Lenny Bruce was an American Comedian, born in 1925 New York. He was best known for his open and free style in comedy. A critical outlook on life containing satire, politics, religion, sex and vulgar. Someone who really went totally against what was wanted at the time and the comedy from his peers. His stood alone in comedy and in doing so he would often be arrested for his outspoken manner.
He paved the way for counterculture in comedy. Many comedians taking the form of obscenity and satire in comedy. Bill Hicks being well-known for his blunt and forward opinion surrounding culture and religion. He has since been voted one of the best stand-up comedians of all time.
Bruce was nothing short of a counterculture icon. Someone who would continue to head on stage night after night using his voice against the control of others. The one thing a comedian uses is their voice so to be told by others they can't use it is against the whole point of comedy. Today it is obscene to even think you can't use your voice for its intended action. But in the 60s, the time of free will and counter culture movements, it was a land before time.
Looking back on his comedy now it would be considered normal. However, for the period in time it was far from the norm. He would be blacklisted from television due to his open voice, making comments on culture surrounding him. Evoking an opinion and gathering attention, using his voice to speak on what he saw. Many today would say he was simply doing his job. But back then it wasn’t something you would do. Today you can go on Twitter and face backlash but to put not only your career but your main form of income, your life and your family’s life on the line. It would have been far from easy.
And due to his style of comedy he was branded a “sick comic” by many, yet this sickness being told was life. He was simple stating culture as it is as he saw it, and if that’s “sick” then it’s not the joke it’s the way you perceive it. It’s culture that’s the issue.
Bruce paved the way for culture as we know it. He gave his life for comedy, putting everything he knew on the line. And it really paved the way for how things are currently. Having an opinion and using that through comedy, a lot of praise and thanks has to go to Lenny Bruce.
Spontaneous and raw, taking on the fast-paced elements of jazz and free movement and transcending them into comedy. Using the age around him and the culture he saw as a way to use freedom and culture as a way to evoke an opinion. Nothing being censored, exactly what he thought when he thought it without a filter bubble. Filter bubbles that are associated with life today wasn’t in the line of Lenny Bruce. An obscure yet popular comedian rising in fame, transmitting messages according to the audience and news around him.
Lenny Bruce was arrested in April of 1964 for his ‘obscene performance’, following this was a publicised six-month trial. Along with Bruce, club owner of the night of the performance were also arrested. Both Bruce and club owner, Howard Solomon were both found guilty of obscenity on November 4th, 1964. The conviction caused a number of artists, writers and educators to come forward in support and petitions for Bruce. From Woody Allen, Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg to William Stryton and James Baldwin. Bruce was sentenced to four months in a workhouse in which he was set free on bail during the appeals process. However, he died before the appeal was decided. Solomon saw his conviction overturned. Bruce never had his conviction stricken but later received a full posthumous gubernatorial pardon.
Bruce was found dead on August 3rd, 1966, in the bathroom of his Hollywood Hills home. The official report of death was an accidental overdose cause by acute morphine poisoning. Bruce was then subject of the 1974 biographical film, Lenny directed by Bob Fosse, starring Dustin Hoffman. Based off the Broadway stage play of the same name, written by Julian Barry.
Lenny Bruce was ahead of his time. Today he would be considered another outspoken comedian, he paved the way for how we think, the way we think and how we consume culture. Many have a lot to thank for from Lenny Bruce. Being blacklisted by nearly every nightclub in the United States shows his tenacity for his comedy. The ability to go so far in opinion and speech no matter what. The fatality and ending of Lenny Bruce is nothing short of a sad one. In putting his career on the line his life was also one put at the edge.