Advance Praise & Reviews
Lenny Bruce opened the doors for all the guys like me; he prefigured the free-speech movement and helped push the culture forward into the light of open and honest expression. I thought I knew his story pretty well, but I learned a great deal from this book. It is a major contribution toward understanding the threat perceived by the “powers” from simple artistic honesty.
Lenny Bruce was as subversive a comic genius as this country has ever spawned. His act was vulgar, raunchy and heretical . . . everything, that is, that the First Amendment protects. Unfortunately, much of Bruce’s work was deemed unprotected less than half a century ago when he was every judge’s nightmare. This exciting and well-written book about Bruce’s collisions with the law is irresistible.
Partner at Cahill, Gordon & Reindel, NYC
Noted First Amendment litigator
The Trials of Lenny Bruce is a remarkable book about a “cultural outlaw” and his First Amendment struggles. It is a wonderful story about life and law told by two talented lawyers. Collins and Skover have brought to light an important lost chapter in our free speech history: powerful, insightful and very well told. The Trials of Lenny Bruce is a must read for anyone who respects dissent, enjoys comedy, appreciates courtroom drama, and values rich social history together with insightful first amendment commentary.
—Steven H. Shiffrin
Professor of Law,
Author, Dissent, Injustice and the Meanings of
The Trials of Lenny Bruce is an amazing work. It’s an important book; one that’s long overdue. The authors’ research is incredibly thorough and their writing style is especially engaging. Ronald Collins and David Skover have set the record straight about the persecution and prosecution of Lenny Bruce for obscenity. The Trials of Lenny Bruce is an invaluable document for anyone interested in Lenny Bruce, the American legal system, and the First Amendment.
—Robert B. Weide
Writer and Producer, Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth
(award-winning HBO documentary)
The story this book tells of Lenny Bruce’s torture persists as one of the important free speech lessons in our history -- an example of what can go terribly wrong when we do not protect the words of the renegade heretic who dares to shock and disturb. While the man Lenny Bruce died crushed and despondent, his story endures, and is triumphant. The Trials of Lenny Bruce vividly and masterfully recounts that great untold First Amendment story.
Professor of Law, University of
Noted First Amendment scholar and litigator
Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2002
"Two thoughtful lawyers explore in depth some of the comic's tribulations and trials. . . . This is an exhaustive study of the comedian's obscenity trials. . . . The authors set the record straight from the first arrest in San Francisco in 1961. Arrests followed across the country, culminating with the most hotly contested trial in New York. . . . An audio CD is included so readers may hear the comedian himself, spritzing and killing at top speed. Detailed, objective, and valuable."
Publishers Weekly, July 1, 2002, p. 49
"The shelf is full of books about 'outlaw social critic' Lenny Bruce (1925-1966). But now comes a different approach, as two legal scholars provide an in-depth survey of 'comedy on trial' . . . . Skover and Collins (coauthors of The Death of Discourse) meticulously document both litigation and the literary scene of the 1960s . . . . Granted access to Bruce’s papers, Collins and Skover have done exhaustive research, also interviewing Bruce’s lawyers, club owners, cohorts and comic talents, including Orson Bean, George Carlin, Margaret Cho and Paul Krassner. The voice of Bruce springs to life with his memorable comedy routines heard on the accompanying CD, narrated by Nat Hentoff and also featuring interviews with Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Hugh Hefner and others who reflect on Bruce’s legacy. Generating a gamut of emotions, the entire package is an important documentation of a revolution in American culture."
Library Journal Reviews, August 1, 2002 (David Lisa, "The Trials of Lenny Bruce," p. 97)
"Many details from the trials are included in the book, making it a literal walking tour of Bruce’s time in court. An outstanding feature is the accompanying audio CD, the contents of which are all keyed to passages in the book. . . . The CD gives the text another dimension and allows for a truly different reading experience. A fine retelling of Bruce’s career as well as one of the only books in print to detail his free-speech legal troubles, The Trials of Lenny Bruce is recommended for all media and law libraries."
Yes Portal, August 11, 2002 (Ecstasy Jones, "Lenny Bruce, Free Speech Crusader," online review, downloaded October 31, 2002)
A new book out this month, The Trials of Lenny Bruce, provides a meticulous examination of the legal tribulations of America’s legendary taboo-breaking comedian who became a martyr for the First Amendment. Its release coincides with the American Library Association’s 21st annual Banned Books Week (September 21-28), a celebration of free speech. . . . The new book and its accompanying CD are as much entertainment as legal data. The authors dissect the sea of court transcripts and offer blow-by-blow accounts of each case and its eventual impact, if any, on First Amendment freedoms and litigation. The CD, whose tracks are all keyed to passages in the book, provides another dimension and allows for a truly unique reading experience.
