Stand up comedy isn't just about making people laugh. That's obviously the goal, but many comics take the opportunity to say something of value. Oftentimes, it's to get a message across that they feel is lacking attention in our society, or is getting too much. The stand up comics in this list would say what's on their mind and not care about the consequences. They’ve stood up against oppression and used freedom of speech to their advantage. They didn't care who they upset and in many ways, they may have been the voices of the voiceless. These comics manage to do all of this while still making people laugh and entertain the masses. These comics and their material are so controversial that some were banned from TV, condemned by politicians and even arrested. Here is a look at some of the most controversial and influential stand up comics.
5 Sarah Silverman
4 Bill Hicks
3 George Carlin
2 Richard Pryor
1 Lenny Bruce
Lenny Bruce started his ground breaking career performing at burlesques shows in the late 50's and would have his greatest success in the 60's. Bruce is credited as being the first stand up comic of his kind. Lenny was the first to have a conversational approach and was known to be very outspoken. At the time, he would tackle subjects that nobody else in the world would dare to touch, such as racism, drugs, religion and politics. He was also known for his obscenities on stage, that in fact, led to great amounts of legal trouble for him. He did gain a loyal following, but many at the time were greatly offended by him. He was arrested on October 4, 1961 at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco for obscenities and the sexual content of his set. Although he was not charged, it was at this point that law enforcement agencies began to monitor is performances. In 1964, while performing at the Café Au Go Go, Lenny was arrested after leaving the stage, by undercover cops that were in the audience. He was found guilty of obscenity and sentenced to four months at a workhouse. He appealed the case and then began discussing it at length during his shows. His personal life was a mess because he had gotten himself into heavy drugs, which inevitably affected his performances. The obscenity case and his quest for freedom of speech drove Bruce to bankruptcy and took a heavy emotional toll on him. He died August 3, 1966 from an apparent drug overdose before the appeal trial. Thirty-seven years after his death, New York Governor, George Pataki, would grant Bruce a posthumous pardon for his obscenity conviction. Lenny Bruce played an important part in the fight for freedom of speech and is considered to be the greatest stand up comedian. A biopic about Lenny Bruce by Bob Fosse, Lenny, who was played by Dustin Hoffman, was released in 1974 and was nominated for several Academy Awards including: Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor.
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