From Publishers Weekly
The shelf is full of books about "outlaw social critic" Lenny Bruce (1925-1966). But now comes a different approach, as two legal scholars provide an in-depth survey of "comedy on trial"-the five years of censorship, arrests, obscenity trials, convictions and appeals as prosecutors sought to bust Bruce for "word crimes." Skover and Collins (coauthors of The Death of Discourse) meticulously document both litigation and the literary scene of the 1960s, crosscutting between clubs and courtrooms to show how Bruce's career crumbled in a nightmarish fashion as he broke taboos and struggled for free speech in the years before his death from a morphine overdose. Looking for a lawyer in 1964, Bruce requested, "Get me somebody who swings with the First Amendment," and that year noted performers and writers (such as William Styron, John Updike, James Baldwin) signed a petition to support Bruce, while others (Jules Feiffer, Jason Epstein, even the "prim and proper" Dorothy Kilgallen) served as defense witnesses. Granted access to Bruce's papers, Collins and Skover have done exhaustive research, also interviewing Bruce's lawyers, club owners, cohorts and comic talents, including Orson Bean, George Carlin, Margaret Cho and Paul Krassner. The voice of Bruce springs to life with his memorable comedy routines heard on the accompanying CD, narrated by Nat Hentoff and also featuring interviews with Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Hugh Hefner and others who reflect on Bruce's legacy. Generating a gamut of emotions, the entire package is an important documentation of a revolution in American culture. B&w photos.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
One of the most incendiary entertainers in American stand-up comedy, Lenny Bruce was never one to shy away from controversy or a legal fight. Written by a First Amendment scholar and law professor, this is the story of the series of obscenity cases that Bruce had leveled against him and how they played out. Many details from the trials are included here, making the book a literal walking tour of his time in court. An outstanding feature is the accompanying audio CD, the contents of which are all keyed to passages in the book. Narrated by Nat Hentoff and containing performances by Bruce and interviews with other entertainment notables, including George Carlin, the CD gives the text another dimension and allows for a truly different reading experience. The book is best read in tandem with Bruce's How To Talk Dirty and Influence People: An Autobiography and William Karl Thomas's Lenny Bruce: The Making of a Prophet. A fine retelling of Bruce's career as well as one of the only books in print to detail his free-speech legal troubles, Trials is recommended for all media and law libraries. David M. Lisa, Wayne P.L., NJ
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.