15 Minutes (Tim Boxer, "First Socrates, Then Lenny Bruce," online review, downloaded August 13, 2002)
"Ronald K.L. Collins, a scholar at the First Amendment Center in Arlington, Virginia, and David M. Skover, law professor at Seattle University, have written a remarkable book about Bruce – his act and his case. The Trials of Lenny Bruce is the best record of how this perceptively sharp social critic opened a window on the hypocrisy of a repressed society only to be cruelly persecuted for it, much in the manner of Socrates before him. The book is very well written. The narrative zips, and carries you along page after page. It held my interest until lights out; then I couldn’t wait to open again at breakfast."
The Illinois ACLU Brief, Summer/Fall 2002 (Burt Joseph, "The Trials of Lenny Bruce")
"This is a remarkable book. It makes Lenny Bruce so real, so immediate, and so relevant. . . . Ronald Collins and David Skover, in this extremely well-researched book, not only chronicle the trials and tragedy of Lenny Bruce, but also deliver to us his controversial performances. . . . Do yourself a favor and read about Lenny Bruce, a stand up comedian who stood up to harassment and prosecution for the First Amendment."
Book Sense, August 22, 2002
"Lenny Bruce was a comedic genius who understood the power and absurdity of language and the United States Constitution, and these authors understand the power and absurdity of Bruce. They do well in resurrecting him and exploring the limits of free speech in America." -- Kevin Elliott, Barbara's Bookstore, Chicago, IL
American Breakfast Radio, August 28, 2002
"Ron Collins and David Skover have put together one of the finest biographies ever. It is a biography that is matchless."
-- Phil Paleologos
Booklist, September 1, 2002
"Collins and Skover’s biography of groundbreaking comedian Lenny Bruce comes with a compact disc of snippets from Bruce’s routines and vintage interviews, and hearing Bruce’s delivery aids appreciation of his subject matter and reveals unexpected commonalities with, say, Woody Allen. Still, as nice as the CD is, the book is indispensable. Its 80-plus pages of appendixes, notes, and bibliography constitute a treasure trove of reference information, including even a list of “Attorneys, Judges, and Club Owners” who intruded on Bruce’s life. A handy “Free Speech Chronology” offers a time line of significant dates in Bruce’s ongoing contretemps with the thought police, from October 13, 1925, when Bruce was born as Alfred Schneider, to January 7, 1970, when an appeals court affirmed the verdict in a free speech case in which a co-dependent of Bruce’s was involved (Bruce’s own appeal was never, it says, “perfected”). With his countercultural appeal and impeccable antiestablishment credentials, Bruce seems perennially interesting, which makes this book-CD package a mandatory acquisition for most libraries."
Book Page (Nashville, TN), September 1, 2002 (Martin Brady, "A Comedian's Struggle for Free Speech," online review, downloaded September 31, 2002)
"With The Trials of Lenny Bruce, authors Ronald Collins and David Skover, both journalists with legal backgrounds, have put together an exhaustive study of the performer's important freedom of speech cases. They offer biographical highlights along the way. . . . Indeed, attorneys, prosecutors and judges are the real stars of this book, as Collins and Skover plow through court transcripts and offer blow-by-blow accounts of the progress of each case and its eventual impact, if any, on First Amendment freedoms and litigation. . . . This well-written volume will have special appeal for readers interested in free-speech issues. The authors' research here is unstinting."
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 6, 2002 ("Northwest Bookshelf," p. 26)
"Legal authorities from Virginia (Collins) and Seattle (Skover) combine to pen a fascinating and insightful look at the life and trials of the controversial comedian; this weighty volume is accompanied by a CD that includes many of the scathing stage comments that led to Bruce's trials on obscenity charges."
Washington Post, September 8, 2002 (Michael Colton, "Smart Mouth")
"Had he lived, Bruce would have had a lot to talk about with Ronald K.L. Collins and David M. Skover, the legal scholars who have written The Trials of Lenny Bruce, a play-by-play account of the comedian's many courtroom dramas. . . . Their descriptions of nightclub life in the early '60s are fascinating. In this era of Howard Stern, "South Park" and the Internet, when we take our freedoms for granted, it's difficult to imagine such constraints on language."
