Remembering Lenny Bruce and When Taboo-Breaking Comedy Collided with the Law

Lenny Bruce (born Leonard Alfred Schnei­der) intro­duced a strong­ly satir­i­cal, taboo-break­ing form of com­e­dy dur­ing the 1950s and 1960s, which paved the way for some of America’s great come­di­ans Richard Pry­or, George Car­lin, Chris Rock, even John Stew­art. And for ush­er­ing in this new era of com­e­dy, Bruce paid a heavy per­son­al price. In 1961, San Fran­cis­co author­i­ties arrest­ed Bruce on obscen­i­ty charges. Then, in 1964, Bruce found him­self in the crosshairs of Manhattan’s Dis­trict Attor­ney, Frank Hor­gan. A six month tri­al fol­lowed, which raised impor­tant First Amend­ment issues, and which also brought Woody Allen, Bob Dylan, Allen Gins­berg, Nor­man Mail­er, and William Sty­ron to Bruce’s defense. (Dylan would lat­er write a song about the affair.) But, regard­less, the tri­al end­ed bad­ly for Bruce, and, two years lat­er, the impov­er­ished come­di­an would die of a hero­in over­dose.

For Bruce’s lega­cy, things have got­ten a lit­tle bet­ter. In 2003, Gov­er­nor George Pata­ki grant­ed New York’s first posthu­mous par­don to the satirist, call­ing it “a dec­la­ra­tion of New York’s com­mit­ment to uphold­ing the First Amend­ment.” Mean­while, legal schol­ars have writ­ten books that paint Bruce and his First Amend­ment bat­tles in a rather sym­pa­thet­ic light. Below you can find a video clip of Lenny Bruce appear­ing on the very pop­u­lar Steve Allen Show. It gives you a pret­ty good look at the brand of com­e­dy that Bruce pre­sent­ed to the wider nation. (You can access Part II of the video here.) Beyond this, you may also want to check out the actu­al FBI file that was kept on Bruce. It’s been pub­lished thanks to the Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act. And if you’re up for more video footage, here is a clear­ly deflat­ed Bruce using his tri­al as fod­der for com­e­dy.

The New iPod Lineup Versus Its Rivals

ipodtouch2.jpgSince we talk a lot here about pod­casts and mp3 files, it seems worth flag­ging this Yahoo gad­get review that pits the new iPod line­up against its rivals. Here, we’ve got the new iPod Touch v. the Sam­sung Yepp YP-P2; the new Nano (with video) v. the Sansa View, and the iPod Clas­sic v. Microsoft­’s Zune. The net result is that the new iPods come out ahead, but not by much. Get review here.

(For anoth­er review of the new iPod Touch, have a look at this piece on Giz­mo­do.)

Quick note: As part of the new line­up, the iPod Clas­sic fea­tures a new 160 GB mod­el for $349. It appar­ent­ly holds 40,000 songs (twice as many as the pre­vi­ous mod­el), which trans­lates to three con­tin­u­ous months of lis­ten­ing enter­tain­ment. Imag­ine how many mind-expand­ing pod­casts that could include.

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New R.E.M. Concert Video “Leaving New York”

Below we have “R.E.M. Live, record­ed on the Around the World Tour, which pro­mot­ed Around the Sun, a stu­dio album from 2004. It is to be released Octo­ber 16.” (Thanks to Justin for the clar­i­fi­ca­tion.)

Source: Stere­ogum. (For more music, check out our col­lec­tion of MP3 Blogs.)

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FYI for Smart Money Readers

We got a nice lit­tle men­tion in the Octo­ber edi­tion of Smart Mon­ey (The Wall Street Jour­nal Mag­a­zine), which high­light­ed our col­lec­tion of uni­ver­si­ty cours­es avail­able as free pod­casts. If you’re a Smart Mon­ey read­er, you’ll want to focus on our col­lec­tion of 75 Uni­ver­si­ty Cours­es as well as on our gen­er­al Uni­ver­si­ty Pod­cast Col­lec­tion. These pod­cast col­lec­tions, along with many oth­ers, are per­ma­nent­ly housed in our Pod­cast Library, which you can always find by look­ing to the right.

