JAMESTOWN — 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 Aug. 1, is the first non-profit cultural institution and national-scale visitor attraction dedicated to the art of comedy. The Lenny Bruce Memorial Foundation, founded in 2008 by Bruce’s daughter, Kitty Bruce, combats alcohol/drug addiction with scholarships and education.
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 iconic trench coat, which he began wearing as a matter of course owing to his being taken to jail directly from the stage; his typewriter; a hand-annotated manuscript for his book “How to Talk Dirty and Influence People”; a personal letter to his father (from jail); court transcripts; 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.
“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, Aug. 2 at 4 p.m.
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.
A fitting setting for the event, the panel is produced in partnership with the Robert H. Jackson Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing public awareness and appreciation of the principles of justice and the rule of law. Robert H. Jackson, a native of Jamestown, and a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, was the Chief U.S. Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials (1945-1946).
Working closely with treatment programs, the Lenny Bruce Memorial Foundation oversees many aspects of addiction service, works with approved facilities designed to save lives, and provides scholarships for those who do not have the insurance or financial means for such treatment. Donations to the National Comedy Center Lenny Bruce Memorial Partnership will support both the Lenny Bruce Memorial Foundation in its rehabilitative endeavors and the National Comedy Center in its continued efforts to tell the story of Lenny Bruce’s legacy and impact as a pioneer of comedy and freedom of speech.
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.
The National Comedy Center embodies Lucille Ball’s vision for her hometown of Jamestown to become a destination for the celebration of comedy in a way that educates, fosters and inspires. Featuring more than 50 immersive and interactive exhibits designed by leading museum design firms in the world, the 37,000 square foot National Comedy Center visitor experience tells the story of comedy from its origins through the present.
The National Comedy Center also operates the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum, and for the last 25 years has produced the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival with performers including Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Gaffigan, Trevor Noah, Joan Rivers, Ellen DeGeneres, Paula Poundstone, Ray Romano, Bob Newhart, The Smothers Brothers and more than 100 other comedic artists.
Tickets may be purchased by visiting by calling 484-2222, visiting the festival box office located at 2 W. 3rd Street, Jamestown, NY 14701 or by going to www.NationalComedyCenter.org.