Somewhere in the realm of infamous stand-up icons, Lenny Bruce celebrates his 86th birthday today. Once called “the Jesus Christ of alternative stand-up” by Eddie Izzard, Bruce pushed society’s buttons and teased the status quo, questioning what people considered offensive resulting in being busted on obscenity charges 7 times. He was also known for asking important questions like “how do you make colored folks feel comfortable at white parties?” If you listened to his material today, it wouldn’t seem very edgy, but in a post McCarthy-era America he was laying the groundwork for speech rights nearly every comedian today takes advantage of.
Found dead in his apartment at the age of forty, he was young and bogged down by censorship. So much censorship, in fact, that it led his friend Phil Spector to suggest that Bruce “may have died of an overdose of police” as opposed to the tragic morphine overdose of news headlines.
Kitty Bruce, daughter of the legendary comic, runs the official Lenny Bruce website. She encourages visitors to contribute to Lenny’s House, a non-profit charity for women recovering from drug and alcohol abuse.
In honor of Lenny’s birthday, enjoy the following clips for your approval including a fine clip ofGeorge Carlin, Joan Rivers and others talking about the guy that led the fight for them.