As our dear old friend Mr. Carl Warmenhoven might say if he were here…Good Internet to you all and to the rest of you as well! Now kindly sit down, shut up, and strap in for this rib-tickling, gut-busting, knee-slapping, and sometimes ear-scorching session of first amendment fun, as Rated80s looks at the 1996 T&A/constitutional law flick, The People Vs Larry Flynt.
We are happy to be joined this episode by our first returning guest Marianne Reilly for a look at this all-too-often-forgotten gem of the middle 90s, which gives a startlingly accurate account of free speech activist and wildly successful pornographer, occasional Born Again Christian, and assassination attempt survivor Larry Flynt.
Larry’s career, when looked at abstractly, tracks well with the quintessential American rag to riches type story, heavily laced with drugs, strippers, pornography and litigation…so basically the quintessential American rags to riches story…told honestly.
Mr Flynt, the creator of Hustler magazine, now sits at the helm of a respectably large collection of various business interests to this day which includes retail, nightclubs, several publications and a casino, all of which he owns outright and are therefore immune to the meddlings of shareholders…which gives him unique license to rabble rouse in print as well as the American court system.
As comedians, the right to freedom of speech is constantly on our minds, and in the world of standup there are two important first amendment figures, George Carlin, and Lenny Bruce, both of whom have had cases based on their material taken to trial, and in the case of Carlin taken all the way to the Supreme Court. (On the other end of the spectrum, alleged serial rapist, and patently inoffensive pudding salesman Bill Cosby has contributed basically nothing to the ongoing national discourse on protected speech, and in fact seems quite enthusiastic about silencing his critics.)
Lenny’s legal battle was so drawn out and intense, and his ability to control his own vices so tenuous, that he died a convicted man, only to be officially pardoned for obscenity in 2003.
- February 19, 1968 In People v Solomon, a New York appeals court reverses the obscenity conviction of Bruce’s co-defendant in the Cafe Au Go Go case, Howard Solomon. (Bruce’s conviction stands, since he died before his appeal was perfected.)
- January 7, 1970 The New York Court of Appeals (the state’s highest court) affirms the overturning of Howard Solomon’s conviction in People v Solomon.
- December 23, 2003 New York Governor George Pataki grants a posthumous pardon to Lenny Bruce.
Carlin on the other hand got to see the case based on his material taken all the way to the Supreme Court, and a new legal definition of offensive material invented based on his material and how it was displayed, as a way to maneuver around obscenity precedents already on the books. Selected drops from this video are used as the breaks in this episode.
Flynt’s contribution to first amendment rights as pertaining to being allowed to criticize and/or ridicule public figures can not be understated, and we are a better country for having had him go all the way to the Supreme Court to defend his and everyone’s right to imply that Jerry Falwell has sex with his mother in an outhouse.
If you’d like to listen to the audiobook Jeremy repeatedly references in this episode, it is called “An Unseemly Man: My Life as Pornographer, Pundit, and Social Outcast” and is available on Audible as well as in e-book and meat-space forms.
If you’d like to support the foremost living paralyzed-from-the-waist-down free speech proponent in America go ahead and subscribe to Hustler.
Full disclosure: at the moment none of the links on this post or anywhere on the site are affiliate links that could somehow make us money, but we might look into that in the future…
Please enjoy the show, and know that we do apologize in advance for Rusty’s behaviour.