The Law: Profane Comedy

In an age of almost complete frankness in plays, novels and movies, the question of where language becomes illegal obscenity continues to plague the courts. Groping for an answer, Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black argues that any ban on obscenity threatens free speech. Unwilling to go that far, his brethren have vaguely drawn the line at that which offends "contemporary community standards" and appeals mainly to "prurient interest."

Last week a three-judge Manhattan criminal court applied that test to Comedian Lenny Bruce, a nightclub social satirist who deliberately dips his wit in scatology. A two-judge majority found Bruce guilty of using words...

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