PR Newswire, September 10, 2002 ("Popular Comedian Lenny Bruce is Resurrected in New Book for Banned Books Week")
"In honor of Banned Books Week, Ron Collins and David Skover, authors of the new book The Trials of Lenny Bruce, have coined a phrase deriving from Lenny Bruce's encounters with the law. 'Being bruced' means being prosecuted or harassed for speaking freely, for expressing unpopular ideas or for breaking taboos."
Chicago Sun-Times, September 21, 2002 (Michael Colton, "Nobody Knows
the Trouble Obscene") (see Washington Post above)
Cox News Service, September 26, 2002 (Ron Hayes, "Lenny Bruce's Prosecutions Put on Trial")
"Legal scholars Ronald K.L. Collins and David M. Skover give us Lenny the defendant, in a book that should make you laugh, make you mad and make you think. Their long overdue work is a detailed account of the Lenny Bruce obscenity trials that is anything but dry and legalistic. Only by evaluating the trials, after all, can we decide whether the legend is deserved. . . . An accompanying 75-minute compact disc beautifully complements the book by giving readers a chance to hear the bits for which Bruce was busted, as well as interviews with the men who prosecuted and defended him."
News & Observer (Raleigh, NC), September 29, 2002 (William McCranor Henderson, "Prophet of the Profane")
"Ronald K.L. Collins & David M. Skover demonstrate in their excellent new book, The Trials of Lenny Bruce, that no matter how you feel about him, Lenny Bruce was a catalytic force in the history of American speech and law. . . . The Trials of Lenny Bruce is not a biography, but a well-researched and carefully documented study of the actions taken by outraged law-enforcement officials in several cities to silence Bruce. . . . That not one of his cases was taken up by the Supreme Court is viewed by the authors as particularly unfortunate. Had they been, the name Bruce might have ended up celebrated in the annals of jurisprudence alongside the likes of Brown, Roe or Miranda. . . . The Trials of Lenny Bruce is both a contribution to the biographical record of Lenny Bruce and a valuable treatise on the First Amendment and its broad latitude for the protection of free speech. It is also something that has become rare in today's book culture: a brilliant example of popular scholarship -- informed, readable and significant."
Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, FL), September 29, 2002 (Ron Hayes, "Lenny Bruce's
Prosecutions Put on Trial") (see Cox News Service above)
Patriot Ledger (Quincy, MA), September 29, 2002 (Ron Hayes, "Lenny
Bruce's Prosecutions Put on Trial in New Book") (see Cox News Service above)
Virginia-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), September 29, 2002 (Michael Colton,
"Making the Belated Case for Lenny Bruce") (see Washington Post above)
Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO), September 30, 2002 (Ron Hayes, "Legal Scholars Find
Some Laughs in Lenny's Trials") (see Cox News Service above)
Bookviews, October 2002 (Alan Caruba, "Biographies, Autobiographies, and Memoirs," online review, downloaded September 30, 2002)
"Ronald K.L. Collins and David M. Skover have written what well may be the most definitive look at the life and times of Bruce. . . . Anyone interested in American culture, recent history, and First Amendment issues will find this book of great interest."
San Francisco Reader, October 2002 (Jeff Troiano, "A Conversation with Lawrence Ferlinghetti," downloaded December 5, 2002)
"I'm reading The Trials of Lenny Bruce, a great book on Lenny Bruce, who was what I call a 'stand-up tragedian.'"
-- Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Alibi (Albuquerque, NM), October 2, 2002 (Steve Robert Allen, "Comedy of Errors")
"The Trials of Lenny Bruce is a detailed, highly readable account of Bruce's legal battles written by a pair of articulate lawyers. Covering all the key cases as well as the amazing stories behind the legal conflicts, the book is a fascinating look at an uptight America that barely exists anymore."
Bridge, October 2, 2002 (Brian Costello, online review, downloaded November 22, 2002)
"The Trials of Lenny Bruce is a fascinating, levelheaded account of Lenny’s arrests and trials in the jazz clubs and courtrooms of San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. Of course, any massive tome detailing Bruce’s First Amendment battles . . . is gonna be prima facie 'important' (not to mention, long overdue), but what makes this book especially important is its accessibility to those of us who didn’t attend law school. The research into the trials, the interviews with the attorneys on both sides, the transcripts (some provided surreptitiously by Bruce from a tape recorder hidden in his brief case), the history of obscenity law, and the ever-shifting judicial interpretations of First Amendment law are seamless, with just enough creative nonfiction to keep the legalese from veering into severe dryness, and not so much creative nonfiction tomwolfean hoo-haw so the voice gets in the way of a story that is on it’s own quite capable of leaving the reader angered, entertained, and, ultimately, saddened, because a great mind was driven to destruction for no justifiable reason."
