The National Comedy Center is the first non-profit cultural institution and large-scale visitor-based attraction dedicated to the art of comedy. To celebrate its grand opening in August, the first week of the Center’s opening will feature a unique exhibit and panel. Teaming up with the Lenny Bruce Foundation, a foundation started by Kitty Bruce (Lenny’s daughter) in 2008 to battle alcohol and drug addiction with scholarships and education, the Center will have an entire exhibit dedicated to the late American comedian and social critic himself, Lenny Bruce.
The exhibit will feature storytelling around Bruce’s legacy and influence as a stand-up comedian, his work as a satirist and his vocal nature as a social critic, bookended by rare artifacts and memorabilia, courtesy of the Lenny Bruce Foundation. Of the rare artifacts being shown, some of the standouts include Bruce’s iconic trench coat (which he wore due to the fact that he would regularly be taken from the stage to jail), his personal typewriter, a personal letter to his father (from jail), court transcripts (including Governor George Pataki’s pardon letter) and a hand-annotated manuscript for his book How to Talk Dirty and Influence People. All of these items will be on display in the exhibit, grounded in the story of Lenny Bruce being shown and told through the exhibit’s interactive and observational storytelling.
In addition to the Lenny Bruce exhibit, The National Comedy Center will also host a panel titled “Comedy and The First Amendment: How far is too far and who decides?’ The panel will shine a light on how comedians use humor to speak truth to power, but not without consequence. Panelists will include Kitty Bruce, Lewis Black and attorney Paul Cambria. Kitty Bruce will share stories about her father’s battles with censorship and the obscenity laws of the time, while Cambria will lend his scholarly knowledge of the First Amendment to the panel and Black will discuss the importance of Lenny Bruce and his legacy in regard to the current socio-political state. The event itself will take place in Jamestown, N.Y., at the Robert H. Jackson Center on Thursday, Aug. 2.
The National Comedy Center also runs the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum and has, over the past 25 years, produced the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, featuring big names from Jerry Seinfeld to Ellen DeGeneres. More information about the National Comedy Center, the National Comedy Center museum, the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival and the Lenny Bruce exhibit can be found here.