NBC: Lenny Bruce on The Steve Allen Show in 1959

Lenny Bruce

Source: This piece was originally posted at The Daily Review

Steve Allen, right before he brought on Lenny Bruce, made a great comment and I realize he was being humorous, but he was damn right on it. He said and I’m paraphrasing, ‘we should just offend everybody so we don’t have worry about offending anyone. And Lenny Bruce is the comedian to do that.’ Because that is exactly what they meaning Steve Allen and Lenny Bruce, were talking about back then. Which was censorship and political correctness, but not from the Left, (the Far-Left really) but the Right. Lenny Bruce, had a message and his own act and issues he wanted to talk about. And he also believed in free speech, which all comedians really should. And he couldn’t give a damn if his act offended people, especially when it was just entertainment anyway.

Comedy, is not for oversensitive tight asses, who think fat jokes are anti-obesity. Or gay jokes are automatically homophobic, or religious jokes Christian, Muslim, whoever else, that person is some bigot towards that religious group. Comedy, is exactly that, a way to critique life and people in life. Including groups and even talk people and groups and their shortcomings. Not to say that every member of whatever group, has some clear flaw, but to point out humorous flaws about members of certain groups and even flaws that some groups carry as a group. The political correctness movement of the 1950s, didn’t want to hear jokes about sex, religion and sure as hell didn’t want to hear adult language. Especially since they still saw adults as kids for the most part who needed to be babysat.

The political correctness warriors of the 1950s, didn’t want to hear jokes about sex, because they believe sex didn’t exist or something. They didn’t want to hear jokes about narcotics, because they were on alcohol or marijuana highs and believed narcotics simply didn’t exist. Lenny Bruce, challenged the political correctness establishment in America and paid a hell of a price for it. All he was about was free speech and talking about issues and using adult language even that most Americans, at least outside of the Bible Belt used anyway, but did it in public. Did it in a way that simply wasn’t done back then for the most part and didn’t become mainstream at all, at least until the late 1960s. He was a true American, because he was an individual who felt the freedom to be himself. And express how he felt about issues even in public.
NBC: Steve Allen Show- Lenny Bruce, May 10, 1959

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Movie Clips Classic Trailer Vault: Lenny 1974: A Comedian Who Pushes The Limits of Free Speech

Lenny 1974
Lenny 1974

Source: This piece was originally posted at The Daily Review

Lenny Bruce, was a comedian who used humor to talk about everyday American life. And part of how Americans lives is how we interact with each other even in the most personal of ways. Including, marriage divorce, family and yes, even sex. All he did was talked about how Americans lived, but he did it in public. He said things in the public that right-wing culturally conservative establishment who perhaps thought we were a Middle Eastern fundamentalist country and not a Western liberal democracy, didn’t believe Americans should be allowed to hear or say.

As I mentioned yesterday had Lenny came out 10-20 years later, he probably never spends a day in jail for his act. At least outside of the Bible Belt. He actually had a significant criminal record as a thief and dealing with drugs, but when it came to his comedy act he was arrested for literally using adult language in public. Which is clearly unconstitutional under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. He wasn’t libeling people, he was inciting violence, he wasn’t calling for violence to come against anyone. Even the cops who arrested him for using adult language. He was simply using adult language in public as part of his comedy routine.

People tend to think of political correctness as censorship against language that may tend to offend certain groups of people. And that is true obviously, but political correctness in the 1950s and early 1960s was used against people who used language that lets say the most religiously conservative of Americans not only find offensive, but immoral. And when that language is used they believe the people who say those things should literally be arrested. Today political correctness is used against comedians and other commentators who say negative things even if they’re true against minority groups in America. Lenny Bruce was a victim of 1950s and 1960s right-wing political correctness fascism.

Alison Martino-Mysteries and Scandals: Comedian Lenny Bruce-A Champion of Free Speech Who Was Ahead of His Time

Free Speech Under Assault
Free Speech Under Assault

Source: This piece was originally posted at The Daily Review

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. Where the 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 to, 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. And you have this comedian 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. That America is Pleasantville at least not everywhere. That we have 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.