Lenny Bruce, the 350th Clip

The Closed Captioning Project LLC recently released its 350th Internet video, a clip of Lenny Bruce reading an excerpt from one of his many court appearances. This is an example of YouTube auto-captioning versus accurate captioning. To enable correctly created captions, please click the CC button located in the lower right of the video player.

An accurate transcript would read:

Okay, we have a tape recording here. The tape recording is inaudible. However, we made an accurate transcription. Okay?

But the transcript as generated by YouTube begins:

Okay, we have a tape recording in a tape recording adorable – however we made an accurate transcription back.

In fact, this is the most accurate piece of the recording. Very soon the speed and fluency of Lenny’s delivery renders the captioning, presumably generated via voice-recognition software, into gibberish.

For example, a few moments into the clip Lenny describes a conversation between himself and his attorney:

This transcript has 2130 errors. What kind of errors? Well, there’s punctuation, all the dim-, wait a minute.

The transcript YouTube provides with the video, however, reads:

His present get there 2130 a rich. What I know will the punctuation are the two minute wait.

Lenny would have appreciated the irony that this clip concretely demonstrates his argument, that the difficulty for, if not inability of, people in attendance at his trial to adequately understand his nightclub act or his counterculture perspective in general.

Lenny Bruce (born Leonard Alfred Schneider) was an American standup comic and social critic, famous for pushing boundaries and performing jazz-like riffs with his machine-gun patter, satirizing religion, America, the world and language and communication themselves. His 1964 trial for using obscenity during a performance brought into sharp focus American society’s idea of exactly what obscenity is as well as the revolutionary power of words themselves. Later comedians, particularly including George Carlin (“The seven words you can’t say on television”), picked up the torch from Lenny in making comedy one of the bulwarks of freedom of speech in the United States.

The Lenny Bruce clip is the latest of a series of videos presented via The Closed Captioning Project LLC, which includes a broad spectrum of filmed media. Other clips include subtitled speeches by presidents and political candidates past and present, children’s programming, including cartoons and other children’s material, clips from popular television shows and music videos, and most recently has partnered with the Healthy Words Global Initiative to caption their online video library of healthy words.

The Closed Captioning Project LLC is a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to the improvement and accessibility of closed captioning and closed captioned media. The videos presented on the YouTube channel are not created by The Closed Captioning Project LLC but instead are used solely for research and experimentation. The sources for all videos found on our channel can be found underneath each video’s description.