Remembering Lenny Bruce, 50 years after his death – Los Angeles Times

It’s almost 50 years since the death of Lenny Bruce. The groundbreaking comedian died on Aug. 3, 1966 from an overdose of morphine while his New York obscenity conviction was still on appeal. On that same day he received a foreclosure notice at his Los Angeles home.

But his death was an overdose, not a suicide. In the kitchen, a kettle of water was still boiling, and in his office, the electric typewriter was still humming. He had stopped typing in mid-word: “Conspiracy to interfere with the 4th Amendment const” … constitutes what, I wonder?

Lenny was a subscriber to my satirical magazine, the Realist, and in 1959 we met for the first time in his Times Square hotel. He was amazed that I got away with publishing those profane words for which other periodicals used asterisks or dashes. He had been using euphemisms and asked, “Are you telling me this is legal to sell on the newsstands?” I replied, “The Supreme Court’s definition of obscenity is that it has to be material which appeals to your prurient interest.”

He magically produced an unabridged dictionary from the suitcase on his bed, and looked up the word prurient.” He closed the dictionary, clenching his jaw and nodding his head in affirmation of a new discovery.

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