By Scott Knopf | July 18, 2012

Director Elan Gale’s first documentary is more than a Lenny Bruce biography. Sure, it covers the beginning/middle/end of Bruce’s life and career but the film manages to tie key successes and troubles from the comedian’s life and highlight how they affected both comedy and free speech. Drawing comparisons between Bruce and controversial performers such as Michael Richards and Don Imus, Gale examines the differences between funny offensive material and unfunny offensive material.

And the film really benefits from the conflicting opinions of its subjects. When asked about a controversial issue such as Kramer screaming the n-word, the replies couldn’t be more varied. And Looking for Lenny is filled with familiar faces. Comedians such as Richard Lewis, Robin Williams, Jon Lovitz, and Phyllis Diller weigh in on trailblazing performer’s impact on stand-up and political freedoms.

One great moment from the film comes when Christopher Titus breaks down the influence Bruce has had on comics from the next generations and the inability of these young comedians to fully understand and emulate his multiple layers. According to Titus, Bruce was much more than foul language. He dove into controversial issues such as racism, religion, and politics. He pushed buttons and was forced to pay it through multiple arrests, being banned from venues (and countries), and financial hardships.

Even the media coverage of his death was a tremendous tragedy. But the film finds solace in the fact that without Lenny Bruce, there would be no Eddie Murphy. There would be no Richard Pryor. Or George Carlin. Because of Bruce, these performers don’t have to worry about being arrested after their shows and he paved the way for the future of comedy.

Gale’s film pieces together a terrific selection of audio footage of Bruce’s performances and some video interviews from his career with a wide array of comedians, Bruce’s friends and business partners, and other celebrities. The end result is an informative, touching documentary about one of the world’s greatest comics.

This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.

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