News-Journal (Longview, TX), October
6, 2002 (Ron Hayes, "Evaluating Obscenity") (see Cox News Service above)
News-Messenger (Marshall, TX),
October 6, 2002 (Ron Hayes, "Evaluating Obscenity") (see Cox News Service
Record-Journal (Meriden-Wallingford, CT),
October 6, 2002 (Ron Hayes, "Book Looks at Trial of Icon, Lenny Bruce") (see
Cox News Service above)
Times Union (Albany, New York),
October 6, 2002 (Ron Hayes, "Courting Dirty Truths") (see Cox News Service
Seattle Times, October 7, 2002 (Paul De Barros, "New Book Revisits Legal History of Lenny Bruce, First Amendment Warrior")
"Within its 560 often dramatic, copiously researched pages, the volume documents Bruce's obscenity trials for the first time, making a vivid case for the comedian's contribution to the defense of the First Amendment. . . . One of its strong points is its detailed descriptions of each prosecutor, defense attorney and judge whose personality played so crucially into the trials. The book also includes an excellent CD, narrated by jazz critic and First Amendment specialist Nat Hentoff, one of Bruce's early champions."
City Paper (Baltimore, MD), October 9, 2002 (Heather Josyln, "The People v. Lenny Bruce v. Lenny Bruce")
"In The Trials of Lenny Bruce, authors Ronald Collins and David Skover painstakingly dissect Bruce's legal odyssey and, in the process, reveal both how little and how much lies beneath the myths that surround the comic and his crusade for free speech. . . . Collins and Skover are skilled at placing Bruce's struggle in the context of his times and the then-current legal environment . . . . As the book makes clear, not even Bruce (and certainly not his lawyers) were aware of the political import of his highly political work. The Trials of Lenny Bruce is a potent and timely reminder that it's not what you say, but your right to say it, that matters in America."
News (Lufkin, TX), October 13,
2002 (Ron Hayes, "Lenny Bruce's Prosecutions Put on Trial") (see Cox News
Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO),
October 13, 2002 (Ron Hayes, "Lenny Bruce's Prosecutions Put on Trial") (see
Cox News Service above)
Sentinel (Nacogdoches, TX),
October 13, 2002 (Ron Hayes, "Lenny Bruce's Prosecutions Put on Trial") (see
Cox News Service above)
Telegram (Rocky Mount, NC),
October 13, 2002 (Ron Hayes, "Lenny Bruce's Prosecutions Put on Trial") (see
Cox News Service above)
Windy City Times (Chicago, IL), October 16, 2002 (Gregg Shapiro, "Bruce's Trials and Tribulations") (printed interview with David Skover)
Baltimore Gay Paper, October 18,
2002 (Gregg Shapiro, "Lenny Bruce Challenged Audiences and the 1st Amendment")
(printed interview with David Skover)
Reader (Chicago, IL), October 18, 2002 (Deanna Isaacs, "The Pope (and Other Four-Letter Words)")
"It's the 40th anniversary of Lenny Bruce's Chicago arrest for obscenity, and the Cultural Center's throwing a book party in his honor. Who the fuck would want to miss that?"
Baltimore Sun, October 20, 2002 (Michael Pakenham, "The Tragic Saga of Lenny Bruce, A Defiant Hero of Free Speech")
"[Bruce's] impact on the law, public vocabulary and some important social attitudes was immense. For that, Lenny Bruce was an important force in contemporary American history. Now, finally, comes a work that puts it all together. . . . Collins and Skover write with clarity and energy that utterly belie common impressions of lawyers' language as prolix and impenetrable. They are at their very best in explicating complex but important appellate law -- beginning with a brilliant history and examination of the U.S. Supreme Court's 1957 Roth-Alberts case, which laid out the boundaries of obscenity that provided the rationale for virtually every one of Bruce's arrests and prosecutions. . . . For many years as a reporter, I covered courts -- from the chaotic police districts of Chicago to the august U.S. Supreme Court and about every venue in between. I have seldom, if ever, read better -- more precise, evocative, set-in-perspective -- court reporting than that in this book. It is entertaining, often exciting -- but above all it is an immensely important record of a vital chapter in our ever-evolving democracy's eternal groping toward liberty."
