Thirty-seven years after his death from a drug overdose, outlaw comedian Lenny Bruce is an outlaw no more. Citing the state’s commitment to free speech, New York Governor George Pataki issued a pardon Tuesday for Bruce’s 1964 obscenity conviction, which resulted from his use of foul language in his nightclub act. Bruce spent the last two years of his life fighting the conviction, which ruined his career and led him to declare bankruptcy. In 1966, he died at the age of 40, overdosing on morphine.
The comic’s daughter, Kitty Bruce, told the New York Times that she was delighted by the pardon. ”My dad had so much to say and so little time to say it,” she said. ”This is what America is all about.” Several observers noted to the Times that Bruce’s act contained nothing that would surprise contemporary TV viewers. Said cartoonist Jules Feiffer, who testified for Bruce as an expert witness on satire in his trial, ”Lenny was sentenced to jail for what you see nightly on HBO and the Comedy Channel, except he was better.