1.17 1/2 / Ladies and Gentlemen

Script for a Dead Comedian (1962-2010)

By Matthew David Rana June 24, 2010

An excerpt from a work in progress in which bits are written for the controversial American comedian Lenny Bruce. This new material combines the comedian's night club act with the transcript from his San Francisco trial, as well as historical and theoretical texts related to rhetoric, testimony and "fearless speech." The full version of this video features artist


Matthew Rana performing the bit repeatedly over the course of 45 minutes, revealing variations in timing, delivery and attitude. Writing and performing these bits suggests that transgressive acts can only be imagined historically, recuperated and made present through mediated images, texts and forms of narration. By positioning Bruce as a constructed and plural subject, the video shows a "dead comedian" that is both ontologically uncertain and politically ambiguous. This begs the questions: what does it mean to inhabit a dead comedian's voice, and what are the conditions that make it possible?

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