Chicago Tribune, October 22, 2002 (Jon Anderson, "40 Years Later, Chicago's Just Wild about Lenny Bruce")
"For comedian Lenny Bruce, what a difference four decades make. On December 5, 1962, he was arrested at the legendary Gate of Horn folk club in Chicago, a bust that required eight squad cars, with blue lights flashing, to interrupt a man in a trench coat who was keeping an audience in stitches. . . . Now, once again, in Chicago, he's the toast of the town. . . . Both Ronald Collins and David Skover are legal scholars, rather than nightclub critics. Their argument is that Bruce, by flailing against the prevailing myths of organized religion, sexuality, morality, race relations, politics and other social structures, was taking the kind of risks that energize a democracy."
The Metropolitan (Denver, CO), October 24, 2002 (Jenni Grubbs, "The
Legalities of Humor," online interview with David Skover, downloaded December
Los Angeles Times, October 27, 2002 (Paul Krassner, "The Free Speech Education of Lenny Bruce")
"There have been other books, but The Trials of Lenny Bruce, written by a pair of diligent attorneys, Ronald K.L. Collins and David M. Skover, is the first fully recorded history of Bruce's relationship with the First Amendment. . . . The Trials of Lenny Bruce serves as the missing link between two of Bruce's statements: 'In the Halls of Justice, the only justice is in the halls.' And 'I love the law.'"
Portland Mercury (Portland, OR), November 7, 2002 ("Arts Rodeo, p. 22)
"Collins and Skover's engagingly written and detailed book, The Trials of Lenny Bruce, is a healthy reminder of how little America has really changed since Bruce's day. . . . This is the first significant book about Bruce since Albert Goldman's bio in 1972."
"Utilizing a packaged CD, hosted by social and jazz critic Nat Hentoff, to buttress its in-depth and long-awaited research, The Trials of Lenny Bruce explores the routines of Lenny's which revolutionized comedy, led to the freedom we now take for granted in comedy and, tragically, caused the prosecution which financially and spiritually drained arguably the most important standup comedian of all times."
Planet Pundit, November 24, 2002 (Bill Peschel, online review, downloaded November 25, 2002)
"The Trials of Lenny Bruce details the history and weirdness behind the legal harassment of comic Lenny Bruce. The authors clearly explain the legal maneuverings in and out of the courtroom, and make a strong case for free speech in all its forms. Without Lenny, there'd be no George Carlin, Richard Pryor or Margaret Cho. Also no Adam Sandler or Tom Greene, so some may find this a mixed blessing. 5 stars"
CityBeat (Cincinnati, OH), November 27, 2002 (Richard Hunt, "The Fine Print")
"Three things become abundantly clear by the end of this book: Bruce was as much an agent for free speech as any early American patriot; he was an artist just as much as he was an agitator; and virtually every comedian taking the stage in the last 40 years owes a huge debt to Leonard Alfred Schneider."
BookLoons, December 2002 (David Pitt, "People's Lives," online review, downloaded December 6, 2002)
"This well-presented biography by Ronald K.L. Collins and David M. Skover chronicles Bruce's professional life . . . to the obscenity trials that turned him from a performer to a soldier in the fight for freedom of expression. The book comes with an audio CD that contains several of Bruce's more famous routines (so you can get an idea of the kind of language that got him in so much hot water), actual testimony from Bruce's trials (he smuggled a tape recorder into the courtroom), and commentary from people like George Carlin and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. It's a splendid package."
Playboy, December 2002 (The Playboy Forum: "The People vs. Lenny Bruce," p. 61)
"Bruce has provided inspiration for movies, plays, documentaries, and rock songs. One may wonder what could be left to say. But in The Trials of Lenny Bruce, Ronald Collins and David Skover tell a story that's worth retelling: 'It's all there nonstop for five years, in the drama stamped People v. Bruce.' . . . . Bruce wove the cops and judges into his routines, then started reading aloud from trial summaries. The book shows the absurdity. It comes with a CD of relevant routines, as well as courtroom testimony. That the accumulated assault was crushing comes as no surprise; that it lasted five years is monstrous."
"The evidence of [Bruce's] destruction at the hands of a frightened culture is compiled and preserved as never before in a new book entitled The Trials of Lenny Bruce. For my money, this is one of the most important books you will read this, or any year, whether you care a lick about Lenny Bruce as a person, an artist or an icon. It is important because it is the most detailed account of what fear and a bruised American psyche can do to the ambiguously delicate concept of freedom."
High Times, December 2002 (Michael Simmons, "How 'Dirty' Was Lenny Bruce?," p. 22)
"Authors Ronald K.L. Collins and David M. Skover track the legal persecution of the funniest social critic of the 20th century in their brilliantly thorough book, The Trials of Lenny Bruce. . . . Pouring through the trial transcripts is like reading Kafka covering the Salem witch trials."
