Today is legendary comedian/social critic Lenny Bruce's birthday. Had Bruce not died in 1966 of "acute morphine poisoning caused by accidental overdose" in his home in the Hollywood Hills, he would be celebrating his 86th birthday. Despite his success, Bruce led a tortured life and he used comedy as an outlet for his frustrations with, not only his personal life, but with American culture in general.
He had good reason to be frustrated. His performances often ended with him being taken away in handcuffs by police officers who deemed his comedic style obscene and offensive. Social criticism and obscenities are commonplace amongst today's stand-up comedians, but not in Bruce's day. The freedom of speech we enjoy now is largely due to the pioneering work of Lenny Bruce and the multiple injustices that he was forced to endure. It's clear when one looks at comedy before Bruce and comedy after. Just compare Bob Hope or Bob Newhart to say Richard Pryor or George Carlin. The difference is night and day and neither Pryor or Carlin would have achieved the level of success that they did without Lenny Bruce blazing the trail for them. He pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable and challenged his audiences to think about the world around them and essentially changed the face of stand-up for the latter half of the twentieth century. Today, tons of comedians use risqué language, outlandish behavior and controversial subject matter to drive their material. They don't have to rely on what's "safe" or predictable. They can push the boundaries and they can do it because of Lenny Bruce.
In 2004 Comedy Central listed Bruce as the third Greatest Stand-Up of All-Time and his legacy can be seen and heard at comedy clubs around the world. This week, celebrate Lenny Bruce's life and legacy by going to see a live comedy show. We're ticketing a ton of comedy events all over the country and I've hand-picked a few comedians that I think would make Lenny proud due to their intelligent, unconventional, unpredictable, in-your-face style. While you're enjoying these comedians, raise a glass to Bruce and thank him for making this kind of comedy possible. We miss you Lenny.
TONIGHT! Thursday, October 12 - Doug Stanhope in SeattleSeattle, Washington Comedian Doug Stanhope is a dear friend of Brown Paper Tickets and has championed us all over the world, exclusively using us to ticket his national and international tours. He is well known for his abrasive comedic style and scathing political commentary. Like Lenny Bruce, Stanhope can weave challenging subject matter into a comedic routine, heightening the comedic experience into something more meaningful. He recently gave a chilling performance on Louis C.K.'s FX television series Louie as a washed up, alcoholic comedian that's contemplating suicide. Don't miss this opportunity to check out Stanhope in action, Seattle. There are still a few tickets left right over here. Doug will also be in Portland, Oregon tomorrow night at the Bagdad Theater & Pub. Tickets for that show can be found here.
Tonight to Saturday, October 29 - Surprise AnnieAustin, Texas You're familiar with Annie La Ganga, right? No? She's a writer, a stand-up comic, a spoken word artist, an improvisational monologist and one of our all-time favorite Austin performers. This month, Rubber Repertory is throwing her a series of 12 surprise parties. Each party will be held at a different location. Each location will be intimate and unexpected. Places you've never seen a show and might not even know exist. But don't tell Annie where the parties are. Rubber Repertory will be bringing her to each one blindfolded. You'll get to SURPRISE ANNIE, enjoy some delicious cake, and then watch her perform. And by perform, we mean that Annie will say or do whatever she wants for as long as she likes. It's exactly this kind of clever, unconventional approach to comedy that would make Lenny Bruce proud. Get your tickets over here and experience comedy like you've never seen it, plus I heard rumors that audience members can actually spoon with Annie! You don't hear that every day.
Friday, October 14 - The Hella Gay Comedy ShowOakland, California Comedian Charlie Ballard, who's been seen on LOGO, Comedy Central and NBC's America's Got Talent, brings his no-holds-barred, avant-garde variety show to Oakland. Gay, straight, bi, lesbian and transgendered comics and performers will gather to entertain with a wide variety of talents, including stand-up, improv and sketch comedy; monologues; music and much more. Ballard designed this monthly show to break boundaries and change the way audiences think about the word "gay." Get your tickets here!
Sunday, October 16 to Tuesday, October 18 - An Evening with Rory ScovelColumbus, Ohio Mixing his spontaneous creativity and absurd view of the world, Rory Scovel is quickly making a name for himself across North America. Whether discussing drugs, politics, or life in general his infectious stage presence and engaging charisma will quickly shift the vibe of any room and place the audience in the scene of every punchline. Seattle's The Stranger says "Every night he stepped onstage his set was remarkably different, thanks to Scovel's near-genius improvisational skill." He has opened shows for such comics as Louis C.K., Daniel Tosh and Nick Swardson and is not to be missed. Tickets for all shows are available here.