The Systematic Assassination of Comedic Genius Leonard Alfred Schneider

Lenny Bruce (October 13th, 1925 – August 3rd, 1966)

Today I’ve chosen to highlighted black comedian Lenny Bruce. Bruce was an influential stand-up comedian that inspired the likes of Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Lewis Black, Tommy Chong, the list goes on. Rising to prominence in the 1950’s & 60’s, Bruce’s first crack at stand-up, in Brooklyn, earned him $12.00 and a spaghetti dinner.

Lenny’s first brush with the law came in 1951 when he was arrested for impersonating a priest in Miami, Florida. “He had been soliciting donations for a leper colony in British Guiana under the auspices of the ‘Brother Mathias Foundation'”.  But he managed to avoid any legal consequence, he was found not guilty “because of the legality of the New York state-chartered foundation, the actual existence of the Guiana leper colony, and the inability of the local clergy to expose him as an impostor.” Lenny later revealed that he had made approximately $8,000 in a span of 3 weeks, sending $2,500 to the leper colony and keeping the rest for himself.

Unfortunately Lenny’s luck with the law soon ran thin. On October 4, 1961, after gaining much fame and popularity over the course of the 50’s, Bruce was arrested for obscenity at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco; he had used the word “cocksucker” and riffed that “‘to’ is a preposition, ‘come’ is a verb“, that the sexual context of “come” is so common that it bears no weight, and that if someone hearing it becomes upset, he “probably can’t come.”

“In April 1964, he appeared twice at the Cafe Au Go Go in Greenwich Village, with undercover police detectives in the audience. On both occasions, he was arrested after leaving the stage, the complaints again pertaining to his use of various obscenities.”

It came to a point where Lenny was so troubled by legal woes that his drug use increased substantially and he became somewhat unfunny.

“In his later club performances Bruce was known for relating the details of his encounters with the police directly in his comedy routine; his criticism encouraged the police to subject him to maximum scrutiny. These performances often included rants about his court battles over obscenity charges, tirades against fascism and complaints that he was being denied his right to freedom of speech.”

Bruce’s bad reputation had also followed him overseas. “He was banned outright from several U.S. cities, and in 1962 was banned from performing in Sydney, Australia. At his first show there Bruce took the stage, declared “What a fucking wonderful audience” and was promptly arrested.”

By 1966 he had been blacklisted by nearly every nightclub in the United States, as owners feared prosecution for obscenity.”

Eventually the stress and drug use took its toll on Lenny. On August 3, 1966, Bruce was found dead in the bathroom lying naked on the floor, a syringe and burned bottle cap nearby, along with various other narcotics paraphernalia.

Most are merely criticized for coloring outside the lines but in Lenny’s case… he was murdered. Stifled to the point of self-destruction. Lenny is proof that the one who holds the mirror up to America’s horrid face does not goes unharmed.

The conviction in his 1964 obscenity trial was followed by a posthumous pardon, the first in New York state history.

Here is Lenny’s second to last performance (at Berkeley Community Theatre?) It’s broken up into 7 parts, in which all are provided, hopefully it comes close to a continuous stream:

Part I of VII:

Part II of VII:

Part III of VII:

Part IV of VII:

Part V of VII:

Part VI of VII:

Part VII of VII:

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