Lenny Bruce

Trials of Lenny Bruce

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This disc -- an audio companion to the book of the same name -- is hosted by legendary media commentator and critic Nat Hentoff. In addition to Hentoff's long list of professional credits, he was a friend and supporter of not only Lenny Bruce the man, but of the First Amendment rights for which the satirist so vigorously lobbied -- even as Bruce's very freedom was hanging in the balance. The story is relayed chronologically through Hentoff's own narration, first person interviews, quotes, not to mention rare and never-before-issued recordings of Bruce both on-stage and during his trial. In fact, it is revealed that Bruce taped the court proceedings himself via a recorder that he literally had installed into his attaché case. While not a documentary of Bruce's life per se, the story of the Trials of Lenny Bruce (2003) is undeniably a personal one. Immediately established is "The Lie" -- which states that any American should be able to say words (that might be considered by some as profane) "if," according to Bruce, "you [also] do them." To which he concludes "respectability means 'under the covers'." The artist definitely took it upon himself to lift that veil whenever and wherever possible. And the price that he paid was to be blacklisted from performing in many metropolitan American cities, not to mention arrested nine times and misrepresented in the vast majority of his court cases. Among the legendary live appearances are excerpts from his 1959 guest shot on the Steve Allen Show when he discussed the type of language that offends his sensibilities. Other examples of the master honing his incendiary and acerbic craft include "To Is a Preposition, To Come Is a Verb," "Blah (x3)," "Las Vegas Tits and Ass," "Thank You Masked Man," and "Religions, Inc." Couched between them, Hentoff sets the stage with commentary from Bruce's ACLU attorney Albert Bendich, as well as Ronald Ross a Los Angeles-based Deputy District Attorney who oversaw the second "People vs. Bruce" obscenity case, Bay Area columnist Ralph J. Gleason and Martin Garbus who was on Bruce's legal defense when he was busted at the Greenwich Village boho hangout Café Au Go-Go. The most striking and riveting audio was recorded at the trial itself as attorney "Richard Kuh Cross-Examines Richard Gilman," "Kuh Questions Dorothy Kilgallen," and "Kuh Rails Against Rev. Forrest Johnson." Yet even at his lowest point, Bruce maintained his sense of humor as evidenced by the completely off-color (no pun intended) "Conviction/Thurgood Marshall" shtick that holds as much biting insight in the 21st century as it did during the middle of the 20th. The long lasting reverberations of boundaries -- legal, social, comedic and otherwise -- are commented upon by those who loved and knew him, namely Paul Krassner, George Carlin and Hugh Hefner, as well as Margaret Cho who readily considers herself as one of Bruce's benefactors saying she doesn't "want to end up like him, but I want to be like him."

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time
1
0:40
2
1:08
3
0:23
4
0:07
5
0:34
6
0:43
7
2:00
8
0:51
9
0:44
10
0:52
11
0:22
12
2:21
13
2:58
14
1:53
15
2:49
16
0:41
17
2:28
18
3:45
19
2:53
20
1:10
21
1:17
22
2:34
23
0:24
24
4:07
25
0:24
26
0:42
27
4:45
28
1:49
29
1:52
30
2:37
31
2:15
32
1:28
33
1:05
34
0:23
35
1:12
36
1:28
37
0:43
38
3:19
39
1:23
40
1:48
41
1:52
42
0:36
43
0:30
44
1:09
45
1:19
46
1:39
47
1:15
48
0:40
blue highlight denotes track pick