Lenny Bruce’s papers are coming to Brandeis
Includes photographs, manuscripts, news clippings, and audiovisual recordingsBrandeis University has acquired the personal papers of Lenny Bruce, the late comedian and free-speech advocate known for his biting, often obscenity-laced satirical commentary on American society. The collection, held by Bruce’s daughter, Kitty Bruce, includes photographs, manuscripts, news clippings, audiovisual recordings and other material. A generous gift from the Hugh M. Hefner Foundation made the acquisition possible.
Sarah Shoemaker, associate university librarian for archives and special collections, says the papers and materials span approximately 10 linear feet and will require processing and review. They will become part of the Robert D. Farber Archives and Special Collections.
“This is an exciting collection that touches on many subjects, including freedom of speech, censorship, social justice and Jewish humor, and it is a great fit for Brandeis,” says Shoemaker. “We are grateful to both Kitty Bruce and the Hugh M. Hefner Foundation for giving the collection a new home at Brandeis, where it will be available to researchers.”
Bruce’s nightclub performances in the early 1960s resulted in his multiple arrests for obscenity, including once following a Greenwich Village show in 1964 that led to a trial in which he was convicted on obscenity charges. Bruce appealed the verdict but died of a drug overdose on Aug. 3, 1966, before the appeal could be heard. In 2003, New York Gov. George E. Pataki pardoned Bruce posthumously, making the trial a landmark freedom of speech case. It was the first such pardon in New York’s history, and Pataki called it “a declaration of New York’s commitment to upholding the First Amendment.”
Brandeis will host a retrospective on Bruce and his life in 2016, 50 years after his death.