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Falling Man 9–11

fallingman.jpgOn the anniver­sary of the Sep­tem­ber 11th attacks, it seems fit­ting to call atten­tion to Don DeLil­lo’s Falling Man, a recent addi­tion to the grow­ing body of fic­tion now known as “9/11 nov­el.” How­ev­er you may feel about DeLil­lo’s writ­ing style (we often find that it grates), Falling Man adept­ly cap­tures the emo­tion­al and phys­i­cal haze that sur­round­ed NYC in the wake of the attacks. In inter­views with Guer­ni­ca and NPR’s All Things Con­sid­ered, DeLil­lo talks about the influ­ences that led him to explore the attacks and their after­math from the per­spec­tive of both a ter­ror­ist and a sur­vivor. If lis­ten­ing to the book is more your speed, check out the audio ver­sion at Ama­zon or the down­load at Audi­ble.

This guest post was writ­ten by Noah Elkin.

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Meet Larry David (in Video)

larrydavid2.jpgHBO just start­ed air­ing the sixth sea­son of Curb Your Enthu­si­asm, so it seemed fit­ting to serve up this lengthy inter­view with Lar­ry David. The talk is very fun­ny. No shock there. But it also gets into some good sub­stance. How Lar­ry got into com­e­dy; how he strug­gled dur­ing his ear­ly standup years and had to scratch togeth­er mon­ey for a can of Chef Boyardee; how he approach­es writ­ing com­e­dy; how he has gen­er­at­ed ideas for the most mem­o­rable episodes of “Curb” and Sein­feld — it all gets touched on here.

We have includ­ed the first part below, plus links to the oth­er sev­en seg­ments. For more Lar­ry David inter­views, check out the 60 Min­utes piece on Lar­ry from this past week­end. You can watch it online here.

Part 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8.

Life-Changing Books Now on Google’s “My Library”

A few weeks ago, our read­ers con­tributed to cre­at­ing a list of books that left an indeli­ble mark on their lives. You can review the orig­i­nal post here. But we fig­ured why not add them to our “My Library” page on Google, a new prod­uct that we briefly men­tioned yes­ter­day. You can access the col­lec­tion here (or get it by rss feed). And, as you’ll see, we also import­ed to the list all of our users’ com­ments on the indi­vid­ual books. Explore the list, find a great read, and pass it along to a wor­thy friend.

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Down­load over 100 clas­sic audio­books as free pod­casts, or learn over 25 for­eign lan­guages with, yes, more free pod­casts.

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The World Without Us: The Staggering Thought Experiment

worldwithout2.jpgWhat if we dis­ap­peared from the face of the earth tomor­row? All of us, just like that? What would hap­pen? How would the remain­ing world sur­vive or thrive with­out us? That’s the sce­nario that sci­ence writer Alan Weis­man works through in his new eco-thriller, The World With­out Us.

Based on his con­sid­er­able research and exten­sive inter­views with experts, Weis­man sees things play­ing out like this (and here I’m quot­ing from the New York Times book review): “With no one left to run the pumps, New York’s sub­way tun­nels would fill with water in two days. With­in 20 years, Lex­ing­ton Avenue would be a riv­er. Fire- and wind-rav­aged sky­scrap­ers would even­tu­al­ly fall like giant trees. With­in weeks of our dis­ap­pear­ance, the world’s 441 nuclear plants would melt down into radioac­tive blobs, while our petro­chem­i­cal plants, ‘tick­ing time bombs’ even on a nor­mal day, would become flam­ing gey­sers spew­ing tox­ins for decades to come… After about 100,000 years, car­bon diox­ide would return to pre­hu­man lev­els. Domes­ti­cat­ed species from cat­tle to car­rots would revert back to their wild ances­tors. And on every dehabi­tat­ed con­ti­nent, forests and grass­lands would reclaim our farms and park­ing lots as ani­mals began a slow parade back to Eden.” And, it’s also help­ful to know, per­haps, that not even cock­roach­es would fare well in a world with­out Homo sapi­ens.

How Weis­man researched this big ques­tion and drew his con­clu­sions is fas­ci­nat­ing, and for­tu­nate­ly it’s all explained in this Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can pod­cast (iTunesFeedWeb Site) that fea­tures two recent inter­views with Weis­man. You can also catch Weis­man speak­ing on John Stew­art’s Dai­ly Show in less sci­en­tif­ic terms. Watch the video here.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.