Towards the end of Lenny Bruce’s obscenity trial a policeman read Lenny Bruce’s obscene words from a transcript he’d made at the nightclub when Mr. Bruce, during his routine, was arrested for public obscenity. The policeman read Bruce’s words “Defendant said ‘Yeah, you know how that shit works, you watch it go down and all you can say is ‘fuck!'” Continuing from his notes the detective read “defendant then cocked his head to the side. There was laughter.”
Bruce, who was by then bankrupt and defending himself, jumped up to object “Your Honor, please, he’s butchering my act, he’s delivering my lines off kilter, out of time, with no nuance, irony or any hint of humor. I’m a comedian, Your Honor, and if you would just let me do my act you’d see I’m being funny. The audience gets laughs out of my material. Please, Your Honor, let me just do my act for the court, you can hear my words in context and judge for youself, but not like this. If you find that my act is obscene, in the context of my attempt to get laughs, sentence me to prison and let me just be done with this. I’m begging you, have mercy on me and let me just show you what I do. This prosecution has bankrupted me, I’m staying in a hotel and can’t afford to pay the bill, I’d rather just go to prison, Your Honor, if you find my act obscene.”
But this American judge, at that time in history, was not going to let some little filthy-mouthed, wise ass heroin addict degenerate New York Jew subject his courtroom to words like fuck shit penis cock cum pussy and God knows what else. The judge told the pro se defendant he was out of order, denied his request, ordered him to sit and be quiet, the policeman continued to massacre Bruce’s act, which he read verbatim, words which were indeed, context and intent irrelevant, legally obscene under the law of that time and place.
After the prosecution rested, Mr. Bruce asked to be sentenced, as he was broke, tapped out defending himself while banned from earning a living. The judge told Bruce he would have to come back to court in a month for sentencing.
In the Hollywood version of this, Lenny goes back to his shabby hotel room a broken man, takes off all his clothes and overdoses on heroin, dying in a naked heap next to the toilet bowl.
And the audience who sees Dustin Hoffman’s brilliant portrayal of Lenny, understands, Jesus Christ, this guy was a popular, smart, very funny comedian and they literally crucified him for being an irreverent hipster and saying the F-word for laughs, making a mockery of eveything they held sacred.
“Your ‘work’ is obscene, you will serve time in prison, you will never work again. Your life as an adorable little piece of shit who can fucking say whatever comes into his demented little fucking heroin addict brain is now over, sir. Go ahead and style yourself a heroic martyr of the First Amendment, a persecuted icon of free expression. You are nothing. The law says ‘fuck you’ to your dream of being able to say whatever you fucking please to ‘get a laugh’. You’re dead and you’ll never work again, asshole. Death of despair? Be our fucking guest. Roll credits, bitches.”