More than 40 years after his death, legendary comedian Lenny Bruce is still often misunderstood. The godfather of so-called sick humor, who challenged the status quo in the 1950s and was frequently jailed for his troubles, will be the focus of a lecture and panel discussion tonight, Tuesday, March 3 from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at the Turf Club in St. Paul, hosted by Stand Up! Records.
Bruce, son of a vaudeville performer and a working comic back in the day when "comedian" was a sparsely-populated profession, skyrocketed to fame with his incendiary records featuring such classic bits as "How to Relax Your Colored Friends at Parties" and the uproarious inside show-biz bit "The Palladium." But even as Bruce broke new ground, introducing some famous four-letter words and a jazz musician's approach to the comedy stage, his career was cut short by a litany of legal troubles. Though he would influence generations of comics after him, from Richard Pryor to Bill Hicks to Louis C.K., he died an embittered, broken man of a drug overdose at age 40.
University of Minnesota professor and poet Maria Damon will present an overview of Bruce's life and work, and Stand Up! Records owner Dan Schlissel and lawyer Bart Torvi will discuss his legacies in comedy and obscenity law. The program is presented in conjunction with the Minnesota's Greatest Generation Project. 21+. $5 for members of the Minnesota Historical Society, $6 for non-members. 1601 University Ave., St. Paul.