"David Skover and Ronald Collins' book, The Trials of Lenny Bruce: The Fall and Rise of an American Icon, is the first carefully documented account of Bruce's career and free speech struggles. It paints a vivid, shocking, hilarious and tragic portrait. Skover talks with us about Lenny Bruce, a man perhaps best described as' too honest for his time.'"
Los Angeles Times, December 8, 2002 (Book Review Editors, "The Best Books of 2002: Non-Fiction," pt. R, p. 15)
The editors of The Los Angeles Times Book Review rated The Trials of Lenny Bruce as one of the best books of 2002.
Patriot-News (Harrisburg, PA), December 8, 2002 (Bill Peschel, "Comic's Bio Shows a Life Full of Ironics," sec. E, p. 1)
"Ronald Collins and David Skover are attorneys with extensive experience in constitutional law. They're also capable of telling a legally complex story with fluidity and grace, guiding us through the maze of depositions, trials, appeals and legal challenges. . . . The Trials of Lenny Bruce serves as a history, but also as a warning as to the ease with which free speech can be suppressed."
Hartford Courant (Hartford, CT), December 16, 2002 (Kevin Canfield, "Lenny Bruce Lives")
"Thirty-six years after he died from taking too many drugs, the tortured, haunted, profane, prosecuted and persecuted comic is having a pretty good autumn. For starters, there's a big new book titled The Trials of Lenny Bruce: The Fall and Rise of an American Icon. Co-written by legal scholars Ronald K.L. Collins and David M. Skover, it is an exhaustive account of Bruce's heroic and self-destructive free-speech battles."
Sentinel (Orlando, FL),
December 17, 2002 (Kevin Canfield, "Bruce's Legacy Continues") (see Hartford
The Times Union (Albany, NY),
December 31, 2002 (Kevin Canfield, "'Word Crimes' Bruce's Legacy"," sec. D, p.
6) (see Hartford Courant above)
San Francisco Chronicle, January
1, 2003 (Kevin Canfield, "Police Ensured Bruce Legacy") (see Hartford Courant above)
Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL),
January 1, 2003 (Kevin Canfield, "Bruce Fame Outlived His Persecutors," sec.
D, p. 12) (see Hartford Courant above)
Washington Post, January 1, 2003 (Kevin Canfield, "For Lenny Bruce,
The Last Laugh," sec. C, p. 3) (see Hartford Courant above)
Toronto Star (Toronto, Canada),
January 1, 2003 (Kevin Canfield, "Long Dead Lenny Bruce Having Pretty Good
Year," sec. H, p. 9) (see Hartford Courant above)
Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, MO),
January 2, 2003 (Kevin Canfield, "Lenny Bruce Lives On," sec. E, p.1) (see
Hartford Courant above)
Tribune (Tampa, FL), January 2,
2003 (Kevin Canfield, "2 Books Put Iconic '60s Comic Back in Spotlight") (see
Hartford Courant above)
Journal Sentinel (Milwaukee, WI), January 5, 2003 (Kevin Canfield,
"Police Ensured Bruce
Legacy," sec. E, p. 8) (see Hartford Courant above)
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN),
January 5, 2002 (Kevin Canfield, "Lenny Bruce Gets Last Laugh") (see Hartford
News Tribune (Tacoma, WA),
January 7, 2003 (Kevin Canfield, "Recent Books Remind Us of Persecuted Profane
Comedian Lenny Bruce," sec. E, p. 2) (see Hartford Courant above)
Saginaw News (Saginaw, MI), January 9, 2003 (Kevin Canfield, "Legal Hassles Created Legacy") (see Hartford Courant above)
BookPleasures.com, January 2003 (Norman Goldman, "The Trials of Lenny Bruce," online review, downloaded January 15, 2003)
"This is the first comprehensive and carefully documented account of Lenny Bruce’s career and free speech struggles. . . . This is a must read book for defenders of the First Amendment, who will not be disappointed with its meticulous research and easy to understand analysis of the pertinent legal issues."
Blether: The Book Review
Site, January 2003 (Norman Goldman, "The Trials of Lenny Bruce,"
online review, downloaded January 15, 2003) (see BookPleasures.com above)
BookReview.com, January 2003 (Norman Goldman, "The Trials of Lenny
Bruce," online review, downloaded January 15, 2003) (see BookPleasures.com
(The Rutherford Institute Online Journal), January 2003 (Jayson Whitehead,
" 'I'm Not a Comedian, I'm Lenny Bruce:' The Trials of a Free Speech Martyr,"
online transcript of interview with David Skover, downloaded January 5, 2003)
Powells.com (Author Interview at Powells Bookstore, Portland, OR), January 2003 (David Weich, "David Skover Pulls Back the Covers," online transcript of interview with David Skover, downloaded January 8, 2003)
"In The Trials of Lenny Bruce, David Skover and Ronald Collins — legal scholars, law professors, and writers, both — deliver the most even-handed portrayal of the controversial comic to date. . . . Trials comes with a special CD containing clips from previously unreleased live performances (some recorded on the very nights Bruce was busted for obscenity) and insightful commentary from the likes of George Carlin, Nat Hentoff, Margaret Cho, and others."
