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Brandeis University is acquiring the personal papers of Lenny Bruce, the comedian known for his vulgar, satirical delivery and biting commentary, who died at age 40 of an accidental overdose in 1966.
Sarah Shoemaker, an associate librarian at Brandeis, said although it may seem like an odd pairing, Bruce's work fits well at the school.
"Many of the researchers who come to Brandeis are interested in topics like Jewish humor, radicalism, freedom of speech, censorship, and Lenny Bruce certainly touches on all of those subjects," Shoemaker said.
A statement by Brandeis summarizes Bruce's run-ins with the law and how his stand-up routine, which was originally cited for obscenity, became a landmark freedom of speech case:
Bruce’s nightclub performances in the early 1960s resulted in his multiple arrests for obscenity, including once following a Greenwich Village show in 1964 that led to a trial in which he was convicted on obscenity charges.
Bruce appealed the verdict but died of a drug overdose on Aug. 3, 1966, before the appeal could be heard. In 2003, New York Gov. George E. Pataki pardoned Bruce posthumously, making the trial a landmark freedom of speech case. It was the first such pardon in New York’s history, and Pataki called it "a declaration of New York’s commitment to upholding the First Amendment.”
The collection includes photographs, manuscripts, news clippings and audiovisual recordings preserved by Bruce's daughter, Kitty. The materials will be placed in the Robert D. Farber Archives and Special Collections, according to the Waltham university statement.
The school has not yet said when the collection will be accessible to the public. A retrospective of Bruce, his life and his work will be hosted by Brandeis in 2016, 50 years after Bruce's death, the statement said.
And in case you aren't familiar with Bruce's stand-up, below are some examples. Fittingly, the jokes here are laden with profanity: