Lenny's Legacy: Lewis Black
“How the hell did we get here? I’m sure Lenny Bruce would have something to say. The only problem is that if he said it back at the time he was alive, it would have landed him in court or in jail,” Arnie Reisman said after considering the current state of American politics. Reisman spoke at the dinner which concluded day one of “Comedy and the Constitution: the Legacy of Lenny Bruce.” He graduated from Brandeis in 1964 and has worked as a playwright, screenwriter, documentarian and activist. On Thursday night, he introduced Lewis Black (pictured left), renowned comedian, to the crowded Faculty Club.
“His comedic brilliance lies in his ability to make people laugh at the absurdities of life, jabbing away at current events, political issues, social media and just about anything that exposes the dark hypocrisy and madness he sees around him,” Reisman said of Black.
For Reisman, it wasn’t just Black’s style of comedy that warranted praise. Rather, much of Reisman’s experience with Black came from both men’s work with the American Civil Liberties Union. This was extremely fitting, considering the ACLU defended Lenny Bruce’s First Amendment rights when he faced obscenity charges.
“Lewis Black has become a spokesman for the ACLU and at present, through ads and videos, is lending his name, his personality and his anger to a campaign pushing congress to pass the voting rights advancement act,” Reisman said. He explained the importance of the cause and its relevance not only today but in Lenny Bruce’s time, as well.
“It is because Lewis Black truly appreciates the value of open and vigorous expression under the auspices of a First Amendment, which Lenny Bruce himself extended and enhanced, that I am now honored as both an alum of Brandeis and the ACLU to introduce him here,” Reisman concluded, before welcoming Black himself to the stage.
Lewis Black’s particular brand of humor credits him a true descendant of Lenny Bruce. Black’s resume includes appearances on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, HBO and Broadway. Most recently Black has gone on tour, called “The Emperor’s New Clothes: The Naked Truth Tour,” and voiced the character of Anger in Disney’s “Inside Out.”
Addressing the audience, he said, ”I take no greater joy than appearing in a room like this. The lights up really bright, sit[ting] under fluorescents … It always amazes me, and I go, ‘Why did I say yes?’ But I did say yes because I think it’s terrific that Brandeis University has given a home to the words of Lenny Bruce. He had a profound effect on me.”