'The Trials of Lenny Bruce'

So to Speak: The Free Speech PodcastEp. 8
'The Trials of Lenny Bruce'

His trials began with a police bust at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco in October 1961, and ended with an obscenity conviction in New York in November 1964. Stand-up comedy legend Lenny Bruce underwent 35 months--1,062 days--of nonstop persecution and prosecution for the content of his act.

It was 50 years ago this month that an autopsy would report that Bruce died of an overdose of morphine on August 3, 1966. But anyone who knows his story knows it was more complicated than that. Billboard's Phil Spector wrote in the magazine's obituary for Bruce that "America's foremost, and certainly most truthful, philosopher died from an overdose of police."

This episode of "So to Speak: The Free Speech Podcast" commemorates the 50th anniversary of Bruce's death. We are joined by Ron Collins, a scholar at the University of Washington School of Law who co-authored with David Skover "The Trials of Lenny Bruce: The Fall and Rise of an American Icon," which carefully documents Bruce's career and free speech struggles.

This episode explores the life, trials, and legacy of a man whom George Carlin said "opened the doors for all the guys like me," and in so doing, became a martyr for free speech in comedy and art.


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