Cambridge Encyclopedia » Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 45

Lenny Bruce - Career, Legal troubles, Last years, Death, Posthumous credits and legacy, Books by or about Bruce, Trivia


Comedian, born in Mineola, New York, USA. He joined the navy at age 16 and served during World War 2 until 1946. He held various jobs while studying acting in New York. An appearance on the Arthur Godfrey television show brought him national attention. A stand-up nightclub entertainer, his scatalogical language and outrageous, sardonic humour was alternately called obscene or ‘radically relevant’. Denounced for blasphemy in Australia and banned from performing in England, he was arrested for obscenity after a Greenwich Village show in 1964. Increasingly paranoid, he died of a drug overdose. His autobiography, How to Talk Dirty and Influence People, was published in 1965. A play Lenny was devoted to him, and he is regarded as having ‘liberated’ a whole new generation of comedians.

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