Reason Online, January 2003 (Nick Gillespie, "Lenny Bruce's Real Legacy," online review, downloaded January 3, 2003)
"As its title makes plain, the interesting new book The Trials of Lenny Bruce: The Fall and Rise of an American Icon, by Ronald K.L. Collins and David M. Skover, traces the myriad legal troubles of arguably the most influential comedian of the past 50 years. . . . Collins and Skover recount the blow-by-blow of Bruce's travails and legal arguments in copious and compelling detail, largely steering clear of the hagiography that has too often attended Bruce in the past. Still, they don't scant his legacy: 'Lenny Bruce created new free speech zones for Americans.'"
NPR Programming Online (Authors Interviewed by Juan
Williams), January 15, 2003 (The Trials of Lenny Bruce:
"Obscene" Comic's Free-Speech Struggles Chronicled," online review of
authors' interview with Juan Williams, downloaded January 15, 2003)
Atlanta Jewish Times, January 24, 2003 (Nick Gillespie, "Lenny
Bruce's Legacy") (see Reason Online above)
New York Law Journal, January 28, 2003 (Raymond J. Dowd, Book Review, p. 2)
"Before reading The Trials of Lenny Bruce by Ronald K.L. Collins and David M. Skover, I was unaware of the key role Bruce's legal tribulations - straight out of the Book of Job - had in shaping the boundaries of permissible speech in America. Through painstaking and superbly analyzed scholarship, Collins and Skover have dramatically brought to life one of the greatest legal tales of our American age. . . . . But why didn't I study Bruce's New York County tribulations in law school? As The Trials of Lenny Bruce makes clear, Bruce's case was so taboo that it was censored. One of the great ironies is that Bruce loved the American legal system and believed in its power to overwhelm the prejudices of judges whom he mocked. But the law has never cleared Bruce."
Denver Business Journal, January 31, 2003 (Wayne Hicks, "Lenny Lives On," sec. A, p. 27, print interview with David Skover)
Washington State Bar News, February 2003 (Robert C. Cumbow, print and online book review, downloaded January 31, 2003)
"The Trials of Lenny Bruce is not just for students and practitioners of the law, but for any reader who cares about freedom and discourse. However, it certainly holds special interest for those who walk the path of law. The influence (and lack of influence) that key First Amendment cases of the era had on Bruce’s trials, the procedural ups and downs, and the views (then and now) of Lenny’s prosecutors and defenders make endlessly entertaining and eye-opening reading. . . . You won’t find Socrates in the index to Collins and Skover’s book, but the Lenny they portray is like no one so much as the great Attic philosopher, who so relentlessly challenged his contemporaries to look at themselves that they tried and executed him for it. And nowhere this side of Apology and Crito will you find a portrait of a man who so passionately believed in the very law that destroyed him. . . . [This is] bound to be, for lawyers and non-lawyers alike, one of the most compelling and stimulating books of the past year."
Washington Lawyer, February 2003 (Ronald Goldfarb, "Books in the Law," p. 38)
"One is moved to laugh and cry reading about the late comedian Lenny Bruce's battles with the legal system in The Trials of Lenny Bruce . . . . Reading the Kafkaesque analysis of the State v. Bruce cases presented by the authors in their interesting and well researched book, readers will shudder at the arbitrary, overreaching, hypocritical way the legal system harassed Lenny Bruce."
Legal Times, February 3, 2003 (Bill Kisliuk, "Research: Trials and Tribulation -- Authors Knew Not What They'd Find")
"Ronald Collins and David Skover conquered a mountain of research to write The Trials of Lenny Bruce. Partial transcripts from 30-plus-year-old misdemeanor cases, sketchy recordings Bruce surreptitiously made of his own New York trial, performance tapes, Supreme Court arguments and decisions in other speech cases, and new interviews with Bruce's friends, defense counsel, and prosecutors provided fodder for the final product. "Sometimes," says Collins, a First Amendment scholar-in-residence at the Freedom Forum, "we didn't even know if what we were looking for existed." But Collins and Skover, whose previous collaborations include The Death of Discourse in 1996 and numerous law review articles, knew a fascinating First Amendment story existed."
