National Comedy Center Launches Lenny Bruce Exhibit and Memorial Foundation Partnership with “Comedy and the First Amendment” Panel

Lenny Bruce
Lenny Bruce

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National Comedy Center

To celebrate the opening of its LennyBruce exhibit, the National Comedy Center grand opening week will include a discussion on “Comedy and the First Amendment,” and commence a fundraising partnership with the Lenny Bruce Memorial Foundation.

The National Comedy Center, opening August 1st in Jamestown, New York, is the first non-profit cultural institution and national-scale visitor attraction dedicated to the art of comedy. The Lenny Bruce Memorial Foundation, founded in 2008 by Bruce’s daughter, Kitty Bruce, combats alcohol/drug addiction with scholarships and education.

The Center’s exhibit will feature storytelling of Bruce’s legacy as a stand-up comedian, social critic, and satirist, highlighted by rare artifacts courtesy of Kitty Bruce and the Lenny Bruce Memorial Foundation. Items include Bruce’s iconic trench coat, which he began wearing as a matter of course owing to his being taken to jail directly from the stage; his typewriter; a hand-annotated manuscript for his book “How to Talk Dirty and Influence People”; a personal letter to his father (from jail); court transcripts; Governor George Pataki’s pardon letter and more. Bruce was convicted in 1964 on obscenity charges and was posthumously pardoned by Governor Pataki in 2003, the first in the history of New York State.

“Comedy and the First Amendment: How far is too far and who decides?” will spotlight how comedians use humor to speak truth to power, but not without the consequence of censorship, lost work, and even criminal prosecution. Panelists include Kitty Bruce, attorney Paul Cambria and comedian Lewis Black. This event will take place in Jamestown at the Robert H. Jackson Center on Thursday, August 2nd at 4:00pm.

Kitty Bruce will lend personal stories of her father’s battles with the law as he plied his comedy craft, often in defiance of obscenity laws. An expert on First Amendment rights, attorney Paul Cambria has represented many prominent individuals including sexually graphic magazine publisher Larry Flynt and musicians DMX and Marilyn Manson. Lewis Black, known for his trademark comedy rants about current events and politics, has been a vocal fan of Lenny Bruce and the importance of his legacy.

A fitting setting for the event, the panel is produced in partnership with the Robert H. Jackson Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing public awareness and appreciation of the principles of justice and the rule of law. Robert H. Jackson, a native of Jamestown, NY, and a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, was the Chief U.S. Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials (1945-1946).

Original court transcript of The People vs. Lenny Bruce — 1964

Working closely with treatment programs, the Lenny Bruce Memorial Foundation oversees many aspects of addiction service, works with approved facilities designed to save lives, and provides scholarships for those who do not have the insurance or financial means for such treatment. Donations to the National Comedy Center Lenny Bruce Memorial Partnership will support both the Lenny Bruce Memorial Foundation in its rehabilitative endeavors and the National Comedy Center in its continued efforts to tell the story of Lenny Bruce’s legacy and impact as a pioneer of comedy and freedom of speech.

Other events during the National Comedy Center’s grand opening week include appearances by Amy Schumer, Lily Tomlin, original cast and writers of Saturday Night Live Dan Aykroyd, Laraine Newman, Garrett Morris and Alan Zweibel, Lucie Arnaz, and more than 30 comedy artists.