krassner has pointed out that in 1982 Meryl Streep won an Academy Award for her performance in "Sophie's Choice", in which she says the same word to less humorous effect.)

Arrested on 24 October 1962 for obscenity ("Where is that dwarf mother-fucker?") at the Troubador Theatre in Hollywood, California.

His subsequent trial for obscenity in San Francisco is now considered to be a landmark in the fight to preserve the freedoms set forth in the First Amendment. Lenny's attorney is Albert Bendich, notable for having earlier won a victory for Allen Ginsberg in the obscenity case over the poem 'Howl'.

Arrested in April of 1964 for obscenity at the Cafe A Go-Go in New York City. Tiny Tim is the warm-up act. Allen Ginsberg assists in drawing up a petition protesting the "use of New York obscenity law in harrassment of controversial social satirist Lenny Bruce." Among the many who signed the petition were: James Baldwin, Gregory Corso, Bob Dylan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti Dick Gregory, Joseph Heller, Henry Miller, Peter Orlovsky and Gore Vidal.

His last performance is on 26 June 1966 at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, playing on the same bill as Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention.

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The internal linkBeatles - _Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band_ 12" (1967) cover art depicts Lenny Bruce, top row, fourth from left.

Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band

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Lenny Bruce (October 13, 1925- August 3, 1966), born Leonard Alfred Schneider, was a controversial American stand-up internal linkcomedian and satirist of the 1950s and 60s.


Bruce's contributions helped change stand-up comedy from the practice of telling jokes to an internal linkintelligent form of entertainment.

His performances took the form of stories, skits, and commentary, occasionally obscene (he coined the term T & A). This penchant for obscene material caused his career to be plagued by constant trouble with the internal linklaw. His 'obscenity' trials are now considered to be significant benchmarks in the case for preservation of First Amendment freedoms.

Bruce's comedic mission seemed to be an opening of dirty toilet humor, arguing that, as he said, "If something disgusts you about the human body, complain to the manufacturer."

Lenny Bruce gave an historic performance at Carnegie Hall in 1961, covering the same ground that had made him famous - not only the so-called toilet humor, but also politics, religion, the law, race, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Catholic Church. Interestingly, Bruce made a reference to the social effects of automation, something that Martin Luther King, Jr. and Valerie Solanus did also around the same time.

Trials and tribulations

Less than a year later, Bruce was arrested for 'obscenity' in San Francisco, California. Although the jury acquitted Bruce, other communities began arresting him when he would appear.

By the end of 1963, he had become a target of the Manhattan district attorney, Frank Hogan, working closely with Francis Cardinal Spellman. In 1964, he appeared at the Cafe Au Go internal linkGo in Greenwich Village. Undercover police detectives witnessed the show. Shortly afterwards, he was arrested and charged with 'obscenity. In a widely-publicized case, he was convicted after a six-month-long trial, in spite of testimony or petitions of support from write'rs such as Jules Feiffer, Norman Mailer, William Styron, and James Baldwin. His case was appealed, and he was to never serve his four-month sentence.

In his later performances, Bruce was known for relating the details of his relationship with the police directly in his comedy routine; such action helped encourage the police to eye him with maximum scrutiny. These performances often included rants about his court battles over obscenity charges, and the right to free speech.

He was internal linkbanned outright from several U.S. cities, and in 1962 was banned from performing in internal linkAustralia. By 1966 he had been blacklisted by nearly every comedy club in the U.S., as owners feared prosecution for obscenity. His last performance was on June 26, 1966 at the Fillmore in San Francisco, on a bill also featuring Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention.

Posthumous events

Bruce was a heavy user of drugs such as heroin. He was found dead in his Hollywood Hills bathroom, with a needle in his arm. Lenny Bruce is interred in the Eden Memorial Park Cemetery in Mission Hills, California.

The 1974 film _Lenny_ (vhs/ntsc)atomjacked inventory cache, starring Dustin Hoffman, presents a fictionalized account of Bruce's life. Eddie Izzard portrayed the comedian in the 1991 stage show Lenny. Similarly, the comedian inspired songs by Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Nico, and R.E.M..

On December 23, 2003, Bruce was pardoned by governor George Pataki for the obscenity conviction arising from his New York appearance. It was the first posthumous pardon in the state's history. Unfortunately the so-called land of the free still has a stick up their ass about dirty words, mainly due to christian infiltration and brainwashing.


The real story of our times is seldom told in the horse-puckey- filled memoirs of dopey, self-serving presidents or generals, but in the outrageous, demented lives of guys like Lenny Bruce, internal linkGiordano Bruno, Scott Fitzgerald--and Paul Krassner. The burrs under society's saddle. The pains in the ass.

-Harlan Ellison on Lenny Bruce

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