Legal Times, February 3, 2003 (Bill Kisliuk, "Bruce vs. Bluenoses: Comic Took Free Speech Seriously")
"Authors Ronald Collins and David Skover, who have teamed up on other First Amendment works, studied both the comic and the tragic in Bruce's life to produce a riveting book and CD, arguing convincingly that Bruce had a more profound effect on obscenity law than any court of the time. . . . Obviously, Bruce's is a fascinating tale. But the authors use his story to make a deeper point about law and society, and especially about the 'community standard' used then, as now, to define obscenity. They explore the principal legal precedents and constitutional arguments, concluding that Bruce should not have been prosecuted and that the standard is flawed and dangerous. Perhaps most significant, they show that Bruce, even without setting any lasting legal precedent, changed the application of obscenity laws. The book benefits from an exotic ensemble cast [Hugh Hefner, Allen Ginsburg, not-yet-Supreme Court Justice Marshall, Johnnie Cochran, Jack Kerouac, George Carlin, First Amendment scholars from Harry Kalven to William Kunstler] and many fascinating and telling anecdotes. . . . [E]very point of view is laid out before the reader. And despite the fact that both authors are constitutional experts making some fairly involved arguments, the book reads more like a magazine piece than a law review article. The accompanying CD is similarly fun and illuminating."
The Boston Globe, February 16, 2003 (Nick A. Zaino III, "Wild and Crazy Guys: The Often Tragic Lives of Comic Legends")
"As the title suggests, the book uses Bruce's legal troubles to frame his life story. . . . The result is a clear portrait of how Bruce helped define limits not only for comedy, but for free speech in general."
The Legal Intelligencer, February 28, 2003 (Raymond J. Dowd,
"Remembering Lenny Bruce: A Controversial Legend," vol. 228, no. 40, p. 7)
(see New York Law Journal review above)
Bully Magazine, March 2003 (Ken Wohlrob, "Bully Book Review: The Trials of Lenny Bruce, online review, downloaded March 10, 2003)
"It seems to me rather interesting that two lawyers who set out to write a book on the legal battles of Lenny Bruce have produced what has to be the best non-fiction book about the man. Discarding most of the lurid facts of his extensive drug use and hell-bent lifestyle, the authors focused mostly on the legal arguments surrounding his numerous obscenity trials. But in shedding all the unnecessary iconization and over dramatization, and getting straight to heart of the matter - namely The People vs. Lenny Bruce - Ronald Collins and David Skover portray Bruce as what he really was: a cutting edge comic who was unnecessarily singled out as a first amendment test case. . . . In the end, Collins and Skover give us, the laymen, an incredible insight into how the system (for lack of a better term) set about the downfall of Bruce and how a handful of attorneys, writers, artists, and celebrities attempted to save him. While one could argue that the drugs ultimately destroyed Lenny Bruce, it was the numerous obscenity trials that derailed his career."
Choice, March 3, 2003 (A. Hirsch, Book Review)
"Collins and Skover aim not only for a biography of Bruce but also a purposeful review of Bruce’s numerous arrests and court cases that question the relationship between subversive comedy and the right to free speech. Keyed to discussions in the text, the material on the CD accompanying this top-rate lawyerly work comprises clips of the late comedian’s nightclub performances and of statements Bruce made during his last years in conjunction with his conflicts with the police over obscenity. . . . Extensively documented and including an excellent bibliography, this work will serve readers at all levels interested in First Amendment issues."
The Federal Lawyer, March/April 2003 (Patrick H. Haggerty, Book Review, p. 62)
"Many people know Lenny Bruce as a taboo-breaking, improvising, stand-up, 'sick' comedian. Not many people, however, know about Lenny Bruce the defendant and his fight for the American principle of freedom of speech. Now, for the first time, Ronald Collins and David Skover have written a book on Bruce's obscenity trials. . . . The book is sure to make you laugh, make you angry, and most importantly, make you think. . . . Collins and Skover do an excellent job of highlighting the prosecution and defense theories and of providing a play-by-play account of the trials. . . . Since his death, Lenny Bruce has become known as a misunderstood genius, cultural outlaw, provocative satirist, comedic revolutionary, and now, thanks to Collins and Skover, a martyr for the First Amendment."
Accessibility Live Off-Line, November 2, 2003
"Collins & Skover's book is a study not only about a page of history on 20th century American humor, but it's also a study of what free speech and the First Amendment is all about."