11 July 2018 // News

National Comedy Center to Include Lenny Bruce Exhibit

To celebrate the opening of its Lenny Bruce 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. Featuring more than 50 immersive and interactive exhibits designed by JRA, the 37,000 square foot National Comedy Center visitor experience tells the story of comedy from its origins through the present.   

A Comedic Legacy

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 typewriter; a hand-annotated manuscript for his book “How to Talk Dirty and Influence People”;  his iconic trench coat, which he began wearing as a matter of course owing to his being taken to jail directly from the stage; court transcripts; a personal letter to his father (from jail); 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.

Speaking Freely

“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. 

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.